Confession is the popular name for the Catholic sacrament of penance. This sacrament was instituted by Christ during His life on earth. In this way He gave the Apostles and their successors His own authority and power to forgive sins in His name. This sacrament forgives all sins committed after baptism, whether mortal or venial sins. It is God who forgives sins, through the ministers of this sacrament. Through Confession we are reconciled to God and to the Church. When we confess our sins to a priest, it is really to God that we are confessing. Nothing the priest hears in confession can ever be repeated or acted upon. This is the ‘seal’ of the confessional. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule, ever. There are four elements to the sacrament of Confession:
- Contrition (being sorry) for our sins and resolving to try not to sin again.
- Individual confession of our sins to a priest.
- Receiving God’s merciful forgiveness.
- Doing the penance which the priest imposes.
We should feel sorrow because our sins offend God. They pull us back on the path to heaven. They also weaken the Church. Sin makes us weak and irresponsible links in the chain of faith and witness. Sin makes us ‘passengers’ in the Church. Our forgiveness depends on our being truly sorry, and having a firm purpose of amendment. The penance we are given is a token offering. Only Christ’s own merits can truly make-up for the damage caused by sin. We are obliged always to confess all mortal sins. It is also recommended to confess venial sins. This helps us grow in holiness and virtue. It gives us an increase of grace and strength for the Christian battle, the spiritual warfare.
How often? The rule is at least once a year. Most of us should go never less than once a month, and when we have to. If the sin is mortal, go to confession immediately. Do not risk your immortal soul by putting off the work of forgiveness and reconciliation.