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Daring to confess

 

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The pilgrimage to Lourdes is often an opportunity to rediscover the path to the confessional and the forgiveness of God. In Lourdes, the Virgin Mary addresses this request to Bernadette: "Penance, penance, penance" (8th apparition, 24th February 1858). This simple word, sometimes misunderstood, can be frightening. Yet penance is not about going on a guilt-trip. It is a free act, imbued with humility and simplicity, aimed at replacing ‘the fundamental basics’ at the heart of our lives and returning to Christ, the source of all goodness. This is what we experience in the sacrament of penance - Confession - also called the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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I revise my catechism

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Confession is one of the 7 Sacraments of the Catholic Church. By‘Sacrament’ we understand the means by which the faithful, through the intermediary of a priest, may re-ceive God’s Grace which helps each person on his or her path to holiness.

During Confession the priest gives absolution for sins, but it is God who forgives them through the priest. The priest is an instrument of the forgiveness that God grants to the person who wishes to repent.

-> What is a sin? It is a refusal of God and His love. The‘ex-amination of conscience’ can be the opportunity for a personal awareness of this refusal (see below).

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The confessional is not a courtroom

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From a human point of view the admission of one’s sins can be a difficult experience, as it requires a lot of humility. It also demands great trust in the priest. The confessional is not a courtroom, as one of the confessors in Lourdes testifies, “Coming up from the Chapel of Reconciliation after several hours hearing confessions, I sometimes shed tears and say ‘Thank you Lord’”.

Your questions...

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Why confess your sins to a priest? P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }
This is, of course, difficult for everyone. It is a spiritual exercise of humility which encompasses several benefits - to confess one’s sins is already penance in itself. The priest gives you advice, clarification, and encouragement, to help you progress in the love of Christ.

Some sins are more difficult to confess than others…
It’s true. The more truthful the confession is, the more fruit it bears. Revealing our most wretched side is also a form of courage. Confession is the opportunity to remember that“God’s mercy is always greater than man’s misery”.

I have not been to confession for a very long time, how can I remember all my sins?
It is important to confess all your sins in truth. Howev-er no one can remember everything. This is where the priest can intervene and help you recognise your failings. Let yourself be guided: this is also a sign of trust. And pray to the Holy Spirit.

What if the priest cannot give me absolution?
In this case, the priest can give you a blessing. He can also be a wise counsellor and help you on your way to reconciliation.

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Preparing for, receiving and welcoming God’s forgiveness

PREPARING: To prepare ourselves for confession, the Church advises us to examine our conscience. This never implies self-judgment because Christian life is all about our relationship with God and others. It is an exercise in dis-cernment which enables us to call to mind our sins, but above all to open our hearts to true contrition, which is a sincere regret for sins committed.

RECEIVING: Confession in itself is fairly simple in its for-mat. It is a dialogue with a priest in private under the seal of secrecy. The penitent acknowledges his sins, receives ab-solution and the priest concludes by giving him a penance in reparation for his sins, often in the form of a prayer or a good deed.

WELCOMING: The priest may give some spiritual advice or suggest a new resolution to help the penitent welcome God’s forgiveness and progress in his faith.