If you’re like a lot of Catholics, you probably don’t go to confession regularly—or often. But Lent is coming, and starting the season with confession is a good way to begin; if you don’t know what to “work on” this Lent, confession might help you zero in on something in your life you’d like to see changed.
Still, if you haven’t been to confession for a long time, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the whole process. Here are a few tips to get you off to the right start.
- Be as honest as you can. Remember that, as Frederick Buechner wisely wrote, “When you confess your sins to God you’re not telling him anything he doesn’t already know.” This sacrament isn’t about looking good; it’s about recognizing what’s keeping us apart from God.
- Be transparent. If you haven’t been to confession for a while, let the priest know. He’s not there to judge but to be the vehicle of forgiveness. The last thing he’ll do is chastise you for not showing up sooner. And—bonus!—his advice will help you figure out how to make changes in your life.
- Remember reconciliation. That’s the correct word for confession, and it’s really reconciliation that this sacrament is all about. You’re not asking forgiveness to alleviate your conscience; you’re celebrating this sacrament so that you can be drawn closer to God. This isn’t about punishment—it’s about love.
Both Scripture and the Church tell us that God is our Father, but sometimes we forget all the things parenthood entails. You see your own children making mistake after mistake after mistake, yet you don’t stop loving them, do you? You don’t stop hoping they’ll learn from those mistakes so they won’t have to make them anymore. Why should God be any different?