15 October 2012

3 reminders about confession

A reminder to all those who frequent the confessional:

Just tell Father your SINS.

If you find yourself saying, "Father, I need to give you a little background. . ."  STOP.  No.  You don't.  If background is necessary, the priest will ask for it.  Otherwise, assume none is necessary.

Just tell Father YOUR sins.

If you find yourself saying, "Father, my husband/wife/children/neighbor/co-worker. . ."  STOP.  This is your confession and yours alone.  There is no such thing as vicarious confession.

Just TELL Father your sins.

If you find yourself saying, "Father, I don't know if X is a sin but the moon was full and my car ran out of gas. . ."  STOP.  No explanations.  No excuses.  No reasons why.  No doubts, dodges, or dissembling.  Just TELL.

In all cases, under all circumstances, regardless of intent:  assume that if more info is needed, the priest will ask for it.  Otherwise, just tell Father your sins.  
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26 comments:

  1. You sure are making me laugh today :-)! Aren't there 4 c's of confession? Be concise, contrite, complete and...uh...cwick?? convincing?? cute?? (sorry, couldn't remember the other one). I think some priests need to be reminded too, as I had one recently who actually said "not to make this a counseling session, but...." Well, then, let's not make it a counseling session, OK? But, hey, I was really, really, really happy he was available for confession!!! (thanks to all priests who make themselves available - especially when you end up sitting alone for the better part of an hour.)

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    1. Anonymous5:10 AM

      I've heard of the 3 C's; clear, concise and correct. This might do the trick!

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  2. Going to the confessional got so much easier when I started taking this advice -- no mussing about, just a no-nonsense, "here's what I did" approach. And I've never had a priest complain about it.

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  3. How liberating it was for me when I learn these truths about the Sacrament of Confession...but turning the receiving of it into this hour-long "Chat With the Priest/Telling Your Life From Day One" ordeal seems a chronic problem on my parish as well. I had the opportunity of bringing up the subject with the priest but it turned out it wasn't a big deal at all to him...

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    1. I think it's unjust for the priest to allow a penitent to ramble on (if that's what he/she is doing) when there is a line. Many folks are stopping by on the way home from work or headed to work in the a.m.

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  4. I think the whole explaining, which I personally have always hated because it drags out the agony, comes from the very first confession. Adam after all, didn't just say that he ate the apple, but the you see, Eve, who God gave him, she took the apple and she gave him the apple and he ate. He couldn't just say, I ate the apple- no he had to drag it out. I guess along with original sin we inherited original confession with trying to mitigate the sin.

    But hey that's just my opinion, what do I know?
    PS.
    Then again there is the scene in Moonstruch where she confesses the mortal sin in between two venial sins, and the priest says, "whoa, back up"

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    1. HA! Never thought of that but certainly true.

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  5. Anonymous8:37 AM

    I was received into the Church last year and we were explicitly told NOT to produce a 'laundry list' of sins.
    I have continued to make regular confession but each time it has felt awkward and unnatural and am beginning to be disheartened by the whole experience.

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    1. Anon., you have to find a happy medium somewhere. I think a lot of priests don't care for the machine-gun rundown of the Ten Commandments. . .but it's YOUR confession, so confess the way that makes it more likely that you will continue to confess. If your confessor has a problem, he'll let you know. Generally, if I'm hearing a confession in the context of spiritual direction, I'll encourage a more "chatty" approach. However, when I have 25 people in line and 25 mins to hear them all. . .machine-gun is fine with me!

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  6. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Thanks, for this. My pet peeve has been when someone comes in and says, "Father, I don't know what my sins are can you help me?" Arrgh. No. The priest is not supposed to tell YOU where you sinned, you are supposed to tell HIM where you sinned. 90% of confession is done before anyone goes into the box. by making or finding a good examination of conscience. The danger in the priest probing for sins is that he might find one that you are not sorry for. And if your not sorry then you can't be absolved.

    Fr. Joshua

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    1. Precisely. I've actually sent folks out of the box to make an examination of conscience. . .gently sent them out, of course.

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  7. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Thank you that's very helpful, Father. The best experience so far was relatively brief and followed the recitation of the Rosary which I'm sure was a big help.

    Am working myself up to going again before the year is out.

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    1. Anonymous5:45 AM

      Good Advice! Went Saturday and left church feeling a new person. Thanks again, Father.

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  8. Anonymous10:57 PM

    Father Powell, I think your comments here are unhelpful and will just frighten most people. Number 2 is good advice, but as for the others, a person must be allowed to find the courage to name their sins to Christ THROUGH A HUMAN BEING, A PRIEST, however they can manage to do so. So please, just let people alone on this score to do their best. And you, Father, simply have the duty of sitting there no matter how long it takes, listening, judging, offering whatever counsel you feel will be helpful (and restrain yourself at this point) and then the pray the all-sufficient prayer of absolution. Period! Father J.R.

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    1. Fr. J.R., I'm always happy when penitents do their best and I want to encourage that. . .of course! However, when I have 25mins to hear 15 confessions before Mass, it is bordering on unjust to allow a penitent to use 10mins to discuss the finer points of moral theology. I hear confessions every day, twice on Friday, so this isn't a matter of me trying to avoid sitting in the box. My advice here is aimed at those regular penitents who should know that the clock is ticking. If someone has a complex moral question, I always invite them to see me after Mass or make an appt to discuss the problem. In the last 40yrs, many regular penitents have become used to being only one of maybe two or three in line. That's changed (Deo gratias!) and they need to adjust their habits.

      Thank you for the comment.

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  9. Father, what's the best way to proceed when you seem to have "plateaued" with confession? I've been going regularly for a few years and most of the things I confess now aren't mortal sins. But I still want to benefit from the grace of the sacrament. I've been warned by confessors about bringing in a laundry list of venial sins, but I don't really know what else to do.

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    1. If I'm hearing you correctly, you're worried that you aren't committing any mortal sins? ;-)

      Seriously, just go. Don't worry about "plateauing;" that's dieters' talk. Pray for the day when you don't NEED to go to confession.

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  10. So, one should clarify a situation outside the confessional rather than within it?

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    1. If by "clarification" you mean "clarifying the nature of a sin" or "clarifying the penance," then do it in the confessional. Be brief. If you mean, "clarifying the reason/excuse/background of the sin," then skip it entirely. If the reason is necessary, the priest will ask.

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  11. Maybe you can give some clarification on things. Back in the pre VAT II days, Sister Mary Tarantula emphasized we were to confess EVERY sin; venial, mortal and not too sure. As a matter of fact, I was once told "I'm certain if you think really hard you'll come up with something." after I informed my teacher on Thursday that I'd been to Confession the previous Saturday and had been free of sin since. (this was when Catholic schools had everyone attend First Friday Mass, thus the confessions being heard on Thursday for the entire class)

    Anyway, now I hear we're only to confess the mortal sins as the venial ones are taken care of by reciting the Confeiteor at Sunday Mass. Is that so? Additionally I wonder how we determine when an otherwise venial sin ventures into the realm of a mortal sin? For example; stealing a pen from work is minor theft and I doubt I'll fry for it. But backing up the U-Haul to the loading dock and filling it with company office supplies would definetly be a mortal sin. It might sound like a ridiculous example, along the lines of "If God can do anything, can he make a rock so big that He Himself can't move it?" but I'm sincere in this and if it qualifies me as an idiot, so be it.

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    1. Sub, it doesn't qualify you as an idiot. Mortal sins are distinguished by "grave matter;" that is, the sin is serious. . .what you did was serious. Stealing a pen from a bank is venial. Stealing a pen from a destitute writer who makes her meager living writing postcards could be very serious. The question I always ask is: did this sin kill charity in my heart? That's mortal sin.

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  12. Anonymous3:00 PM

    My old canon law prof had it simplified: Be brief, be blunt, be gone.

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  13. Gregg the Obscure6:29 PM

    I structure my confession based on the seven deadly sins rather than the commandments. That ok?

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    1. Absolutely. Add the Beatitudes.

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