Letters From a Young Catholic

My reflections as a Catholic young adult passionate about the Faith, seeking to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and discerning the will of the Lord in my life.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Do you NEED to go to confession?

I wrote the following in response to some comments on a Catholic discussion board frequented by young adults. The topic being discussed was the Sacrament of Reconciliation and someone commented
"in my opinion, you don't NEED to go to confession. at least, according to my priest and several youth pastors, you can just have your own talk with God, even though confession is the preferred...practice. but yeah.."
Someone else responded
"for mortal sins perhaps [sic] confession with a priest would be the best option."
And so, here's what I had to say. . . well, not really what I had to say, mostly I just pulled out my trusty friend, the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

For mortal sins confession with a priest is the only option.

For those of you who are curious as to what the Church teaches according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

"Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace." (n. 1446)

"According to the Church's command, "after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serioussins at least once a year." Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession." (n. 1457)

"Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently though this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful." (n. 1458)

Though sacramental confession is only necessary in the case of mortal sins, in our desire to be conformed to Christ we shouldn't look at the minimum requirements but rather be asking ourselves daily "How can I better love Christ? How can I better imitate him?" The practice of regular confession, whether or not we have committed a mortal sin, helps us to love Christ and live the Gospel. Let us not forget the many benefits of the sacrament of reconciliation.

Off the top of my head I can think of the following:
- sacramental grace
- practice of humility
- restoring broken relationship with the Church
- better self knowledge and awareness of weaknesses
- guidance in our spiritual life
- the many benefits of penance
- better form our conscience
- grow in spiritual maturity
- be strengthened to overcome temptations and work on particular areas of weakness
- to physically hear and know that we are forgiven

These are only a few of the many reasons that the practice of regular confession is strongly recommended by the Church.

Yes, your venial sins can be forgiven outside of the sacrament, but when you consider the many graces you receive in making a sacramental confession, why would you not want to make recourse to this great gift?