The elation of a good confession humbly made

13_01_02_confessionAt The Catholic Thing there is a piece by Regis Martin about the Sacrament of Penance.

When was the last time you went to confession?  When was the last time you made that good and complete confession of all mortal sins in both kind and number?  What was the last time you heard those words of absolution, freeing you from the bonds of your sins?


O Blessed Box!

He waited nearly a half-century before deciding to shake the Anglican dust from his feet, but when G.K. Chesterton finally resolved to become Roman Catholic, his reasons were perfectly simple: “To get rid of my sins.”

It is also why I, and certainly a great many other sinners, have chosen to remain Catholic. How else does one get to become five minutes old all over again? As Georges Bernanos used to say, “Five minutes of Paradise will make everything well.” Why not a sneak preview, then, before the show begins?

Besides, aren’t we all sinners? Why else am I asked to beat my breast at the beginning of Mass? It’s surely not my neighbor’s fault that I have fallen into sin. Grievous sin, even, which, recalling the prescribed formula, I freely admit, “in my thoughts and in my words, / in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”

That way I may turn to God to ask forgiveness, beseeching as well both angels and saints, brothers and sisters, to lift me up in prayer lest I be tempted to refuse ownership of those sins. “May Almighty God,” I implore, joining my voice to all the members of the Church Militant, “have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.”

If you think about it, there are only two ways to go when you find yourself in a fix. Either you deny your situation, or you freely confess the fix that you’re in, and go look for immediate and blessed release from it. There is no third way, no room to maneuver between the two bookends of either complete denial or total acceptance of the mess you’ve made.


There can be few pleasures – for Catholics, anyway – as keen as hearing the priest announce, amid the darkened anonymity of the confessional, “I absolve you from your sins.” Which he does, we Catholics further believe, in the very accent of Jesus Christ. Thus setting free the soul from all that had previously encumbered it, immersing everything in a great sea of mercy.

What more could you possibly ask for than to regain that radiance for which we were born? It leaves you positively stupefied, while wave upon wave of gratitude washes over the guilt-free soul. Not only is it the gift that keeps on giving, but one that you could never give yourself.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    “There can be few pleasures – for Catholics, anyway – as keen as hearing the priest announce, amid the darkened anonymity of the confessional”
    In our town, there is really no option for a dark confessional. If we choose to use the screen in the corner of are reconciliation room, we are visible to the priest. I would love to be anonymous.

  2. KnitFoole says:

    What happens if the priest tells you not to confess in kind and number? If you are told that it is a “misguided notion” that some Catholics have erroneously picked up? That it doesn’t matter how many times you have committed a sin or what kind it really is, as “Jesus didn’t differentiate”? I got that last time. Along with a chuckle at my naivete. I merely thanked Father for his instruction (meekly, because I respect that he was trying to instruct me, even if that instruction was confusing to me, I wanted to show respect), and continued in with my confession. I am not eager to go back to that parish for confession. Although, I am running out of parishes at which to confess. At another parish the priest told me my material cooperation with a grave sin was actually not a sin. I got a chuckle there, too.

  3. ray from mn says:

    re: ” to confess in kind and number”

    If I can’t remember the kinds of sins I have committed, I need to do a better “Act of Contrition.”

    But there have been times in my past, when I can’t exactly remember the date of my last confession, let alone exactly how many times I have committed a particular sin, “blasphemy”, for example. Fortunately that happens to be an offense over which I seem to have regained some control.
    Just how critical are “times and numbers” needed for a Confession to be valid? Are “many” or “innumerable” acceptable as “numbers?”

  4. “amid the darkened anonymity of the confessional”
    I’m grateful that I can sit down face to face with my confessor and confess my sins. God will forgive them and Fr. will not judge me for them. I see no reason to hide in a dark box.

  5. Mike of Arkansas says:

    Are there any lay Extraordinary Ministers of Reconciliation yet?

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