Want a good reason to go to Confession? It will help you get to Heaven, says Sr. Helena Burns. OSV News photo/CNS file, Chaz Muth

Get thee to Confession, Heaven awaits

  • November 23, 2023

Haven’t been to Confession for a while? One question: How can you stay away?!

All right, I know it can be very difficult to even find Confession offered beyond 30 to 45 minutes right before a Saturday evening Mass, or “by appointment.” But no matter what you must do, what hoops you must jump through, how many kilometres you must drive, Confession is totally worth it. You and I need frequent Confession because we are sinners. I will now try to shoot down some “excuses” for not going to Confession.

1. “My right to anonymity is taken away if I must call the rectory for a Confession ‘appointment.’ ” True, but not if you distort your voice and ask to meet in the confessional at a certain time. Disguises can even be worn while entering the confessional. You can also call a different parish where no one knows you.

2. “I’m too afraid someone besides the priest might overhear me in the confessional.” Bring a white noisemaker or use a white noise app. Fr. Damien of Molokai had to row out to a ship and shout his sins up to the priest on board because of the fear of leprosy contagion. Chances are, we’re never going to have to go to those lengths.

3. “I’m a good person. I don’t need Confession.” Fine. If you don’t need mercy, you don’t need Jesus.

The steps to Heaven are thus: Confession, Mass, Confession, Mass, Confession, Mass. Notice that Confession precedes Mass. The other sacraments are generally received only once (or not at all) in our lives, but the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Most Blessed Sacrament can be received almost as often as we wish — and all to our greatest, eternal benefit: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven where neither moth nor rust can destroy nor thieves break in and steal.”

I have heard stories — from those who lived the Church history — that before the 1960s, Catholics generally went to Confession on Saturday before Sunday Mass. It was a routine thing. Why? Because if we are in mortal sin, we may not receive Holy Communion. If we only have venial sins to confess, we may go to Communion, but wouldn’t it be awesome to purify our souls as often as we can? Sacramental Confession is so powerful, in fact, that exorcists say it does more to “free us all from Satan’s power” than an exorcism.

So why and how was Confession decoupled from Communion? What so drastically changed? Did we suddenly become a bunch of saints in a decade? I will leave you to answer those questions with your own research, but I am here to tell you that the decoupling was bogus, deceptive, dastardly and dangerous.

Oh, you don’t like going to Confession? Join the club. Confession of one’s heinous, ungrateful, vicious, stupid or ridiculous sins is supposed to be embarrassing, humiliating and sweat-inducing. The Devil makes us bold in sinning and timid in confessing. But it’s totally worth it when you know with certainty you’ve been forgiven by God (in the way God set it up for His concrete, absolving forgiveness to be distributed on planet Earth). It’s a forgiveness that you can feel physically, like a burden being lifted. Or, as Dion of Dion and the Belmonts put it: “I’d rather be clean than clever.”

Let’s review the sacrament: We must have matter for Confession, that is, sin. We must be sorry for our sins. We must resolve not to do them again. We must confess them to the priest. We must do our assigned penance. All of these components must exist to make a valid Confession

Did you know that with Confession we get “sacramental grace” not to commit the same sins? But, you may protest, “I keep committing and confessing the same sins over and over!” Healing is still at work, and grace works invisibly, however, if you are addicted to something, you need professional help. Barring a miraculous spiritual healing, we need to do the hard work of overcoming our addictions with proven programs designed for our particular issues. Grace builds on nature and doesn’t replace it.

Confession helps get us to Heaven, so if you struggle with Confession, remember that “Heaven is always a bargain no matter the cost.”

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns  #medianuns)

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