What is it I have been shouting?

From CNA:

Pope: Be courageous, go to confession

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2014 / 04:57 am (CNA).- During his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis encouraged the pilgrims filling St. Peter’s Square to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. [aka Sacrament of Penance]

“Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus, (will be) there, and Jesus is better than the priests – Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession,” urged the Pope on Feb. 19. [In some ways, many of us who lean to the traditional can be a little disappointed with Pope Francis’ style (but not so much in the substances when we drill in).  BUT… he speaks about confession and the devil and various other things more often than previous Pontiff’s, and in a direct, appealing way.  Gotta give him that!]

Acknowledging a popular objection to the sacrament, Pope Francis noted, “someone can say, ‘I confess my sins only to God.’ Yes, you can say to God, ‘forgive me,’ and say your sins. But our sins are also against our brothers, against the Church. This is is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness of the Church and of our brothers, in the person of the priest.” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

“While the celebration of the sacrament is personal, it is rooted in the universality of the Church,” which “accompanies us on the path of conversion,” he explained.

“Forgiveness is not something we can give ourselves,” cautioned the Pope. “One asks forgiveness, one asks it of another person, and in confession, we ask forgiveness from Jesus.”

“Forgiveness is not a result of our efforts, but is a gift. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit who showers us with mercy and grace that pours forth unceasingly from the open heart of Christ crucified and risen.”

The Pontiff went on to recognize that many people feel ashamed at the idea of confessing their sins and might say, “but Father, I am embarrased![See Tip #11, HERE]

“Even embarrassment is good. It’s healthy to have a bit of shame… it does us good, because it makes us more humble.”

Don’t be afraid of confession,” Pope Francis stressed. “When someone is in line for confession he feels all these things – even shame – but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves (feeling) free, great, beautiful, forgiven, clean, happy.”

“The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing,” he pointed out.

When I go to confession, […it is the Pope speaking…] it’s for healing: healing the soul, healing the heart because of something that I did to make it unwell.”

The Pope pointed to the biblical story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man, which expresses the “profound link” between “forgiveness and healing,” since “the Lord Jesus is revealed at the same time as the physician of soul and body.”

He also recounted the parable of the prodigal son, who sought his father’s forgiveness and was welcomed home with open arms.

“But I say to you,” he stressed to the many pilgrims, “every time we go to confession, God embraces us.”


Your Excellencies?  Fathers?

Is it time to start preaching about this sacrament?

Readers, has it been a long time?  Are you nervous?

It is good to follow a regular format for confession. You might prepare for your confession with a good Examination of Conscience. You can find some good things here. Fr. Finigan made a useful confession pamphlet.

You should, indeed, try to confess all your mortal sins in kind and number whenever you go to confession. However, since it has been a very long time for you, and we humans just can’t remember everything, do your best, perhaps giving an indication of frequency over some period of time (month, year) while confessing those low points you do remember clearly. Just do your best. If you do your best, ALL your sins will be forgiven, whether you could remember them all or not. Then, in the future, you can be more precise when going to confession regularly.

You can always tell the priest it has been a long time and you could use some help.

Also, down the line, you might look at my 20 Tips.

Finally, just go!  You’ll be more than fine.

Do your best and God does the rest.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Francis, GO TO CONFESSION, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Imrahil says:

    To that thing aside (because to th real thing, “yes, correct” is all I can say),

    I really would like to see this “Sacrament of Reconciliation” fashion… fad… see a bit slowed down.

    It is the Sacrament of Penance, popularly called Confession.

    It is the second Sacrament of reconciliation, after Baptism. “plank after shipwreck” and all that. I’m not even sure whether the term “reconciliation” can properly be applied to one who has only venial sins and sins already confessed (these are calid matter too) to confess.

  2. benedetta says:

    When I go to confession I feel it easier altogether and I feel more confident about reconciling with my neighbor whom I offended because I know that I have experienced the boundless mercy and love of God. The sacrament gives me the ability to do things I would find difficult to do or overcome on my own. So God’s mercy extended in the sacrament to one, then extends out in reconciliation with many. When I know God supports my efforts to amend my life and sin no more, I have more confidence to respond to and collaborate with His grace more and more.

  3. Imrahil says:

    And please, dear Reverend Fathers, have fixed confession times sitting in the confessional. I know this is hard – probably more the sense of unhelpfulness when noone shows up than the actual inconvenience – but otherwise we’ll think twice at least if we think we have no new mortal sins, and those out of the habit, if nothing really hard happens, to large degrees won’t get the idea at all.

    You can still prepare your sermon – or even read entertainment literature, thinking of Father Brown – if nobody does show up.

  4. Legisperitus says:

    If only people knew how ardently our dear Lord longs to receive His penitent children in the confessional and forgive them their sins in His boundless ocean of mercy. God bless our faithful priests who sit in the confessional regularly; they are living signs that God is always there and ready to forgive.

  5. ClavesCoelorum says:

    The Pope probably reads Fr. Z’s blog in secret. :)

  6. THREEHEARTS says:

    I am surprised that no one ever mentions any more the act called our Easter duties as laid out in the precepts of the Church, which of course we must obey, no matter how good we perceive ourselves to be. We must go to confession at least once a year and that at Easter or thereabouts. Of course it used to have the following phrase, ” and immediately if we have committed a mortal sin”. That was I truly believe deliberately omitted. How many times have I been told “I have not been to confession for years. I am a good person (Does not sin, in other words) Priests have told me I should not confess weekly and yet a very humble and understanding priest, at my request, right after confession we would repair to the altar and I would receive Holy Communion. Words for you to know, one of the Pius’ 9 or ten wrote in an encyclical those who commune daily should confess daily. Many go to the first friday devotion and do not receive the benefits as they rarely confess although they will receive the benefits when they do attend the confessional.

  7. SimonDodd says:

    I would think that the reason to go to confession is because it is the sole ordinary means by which a member of the faithful who is conscious of mortal sin is reconciled with God and with the Church, and that locutions such as “our sins are also against our brothers, against the Church,” while technically correct, are likely to cause confusion. When Catholics lapse, Confession, being the most onerous and unpleasant part of the practice of the faith, is the very first thing to do. Framing its necessity in terms of “sins against our brothers and the Church” is the thin end of the wedge—it can and will be read by those who have a strong motivation to do so as excluding “victimless sins” and requiring confession only of those sins that in their judgment injure their brothers or the Church.

    The words in which ideas are expressed matter, because the intent of the speaker does not govern how those words will be taken. That’s why the church used to issue theological censures of not only texts that were erroneous, but also texts that may have been technically, substantially true but which were nevertheless male sonans (“evil-sounding,” unacceptable words expressing acceptable ideas), ambigua (ambiguous between two or more senses, of which at least one is erroneous), and piarum aurium offensiva (“offensive to pious ears,” worded in a way that shocks the conscience). It isn’t good enough, it seems to me, to say that Francis is substantially correct subject to merely stylistic defects when style (in the sense of rhetorical choice) can matter.

  8. SimonDodd says:

    First thing to go, excuse me.

  9. everett says:

    Father, your link for the examination of conscience help is leading to a page not found.

  10. LarryW2LJ says:

    I do my best to go to Confession monthly. We have “scheduled” Confession from 10:00 to 11:30 every Saturday morning. Our Pastor is really great, and if you need another time, all you have to do is call him. Anyway, when I went in January, I got there late – around 10:30. So, I guesstimated that about 5 or so people must have gone before I got there. There were five people in line ahead of me – so that put me at #11 for the day (roughly). There were about 15 people after me! That was so good to see! Normally I go, and the line is really short – it’s wonderful to see people taking advantage of the Sacrament. In February, the line wasn’t quite as long – but it still seemed like more people than what I would have called “normal”.

  11. Imrahil says:


    I’m sorry to say for you are obviously eager to do the good thing, however… imagining duties that do not, in fact, exist, will usually backfire. For this reason…

    We must go to confession at least once a year
    if we have committed a mortal sin. That is pretty much any interpretation given by the scholars for the old “omnis utriusque sexus” bull which made its way to the 1917 Code. (The few dissenting scholars say that who has not mortally sinned can fulfil the duty by appearing in the confessional and say “I have not sinned mortally”.) And that is explicitly made clear in the canon now actually in force (can. 989).

    and that at Easter or thereabouts.
    That is obviously the liturgically sensible thing, given that Easter or thereabouts is the time for the obligatory annual Communion (can. 920). However, there is absolutely no duty strictly so-called any-more to have the annual confession at Easter.

    and immediately if we have committed a mortal sin
    Sed contra we have what St. Thomas writes in his Summa theol, Supp. 6 V. Though of course if we want, as probably anyone will, to receive Communion as soon as possible, then, indeed, we will by itself wish to confess as soon as possible. But if we do not do so, we do not sin again. It is precisely this what the Church means when she says that the sins are to be confessed, at least, annually.

    one of the Pius’ 9 or ten wrote in an encyclical those who commune daily should confess daily.
    That doesn’t sound probable, and if it should be true, it was before St. Pius X’s policy of happy memory to reactivate Frequent Communion. Anyway, precisely your comment is the very first even assertion that I hear that there should have been more to “one Confession one Communion” that an in itself pious, largely American practice. (For the record, my own aspirations are not-altogether-but-nearly-daily Communion and monthly Confession, so I cannot say I’m neutral here.) I can prove that the Bl. John Henry treats it as a practice which “we usually do although we all know we need not” (no literal quote, somewhere in “Difficulties of Anglican” explaining the phrase “absolution for a week”).

    The monthly Confession, in line with the Fatima apparitions and sufficient to make a Christian able, confession-wise, to win a plenary indulgence any day (which is 20 days before, 20 after) seem the Church’s suggestion here. To refrain from Holy Communion without being inadmittible, and without a doubt of being admittible, seems rather less so.

  12. wolfeken says:

    It is terrific to hear the Holy Father talk about the need for a sacrament, such as penance. It is a shame that’s how low the bar has been set, but that’s another story.

    In many churches, the posted time of Saturdays between 4:15 and 4:40 p.m. and by appointment is not going to be enough to meet the challenge.

    The way to combat the problem is to hear confessions before — and, if possible with a second priest, during — Mass. In a confessional.

    Hopefully more priests will recognize this fact. Delegate non-priestly stuff to someone else and get in the box, please. This problem is not just the fault of lazy laity.

  13. Geoffrey says:

    For the past few weeks, the Holy Father’s weekly catechesis has been about the seven sacraments. Well worth the read.

  14. Mike says:

    Went to EF Mass last night at a Northern Virginia parish where Confession is offered every night of the week.

    Father went into the confessional about 15 minutes before the scheduled time and had a steady stream of penitents. He came out and offered Mass including a homily on St. Simeon. Then back into the confessional he went.

    One wonders how many (or how few) hours’ sleep he gets, considering all his other parish and school duties. And one is moved almost to tears both at his dedication and devotion and at how energetically it is responded to by his flock.

  15. Uxixu says:

    Definitely encouraging to hear unambiguous orthodoxy from the Holy Father.

    I definitely agree with wolfeken, the typical scheduled Saturday confessional is a convenient scheduling mechanism, but I do wish it would become a norm rather than the exception to have at least one confessional in use before every Mass. It might even be a better use of the priests limited time outside of the big penitential services (which usually have priests from the neighboring parishes, as well, anyway). Not necessarily the celebrant, though it couldn’t hurt as well. I would love more homilies on the Sacrament of Penance, if not a simple overview of an examination of conscience, as well.

    For a time I was going every week, though I’ve been much better of late. I’m taking some of these more seriously than I should perhaps, though I find a more complete examination of conscience to be most refreshing. When I went to confess about detraction on someone, for example, I was a bit bothering by it, but the priest (who is otherwise fairly strict and one of my favorite confessors) said “that’s it?” and then gave a very mild penance.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that even at the EF parish I visit, when they always have confession before Mass and usually during, as well but the absolution is always in English, which is probably practical since most of the parishioners aren’t likely fluent in Latin. I would still so love to hear the classic “ego te absolvo” with the Latin blessing following at some point… though I guess I actually shouldn’t since it would mean I fell out of a state of grace again. Can I desire absolution without explicit mortal sin beforehand?

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Uxixu,
    Can I desire absolution without explicit mortal sin beforehand?

    Why, certainly!

    Venial sins, and sins venial or mortal previously already confessed, are valid matter for confession.

    That said, to memorize once in a while “ego te absolvo” shouldn’t be too hard, and I think most of the people actually would recognize it… from some entertainment featuring Catholicism if from no other source. (Isn’t it a curious thing that Latin just makes a better scene than does English, or German for that matter?)

  17. Terentia says:

    Virtually every parish in my diocese has a scheduled time for confession. Between 2 pm and 4 pm on Saturday. Every parish had confession at the same time until the new priest at my parish changed our time to 11 am on Saturday. I work every Saturday. Why can’t at least one parish have Tuesday evening or any other day than Saturday? I appreciate the horrible schedules most priests have. But even once a month, some day other than Saturday would be nice.

  18. Imrahil says:

    I wanted to say: Dear Uxixu.

    Speaking of overcoming habits.

  19. wolfeken says:

    Uxixu — I recommend making an appointment with the pastor and humbly requesting absolution for the sacrament of penance be made available at the parish using the 1962 books (as permitted by Summorum Pontificum’s Art. 9, §1).

    Also, if you can, perhaps purchase one or two of these for the priests there: http://birettabooks.com/go/webstore/product/confessional_wall_card/

    This is exactly what we did at our parish following the motu proprio, and it has been working well ever since.

  20. Uxixu says:

    Great suggestion, thanks wolfeken.

    Not sure I understand what you’re saying in that second post about habits, Imrahil. I didn’t word my previous post right. Of course, can confess venial sins. I was more mixed up at the juxtaposition of the language in hoping for my next absolution. Being human, it’s almost certainly inevitable, but just a thought.

  21. Ben Kenobi says:

    Thank you for the reminder Father! :)

  22. iudicame says:

    Here’s a thought re Francis’s liberalism and the call to Confession – He has read the 3rd Secret, he’s gathering as many souls as possible into The Tent before it all goes down…


  23. iudicame says:

    …and given the impending storm, maybe not checking IDs too closely…


  24. teomatteo says:

    “What is it I have been shouting?”
    The Holy Father is obviously a reader of your blog!

  25. PA mom says:

    Wolfeken-I agree completely, more posted confession time would be so helpful and encouraging. I think that before or after every weekend Mass (even once monthly) is an efficient time for priest and parishoners and would raise the recognition of the sacrament again substantially. (though I expect this would be fairly taxing physically)
    Certain times during the week are locked in for many people, and Saturday afternoon is a very hectic time for most all the families I know.

  26. Priam1184 says:

    About six months ago I found a parish near where I live that offers Confession every weekday morning before Mass. It changed my life.

  27. adeacon says:

    Confession is not easy – at least not for this deacon. I do my best to go once a month – to a Benedictine monk – the old fashioned way. The small mesh/screen in-between the priest and me. This is the way I like it. It does not appeal to me to sit side by side with the priest. Just a choice. After Confession – and I am absolved, I feel wonderful, I am free… Jesus has forgiven me. I wish everyone would/could experience God’s forgiveness. It would change their hearts… And bring peace to such a troubled world.

  28. JonPatrick says:

    Just went yesterday, had a sin that had been weighing heavily, and I wanted to be in a state of grace for our upcoming Home Enthronement of the Sacred Heart tomorrow. . I am lucky to be in a parish that has confession Wednesday and Friday afternoon as well as the usual Saturday, plus before the Sunday evening Mass. And in addition the Latin Mass Chaplain is in the box for 1/2 hour before our Sunday Morning EF Mass. Got there 20 minutes early and there were already a dozen or so people waiting including a young family with a small child, good to see them setting an example for their daughter (both went in).

  29. Vecchio di Londra says:

    “Someone can say, ‘I confess my sins only to God.’ Yes, you can say to God, ‘forgive me,’ and say your sins. But our sins are also against our brothers, against the Church. This is is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness of the Church and of our brothers, in the person of the priest.”

    I’m afraid that doesn’t quite get an ‘Amen’ from me: it seems erroneously argued and (sigh!) open to misinterpretation. It is not Catholic teaching that we seek the Sacrament of Confession because we have sinned ‘against our brothers, against the Church’. We will of course have sinned against our fellow human beings; there may also be sins against the Church, eg theft, abuse, sacrilege, prideful disrespect, anti-clericalism. But we go to Confession because our sins (of whatever nature) are offences against Almighty God, the source of all goodness. And the priest absolves us not in the collective name of humankind (=as a ‘brother’ or ‘person’) nor as an employee of ‘the Church’, but by the sacramental priestly power of God, and directly in the Name of Christ who said: ‘Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.’ (John 20:23)
    As the Catechism tells us ‘Confession increases the Grace of God in the soul, besides forgiving sin. We should therefore often go to confession.’ Often.
    Again, as so often with these off-the-cuff papal remarks, there is a confusion of categories: here between the worldly nature of a sin and the purpose of the Sacrament, which is always and invariably to seek not the forgiveness of man or the institution of the Church, but of Almighty God ‘because by our sins we have offended so good a God’ as the Catechism defines the reason for Contrition.
    Of course we can and should ask pardon of those we have offended separately and outside the confessional. But that is neither an adequate reparation for the preceding sin nor a substitute for Confession.
    As for “Yes, you can say to God, ‘forgive me,’ and say your sins” – Well, we can, but we have to feel lucky, if it’s serious sin we’re confessing in this informal way. We can’t simply presume on the extra-Sacramental mercy of God. (Reasons for frequent Confession No. 46,782)

  30. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Btw – for me the word ‘Reconciliation’ is highly suspect as a term for Confession/Penance. It wrongly suggests a touchy-feely bipartisan process of negotiated agreement and mutual forgiveness.
    The rejoicing father threw his arms around the prodigal son and gave a feast in honour of his repentant return. He did not tell the prodigal son that there ‘had been faults on both sides’ or offer him the elder son’s portion of inheritance, or assure him that he didn’t need to do any more work on the farm than he felt like doing.

  31. Rachel K says:

    “When Catholics lapse, Confession, being the most onerous and unpleasant part of the practice of the faith, is the very first thing to go. ”
    Surely it is the other way around? When Catholics stop going to confession (perhaps being aware of a grave sin and finding confession more difficult than usual) then they lapse!

    toematteo ” “What is it I have been shouting?”
    The Holy Father is obviously a reader of your blog!”
    No, joking aside, the Holy Father is a Catholic priest!
    We shouldn’t be surprised when a priest talks about confession as it really is. What should surprise us is the occasions when priests speak error.

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