Conducted by Fr. JOHN SYMON
Question—When I go to confession, I always seem to have the same Ii'st of petty sins to confess, distractions at prayer, small lies, had language and uncharitable talk. Can you offer any advice about how to make my confession more meaningful or about how often I should go to confession?
Answer—Over the last few years the number of confessions seems to have declined almost everywhere, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Although confession remains the normal means of forgiveness for all mortal sins committed after baptism, it is perfectly healthy that we should be reassessing the place in our lives of what we call the confession of devotion, the confession where all we have to relate our relatively unimportant and unavoidable little daily faults.
No doubt, just as we could find had reasons for any other change in human
behaviour, we can also find bad reasons for the decline in the number of confessions, but there are also at least two excellent explanations for this change in our devotional habits.
One of them is that nowadays we are more conscious that confession is only one among several means whereby our small peccadilloes are forgiven.
Secondly, while the actual number of confessions of devotion is declining, many taking this type of confession much more seriously.
One of the good effects of hearing the liturgy in our own mother-tongue is that the public act of sorrow at the beginning of Mass is seen as a real opportunity for us to repent of our daily faults and for the Church to proclaim Christ's forgiveness.
For someone who is not conscious of serious sin it is very difficult to suggest just how often he should go to confession. If he is in the habit of going once a month or even once a week and is quite happy to continue with this, it seems to me that we should do nothing to discourage him.
If, on the other hand, someone feels inclined to go to confession less often, then he should be encouraged to make his numerically less frequent confessions more of a serious occasion for meeting our Lord and for growing to what St. Paul calls the measure of Christ the perfect man.
Thanks to the modern retreat movement, many Catholics have discovered that spiritual direction, &spits its forbidding name, is of use to others beside nuns and religious brothers and priests.
Further, a layman may occasionally take the time
to discuss his spiritual life and its problems with a confessor, not in the dark and forbidden conditions of the confessional box, and in a relatively cheery and welllit room.
If this search for spiritual advice and closer union with Christ is linked to the practice of more serious and less frequent confession, who would presume to say that the penitent is doing less well than when he went to confession every week?
In these confessions of devotion which do not relate to serious sin there are two tactics we can adopt. One of them is to confine ourselves to one sin only, to tell the
priest of the circumstances in which we seem prone to
commit it. and to ask advice as to how we may overcome it.
If we confess to being continually intolerant with our boss or our subordinates and if we try to discuss the circumstances of our work and how they seem to lead to this intolerance, then by being confined to this single topic our confession of de votion may be much more useful than if we range over a whole list of faults from distractions at prayer to bad language.
A second useful tactic is often to omit any mention of the trivial things we have done and to concentrate on the more important things we neglect to do. Rather than mention small sins of lying or uncharitableness.
we might do better to con centrate on our continual failure to help a sick neigh bour or to give alms according to our means or to do something to spread the faith.
Our omission of duties like these is much more im portant than the petty sins We often confess to having committed.