From a reader…
Is it grave matter to laugh or joke when in need of Confession? (That is, when one has committed mortal sin and intends to go to Confession at the next opportunity.)
Aristotle points out that man is the only animal that laughs. Critters might look like they are “laughing”, but they aren’t. So, it’s human to laugh.
Mark Twain points out that man is the only animal that blushes… or needs to. Hence, because we are sinners, it’s human to blush.
It doesn’t help us to mope around all long-face before confession, though we should indeed pray that we feel remorse and shame and guilt for sins, true compunction, so that we might even blush, at least when alone or when making amends to others.
Latin compunctio is a compound of cum + punctum from pungo, “to pierce, prick”. It means “the sting of remorse”.
Non-stop levity isn’t perhaps your best option in the state of sin. Neither is relentless melancholy.
So, before making your good confession be penitentially joyful, or joyfully penitent. Be, at the same time, cheerfully remorseful, or remorsefully cheerful.
If, while in the state of that separation from God which we call mortal sin, we truly meditate on our state, we will get to confession as quickly as possible. Right away we should make the very best act of contrition which we can summon. Then we should hie ourselves hence.
Simultaneously, we can be of good cheer because we know that God loves us, that He is already giving us graces to make our good confession, and that, shortly, we shall be shriven.
There is nothing happy about sins, but confession and reconciliation are everything to be happy about.
From the Mass for begging for compunction of heart in the 1962 Missale Romanum:
Omnipotens et mitissime Deus, qui sitienti populo fontem viventis aquae de petra produxisti: educ de cordis nostri duritia lacrimas compunctionis; ut peccata nostra plangere valeamus, remissionemque eorum, te miserante, mereamur accipere. Per Dominum.
Almighty and most gentle God, who, when Thy people were parched, from out the rock drew forth living water, draw now forth tears of remorse from out the stone-hardness of our hearts, so that we may bewail our sins and, as you show mercy, merit to receive their forgiveness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
GO TO CONFESSION!