GUEST POST: Preaching about confession

From a transitional deacon:

I’m an avid reader of the blog. I have noticed how often you mention confession in the blog and wanted to relay this short little bit of my experience this weekend.

I’m a newly ordained transitional Deacon and have been placed in a parish for weekend ministry. I preached on the Gospel on Zacchaeus about how we need to begin to reflect on our lives, about who we are, about why we are here, and that we need to be like Zacchaeus and become saints who base our lives and identity in Jesus Christ.

Towards the end of my homily I mentioned the beauty of confession as the encounter with the merciful love of Jesus that grants us freedom and new life.

Well, after one of the Masses I had 3 people come up to me asking me when they could go to confession (and I had questions about confession at other Masses as well). So I told them they could even go see the priest right now and he would hear their confessions. One person came up to me to thank me for mentioning confession and that it was the first time in 50 years she had heard confession mentioned in a homily.
I don’t say this to boast, but rather to point out how sad it is that someone has gone 50 years without hearing the sacrament of confession mentioned!

Anyways, just want to thank you for encouraging confession and to let others know that if confession is presented as something truly transformative, truly life giving, truly freeing, then people will go!
People don’t go because they are not being told about the beauty of this sacrament.

Do I hear an “Amen!”?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. VexillaRegis says:


  2. MangiaMamma says:

    Thank you for sharing this. We are very fortunate in our parish to have priests who mention confession fairly regularly in their homilies. My oldest son is hoping to be in seminary next fall, and this is something we’ve talked about quite a bit. Please continue to share about the beautiful sacrament of confession and the joy absolution can bring to those who go!

  3. Fr. A.M. says:

    Wonderful. I have been recently accused (and it is sad to relate it) by my superiors of mentioning confession and the sacraments too much in my homilies. Also I should say ‘Holy Eucharist’ instead of ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’. Ab omni malo, libera nos Domine.

    [You might ask them to put their concerns in writing.]

  4. NoraLee9 says:

    I went yesterday ad
    Father 7:00AM Mass and before the visit to the cemetery. It did me a world of good. I have a very old prayer book (1920 or so- St. Therese Liseiux was only a blessed) and it has some beautiful devotions for confession in it.

  5. DaveH says:

    It is a truth of post-VII thinking that many of the Sacred practices and teachings of the Church were devalued, desensitized, and denied as applicable in the Modern Church, with Confession and Divorce arguably being the two most prominent. From the lack of mentioning the need for frequent Confession – which implies the acceptance that only the most grievous of sin need confessing, to the implicit denial of the indissolubility of the Sacrament of Matrimony through the widespread “toleration” of Divorce and the “no marriage that cannot be annulled” attitude seemingly prevalent, is it any wonder that the laypeople are surprised and dumbfounded when the word “Confession” is used in a homily? Or when a priest preaches on the Sacredness and lifelong commitment of Catholic Marriage? It is left to Tradition minded priests and Deacons to preach on the joy, beauty and Peace of Soul resulting from frequent Confession and to the Faithful spouses “preaching” on the indissolubility of their own Marriages by honoring and living their first marital vows… and in both cases, continuing to pray for the conversion of the Souls under their care.

  6. JonPatrick says:

    I think this is starting to change. We have a Mission this week at our parish and the theme Monday was reconciliation. They had 8 priests and long lines outside of each confessional. The priests here do mention the need for confession in their homilies.

  7. JoseTomas says:

    At every Sunday Mass, just before Communion, a lector reads a standard text which stipulates who can go to Communion. It is fantastic and I think it was an initiative of our young pastor, since I have not heard it read in other parishes of the Diocese. The text is often updated to be more specific. Is says things like:

    – You must not be in grave sin
    – You must have confessed at least once in the previous 12 months
    – You must have been going to Mass every Sunday
    – You must have arrived in the beginning of the Mass
    – You cannot frequent other religions (syncretism is a plague down here)
    – etc.

    While the text obviously cannot list all grave sins, it does say that you must have gone to confession, so that is the place where the priest can evaluate the level of basic catechesis the penitent requires. And it finishes encouraging those who cannot communicate to make a spiritual communion, go to confession and then return to Communion.

    I cannot think of a more effective way to teach at every single Mass about the conditions necessary to Communicate. It is awesome! Such a simple and effective idea!

    And it also strikes me as a great way to catechise adults about those grave sins which are awkward to go into detail in homilies at Masses full of young children – leave the catechesis to Confession!

  8. Menagerie says:

    I started reading this blog maybe six months ago. I have been to confession more times in those months than I have in six years and that is because of reading about it here. I converted many years ago and I fully understand the sacrament but I cannot get over my fear of it. I know I am confessing to Jesus but the man hearing it is a terrible stumbling point for me. I would really benefit from the use of the old confessionals but they are not in use anywhere near me.

    Also, confession is only twenty minutes before the three weekend masses. Usually there are some who don’t get to confess before mass starts as the priest has to rush to start the mass. One of our priests gives wonderful sermons on the Eucharist. I wish he would lend his talents to speaking about confession.

  9. stillkickin says:

    I agree whole heartedly that we need to here more about this wonderful sacrament.
    I am a relatively newly ordained permanent Deacon and had a similar experience when I preached on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary time about the beauty of confession. Aterwords one person asked if they could have a copy of the homily for his children and couple of others thanked me for preaching on confession and said they needed to hear the message and that it has motivated them to make a point to go more often (more than the once a year that they were going). My priest wasn’t completely on board with what I was going to preach on and I think the response suprised him.

  10. Mike says:

    May God shower blessings on the faithful priests who sacrifice precious hours from their busy lives to hear confessions. I am fortunate to live in a parish whose priests are not only unafraid to mention confession, but staff the confessionals (kneelers all) during Holy Mass.

    All priests who are in the position described by Fr. A.M. are in my prayers today.

  11. JonPatrick says:

    Menagerie, perhaps you could call and set up an appointment to confess rather than trying to get in before Mass. Also you might mention your fears, perhaps they can arrange for it to be more anonymous. Remember that priests have heard everything, they are not going to judge you.

  12. gc5341 says:

    If I were a priest, I would offer confession more than just Saturday and or one weekday. I would not offer confession by appointment. Confession would be daily, say every evening from 7 to 9 pm. This way families could attend together after school and work.

  13. robtbrown says:

    Fr. A.M. says:
    Wonderful. I have been recently accused (and it is sad to relate it) by my superiors of mentioning confession and the sacraments too much in my homilies. Also I should say ‘Holy Eucharist’ instead of ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’. Ab omni malo, libera nos Domine.

    In so far as you are already ordained, they have no authority over you in such matters. To use an oft used word these days, they are engaging in bullying.

  14. robtbrown says:

    It’s good to preach about Confession, but it needs to be available–and I don’t means the “Confession by appointment” availability. It’s frustrating that in so many parishes it is only 30-60 minutes a week at inconvenient times.

  15. Priam1184 says:

    @robtbrown 1000% correct. You can preach a great sermon about Confession on a Sunday but then if a penitent asks after that Mass when he or she can go to Confession and they hear “next Saturday afternoon at 3pm” it kind of lessens the impact. Fathers, I am begging you: schedule 15-20 minutes a day around the daily Mass (preferably before but after if you have to) to be in the confessional and watch a whole new parish get built up around you.

    A thorough and proper examination of conscience followed by a five minute trip to the confessional is worth more than a billion years of $300/hr psychoanalytic therapy, and it’s completely free of charge.

  16. babochka69 says:

    Preaching about confession is so important! When our priest arrived 4 years ago, we though he could preach about nothing but confession. His first 10-15 homilies mentioned confession, and it was the focus of several of them. After one such homily, during which he urged us all to get to confession before Christmas, my two oldest children, then 5 and 7, begged me to let them go to confession because “Father said we need to.” They both had their first confessions a few weeks later, before Christmas, because they had expressed a desire to go. Our parish is a small commuter parish and scheduled confession times are therefore minimal (before Divine Liturgy every Sunday), but everybody knows that Father is glad to hear our confessions any time we ask. I’ve also learned that priests who preach about confession tend to be very good confessors, probably because they care very much about this important sacrament.

  17. dwrobles says:

    re: Menagerie
    I’m sorry there are no good confessionals available. Where I live they are hard to come by as well. However, the most perfect confessional I have ever seen was in an FSSP Parish in CO, USA. 2 doors to get in there so you felt like you could speak comfortably without someone overhearing. A solid wall between you and Father with maybe a 10″x10″ window/grill for him to hear you. Stretched across that window was a cloth reproduction of Veronica’s Veil with the Holy Face of Jesus to remind you to whom you were confessing. It was a great experience. To bad it was a long way from home.

  18. Bea says:


    That said, I,too, need to go.

  19. Bedens says:

    I am extremely fortunate to live down the street from the EWTN chapel here in Irondale/Birmingham, Alabama. The Franciscan Friars offer Confession there every day, Monday through Saturday, at 11AM. These priests are absolutely wonderful. At the end of my confession last week, the friar told me in a hearty voice, “Go in Peace, my sister! Jesus Christ has forgiven you!” :)

  20. I like your way of introducing it; this is just something that we accept rather than getting all bent out of shape over it. It’s a positive approach rather than scaring or shaming them.

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