Never Too Far Gone: Returning to Confession

What is the limit on God’s mercy? How far gone must one be before God is no longer open to welcoming that person back into the fold? Trick questions: there is no limit. God is always ready and willing to receive you into the state of grace with open arms. As long as you are repentant and truly sorrowful for your sins, God will always celebrate a return home.

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?

And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7)

Mark called into The Patrick Madrid Show to tell Patrick that after twenty-five years away from the Church, he was preparing to return to confession, the Eucharist, and his faith.

Mark explained that he had been born and raised a Catholic, but almost three decades ago, he had gotten involved in narcotics and began following somewhat of a lecherous lifestyle. After discovering Relevant Radio®, he said he had begun listening to The Patrick Madrid Show as often as possible, every waking minute that he could spare. Over the past five months, Mark said he rediscovered the beauty and truth of his Catholic Faith and that he wanted to prepare himself thoroughly to make his reentrance into the Church.

Mark was requesting Patrick’s help because before he returned to reconciliation, he wanted to know the exact differences between mortal and venial sins so that he could do it correctly and receive Communion right away.

Patrick began by referring Mark to what it says about sin in the Bible, namely chapter 5 of the first letter of John: “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” (1 John 5:17) In some translations, “deadly” is replaced by “mortal”, both words in this context meaning deadly to the soul. If one has committed a mortal sin, one has effectively killed their soul by choosing something else above God’s love and life within them. If you die in that state without having sought repentance, your soul will be incapable of experiencing everlasting life.

To return to the state of grace and to restore God’s life in the soul, one must seek genuine forgiveness in the sacrament of confession and express sorrow for the sins committed. When granted absolution, penance can be done and the sins will be purged.

There are three prerequisites that make something a mortal sin as opposed to a venial sin.

  1. The act must be serious and pertain to a grave matter – If the matter is not serious, then the sin is not mortal. Swearing and using foul language because of traffic would be an example of a minor matter.
  2. The act must be committed with full knowledge that the act is sinful – The person committing the act must know that what they are doing is wrong for it to be considered a mortal sin. If somebody were to overindulge in alcohol, but was somehow unaware of its sinful nature, they have not committed a sin. However, feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish the severity of sin.
  3. The act must be committed with sufficient consent, voluntarily – If an act is done involuntarily or because someone has coerced or forced another to comply, then the act would not be sinful. It must be done with sufficient enough consent for it to be considered a choice. When you dream of something offensive, it’s not at all sinful or wrong because you have no control over the unconscious thoughts that occupy your dreams.

An example of a sin that would meet all three of these requirements and would be categorized as a mortal sin would be if a man were to voluntarily and knowingly rob a convenience store. That sin would be 1) serious because it involves the unlawful manipulation of another person’s livelihood and some sort of threat to a person’s health or life, 2) done with full knowledge because he understands the unlawful nature of his act and the circumstances that he is imposing on those around him, and 3) done with full consent as he was not coerced into committing this sin by an outside or uncontrollable force.

When confessing sins of a mortal nature, it’s important to admit to them “in number and kind”, meaning identify the acts to a sufficient degree (no more detail than is required for the priest to understand the sin) and then confess how many times you committed that sin (to the best of your recollection).

Carol called into the show to follow up on Mark’s call, saying that she had just made her life confession after not having gone since she was eight years old, and it gave her a new lease on life. She’d fallen back in love with her Faith, and that’s exactly what she hoped for Mark.

The next day, Mark called back in to let Patrick know that he had gone to confession, and today he felt like a free man. He said he couldn’t wait to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist on Sunday, and he thanked Relevant Radio for being that instrument that brought him back to God.

Listen to the whole conversation above.

Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 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.