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Dawn wrote:

Hi, guys —

I converted to Catholicism about 15 years ago while in college.

  • I went to the classes
  • had been previously baptized, and
  • even got married in a Catholic Church.

Being raised a Protestant, however, I did not understand the need to go to [Confession| Reconciliation] so I never did and still haven't.

I had asked the parish priest if I had to go to Confession to get confirmed, and his reply was,
it was strongly recommended. I took that as optional.

Now, I'm just afraid to go since it has been so long!

  • Am I still Catholic?
  • What is in store for me if I go?

Dawn

  { I'm afraid to go to Confession since it has been so long; can you tell me what is in store for me? }

Mike replied:

Dear Dawn,

Yes, you are still a Catholic and there is no need to be afraid at all.
Jesus established the sacrament of Confession so:

  1. you would know all your sins would be forgiven
  2. you would receive extra grace not to commit the sins you confess again
  3. and be at peace.

I can't speak for priests specifically, but in my opinion, they would probably be over joyed that someone who as been away from the Church for so long, has come back to the sacraments.
On behalf of our team at AskACatholic, we welcome you back!

Know that any and all sins you mention in the Confession cannot be mentioned by any priest to anyone, even law enforcement, under the pain of excommunication for him, so your Confession is totally secret. We call this the Seal of Confession.

This page should help:

The light is on for you - Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


You said:

  • What is in store for me if I go?

Going to Confession

The penitent and the priest begin with the sign of the Cross, saying:

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The priest urges the penitent to have confidence in God with these or similar words:

May the Lord be in your heart and help you to confess your sins with true sorrow.

The priest may read or say a passage from Sacred Scripture after which the penitent then states:

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been (however many days, weeks, months or years) since my last Confession.

The penitent then states his or her sins. For the confession to be valid, the penitent must:

  • confess all of the mortal sins he or she is aware of having committed since the last Confession
  • be sorry for them, and
  • have a firm purpose of amendment to try not to commit the same sins in the future.

After this, the priest will generally give some advice to the penitent and impose a penance. Then he will ask the penitent to make an act of contrition. The penitent may do so in his or her own words, or may say one of many memorized acts of contrition like the following:

Act of Contrition

O My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with the help of your grace, to do penance, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered and died for us. In His Name, O Lord, have mercy.

After this the priest will absolve the penitent in the following words:

God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and ** I absolve you from your sins ** in the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

The penitent makes the sign of the Cross and answers: Amen.

The priest will then dismiss the penitent with a short prayer and encouragement.

The penitent should then immediately try to fulfill the penance imposed if it is something that can be done quickly.



Although some of our sins may be very embarrassing and shameful, we should always be totally honest with an open heart. Believe me, the (priest|confessor) has heard everything, so don't hide any sins. Like my colleague Eric said in another posting:

Remember that the Confessional is a tribunal of mercy and healing, not of judgment. The point is not to accuse you or impose guilt; the point is to relieve guilt and apply the balm of mercy to sins so that they might be healed.

A sin is like an injury, and the priest is like a doctor.

That said, let's say you have an injury in both your left and right legs and you tell the doctor about these injuries.

  • After you receive the appropriate medication and advice from the doctor's office, wouldn't he be surprised if, the next day, he heard you passed away?

He would be stunned with amazement, until he found out that you also had heart pains but were too embarrassed to tell him.

The same is true inside the Confessional, the [priest/doctor] can't heal something unless you tell him what sins are ailing you or what needs spiritual healing.

This bishop of the United States have previously stated they recommend families go to Confession at least once a month.

There is nothing to be afraid of when going to Confession and if you are confused about any aspect of your family life or your personal spiritual life, you can ask the Confessor for guidance in the Confessional. As Catholics, we should see the sacrament of Confession as dynamite that:

  • brings our lives back to a state of grace and spiritual normalcy, or
  • gives it the extra boost on our spiritual journey.

Finally, Yes, you should definitely go to Confession before receiving Confirmation!

Confirmation is the Catholic way of publicly, as an adult, accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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