Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Feeling great should be a side benefit to going to confession, not the reason why we go. It is not a matter of no longer feeling guilty about a broken commandment or wanting to feel better when you are in church, but primarily about mending a relationship.

Often at the end of a confession someone will say something like, “And that is what I feel guilty about since my last confession,” or “. . . and those are the things that I want to confess at this time,” as if there were more, but this is all I am interested in being absolved of at the moment. What needs to be remembered is that you are trying to mend a relationship with another person. Granted this other person is a Divine Person, but it is a relationship with a person none-the-less. As with truly loving relations with another human person you would not constrain yourself to only apologizing for transgressions that you feel guilty about, “I’m sorry that I ate your share of the chips but I am not going to apologize for scarfing all of the chip dip. After all I went out and got the dip and even though you think you were entitled to some since you brought the chips that is not where my head is at the moment.” How far does that go to engendering love between two persons?

A second hitch is the sin of eclipse. It is a sin that weighs so heavily on a person that it obliterates any other sense of sin in their lives. The “M” word (is there any word in the English language that has so many euphemisms?) often eclipses a person’s examining of their life in general (thereby preventing them from growing in other areas) because of great feelings of guilt. So a person comes in and very rightly confesses this sin and nothing more. This is understandable if they attend the sacrament regularly and need only this little ‘update’ between complete downloads, but as a regular practice is not good for the soul. It is an all meat diet without fruit, vegetables, or dairy. You need meat but gads, all pork and no hay makes Johnny a heart attack waiting to happen. Once again, this is a case of, “I feel so guilty – I just want to stop feeling guilty!” to the loss of other spiritual growth.

Looking for that relief from guilt is not a bad thing but it is like giving blood. I hate giving blood. But absolutely love having given blood. There is certain natural high to it. But that not why you give blood. You give blood out of charity because there are people who desperately need it. We go to confession to mend relationships, not just to feel better.


Anonymous said...

Father, I think that the penances you give me are relevant to the offenses I have committed. It shows your understanding of what I have confessed and helps me feel that I am not just reciting prayers but making atonement for a specific fault or sin.

Linda said...

Father, this subject really needs to move out of the realm of a blog and into that of discussion. I would love to sit down with a group of people and talk about what Confession/Penance/Reconciliaion really means, and why we seem so often to mess it up. Obviously, if we're in that little booth, we have the desire. Maybe some dialog would help to move us from our childish approach to a more mature outlook.

paramedicgirl said...

Very good spiritual advice, Father. Wonderful!

Terry Nelson said...

Where were you when my confessions were just about that? But I guess I had to go through it to know there were a great many sins I had been ignoring just because of the bigger shameful ones. The eclipse metaphor is good. You are good.