How do you think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If you are like most Catholics, you probably think of it as little as possible! Or, perhaps, you think of it as something good to have available in the event you do something really, really wrong, but not something you need to concern yourself with otherwise. Or, maybe, you go every year during Lent as part of your Easter duties. You feel it is good to get that fresh start once a year.
As hard as it is to believe, the first Sunday of Advent is right around the corner. The start of a new liturgical year is a good time to take stock of one’s spiritual life. What if, this year, you changed how you think about going to Confession?
I have been reading Seven from Heaven: How the Sacraments Can Heal, Nurture, and Protect Your Family Today, a soon-to-be-published book by Elizabeth Ficocelli. She discusses many reasons why the Sacrament of Reconciliation needs to play a more important role in our spiritual well-being.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. When we are sick, we seek out a doctor to help us. When we are spiritually ill due to sin, going to Confession helps to heal our soul. It helps to restore our relationship with God, other people, and the Church. As Ficocelli rightly states, “What we do (or what we fail to do) affects the entire community of believers, as well as the spiritual well-being of the Church.” There is no such thing as a “personal” sin that hurts no one but the person committing it. All sin has a communal dimension.
We don’t only go to the doctor when we are sick, however. We also go in for periodic check-ups, just to make sure everything is working well and that there are no underlying issues lurking under the surface, waiting to cause problems. So it should also be with taking advantage of going to Confession.
None of us is perfect. We always have some sins on our soul. If left untended, those “minor” issues can lead to bigger problems. Reconciliation can help us keep those habitual sins under control. It provides us with God’s grace to do better and root out the sources of sin in our lives. Ficocelli encourages us “to stop thinking of the sacrament as something reserved for grave situations, and begin regarding it as an important source of grace to help us avoid sins and grow in holiness.”
Many years ago, it was a common practice for families to go to Confession every Saturday. Ficocelli shares a wonderful story of such a family. It happened that every Saturday the mother did the laundry and washed all the sheets. When the children came home from getting their souls cleaned, they were able to climb into fresh, clean beds. “The children equated Confession with the feeling of being washed clean and starting the new week fresh and new, just like their bed sheets.”
Perhaps for this coming year, you could start making going to Confession at least once a month a family affair. Children need to go to Confession regularly just as much as adults do. They need the help that it provides and it is good for them to be in the habit of going to Confession for when the more serious temptations and sins of the teen years come into play.
Yes, going to Confession can be difficult. It is humbling and forces us to face our own weakness, but I have generally found that the more frequently you go, the easier it becomes. You start to look forward to that periodic soul cleaning. Attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly is an important part of keeping one’s soul in good working order. Don’t neglect this essential maintenance tool.