Renewal Through the Sacrament of Confession

Josh Raymond began a segment of The Inner Life by retelling a story from his freshman year in college. When he was in college, Josh was friends with a senior named Cord. Cord had been out mudding one day in his Jeep when he had gotten his jeep stuck in some deep mud. He called Josh and his other friend, Rusty, and asked them to come help him with “something”, not revealing what it was, only that it might get a little messy.

When Josh and Rusty arrived at the scene, they saw what was required of them and they hesitated. But after some investigating, they saw that there was no other way to get it out than to push the jeep. It took a while, but eventually, they were able to get it out. And at the end of the ordeal, they were covered from their chests down in mud and filth. They celebrated their feat of strength before heading back to campus to get cleaned up.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a shower that I enjoyed more than that one, or if I could think of a shower that I needed more desperately because mud was everywhere,” said Josh. “It felt so good to get so thoroughly clean after being so dirty.”

Can you relate to that feeling? Cleaning yourself up after a hard day’s work or getting a good night’s sleep after a long day of traveling? There’s nothing like it. Our bodies are very good at recognizing the benefit of renewal after it has been pushed to its limits, but so are our souls. After our souls have been dragged through the “mud” of sin, nothing feels more refreshing and renewing than receiving absolution in confession.

Josh welcomed Fr. Ramil Fajardo onto The Inner Life to discuss the sacrament of reconciliation, its benefits, why we go to a priest, how to prepare for confession, and much more.

Josh and Fr. Ramil discussed the different terms for the sacrament, confession and reconciliation, and distinguished that while the words mean different things, they are one and the same. Reconciliation reflects what is attained through the sacrament while confession reflects the action that is being performed. In other words, we reconcile ourselves to God and return to the state of grace by confessing or admitting to our faults and sins before Him.

That being said, if we only need to confess our sins before God to receive absolution, why do we go to a priest for this sacrament? Couldn’t we just do confession and penance in our heads?

Fr. Ramil explained it like how he explained catechesis to students and their parents: When parents are teaching their children manners and etiquette, they usually teach their children how to apologize when they do something wrong. “Say that you’re sorry.” That’s the easy part. “Mean it.” That’s the harder part. “Now ask for forgiveness.” That’s the hardest part.

When we offend people, even as adults, it’s very easy to tell somebody that we’re sorry when we realize our mistake, especially if it’s in private. When we offend God, our examination of conscience is our recognition of our sins. We’re telling God we’re sorry at that moment because we know it was sinful. But to be truly sorry, express our sorrow for offending Him, and to repair that relationship through reconciliation, we must go further. We must go to Him, face-to-face, and ask for forgiveness. That is why we go to a priest, the Vicar of Christ in the sacraments, in order to receive absolution.

The first step to approaching this sacrament is to realize and acknowledge that we have sinned and that there is “room for improvement”, as Fr. Ramil says. The next step is to examine one’s conscience. This process can take many forms, but Fr. Ramil offered a simple formula:

  1. What have I done wrong? – That encompasses a lot but be simple and straight to the point. There is no need, and often it is unhelpful, to go into too many details about your sins.
  2. What have I done well? – Where have you improved on your past sins and vices? Don’t be over-scrupulous or harsh on yourself. If you have been better about certain aspects, be honest with yourself and thank God for His guidance!
  3. In what area should I improve? – Make a resolution in this fresh start. Once your sins have been forgiven, be proactive and take steps to grow in virtue and decrease in vice.

Remember to confess your sins in kind and in number and be honest with your confessor but not over-detailed. Your confessor is your spiritual physician who wants to help you as efficiently as possible. Let God work through him. And finally, the last step is to do penance. One cannot receive the benefits of absolution until one has made reparations through penance.

“Get up and begin again. Do not be discouraged!”

Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.