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Scott P. Richert

Confession Is Just the Beginning

By June 14, 2013

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Around the world, access to the Sacrament of Confession differs from country to country, and even from parish to parish.Pews and confessionals in the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo © Scott P. Richert) Here in the United States, most parishes schedule the sacrament on Saturdays, in order to make it convenient for those who work regular weekday hours. (If you work on Saturdays and can't get to Confession, just call your parish office, and a priest will gladly fit you in by appointment. You probably won't even have to leave your name.)

Once you've made your Confession and said your Act of Contrition, the priest will grant you absolution. After you've performed your penance, the sacrament is complete. But the process that you started when you entered the confessional is just beginning.

One of the most common forms of the Act of Contrition ends with the line, "I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life." That final clause is important: While it's OK to confess the same sins each time we go to Confession--if, in fact, we have committed those sins--we should always strive to break the hold that sin has on us. As Pope Francis noted in a homily on May 17, 2013, "The problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done."

In a popular children's version of the Act of Contrition, that same line reads, "I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin." Avoiding the occasions of sin--those people, places, and things which we know are likely to lead us astray--is the surest way to begin to reform our lives.

(Pews and confessionals in the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Photo © Scott P. Richert)

More on the Sacrament of Confession:

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June 20, 2010 at 12:11 am
(1) Scott says:

This is the toughest sacrament of which to partake…not because I don’t want to, but because the scheduled times are 3p-3:45 on Saturdays and 7p-8p on Wednesdays or “by appointment.” Neither time works for me and I KNOW how busy my parish priest is in our parish of over 12k and would never ask for his time in this fashion. I know if it were more popular it would be scheduled more often but it sure makes it tough…I attend Mass without fail (including HDoO) and would confess more often if I could…I can’t be the only one that feels this way.

June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am
(2) Judy says:

Check out the schedule at other parishes. You don’t have to go to your parish priest.

June 7, 2011 at 10:33 am
(3) Nicle says:

Scott, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for the priest’s time for confession. Not only is this part of his service to his parish, but priests want to hear confessions of their congregants! It means the people are seeking a closer relationship with the Lord and the Church, and that’s a wonderful thing! I encourage you to make an appointment. You could make the priest’s day by seeking forgiveness, and you’ll feel so much better afterward!

June 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm
(4) ernie martinez says:

I didn’t know that there was another prayer of the act of contrition , i have been saying the act of contrition prayer to this very day that i learned as a child, is it ok for me to keep saying and using that prayer?

June 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm
(5) Scott P. Richert says:

Ernie, of course! In fact, it’s always best to pray the version of the prayer that you’re most comfortable with.

June 8, 2012 at 10:20 am
(6) Jubilee says:

Our parish is very unique in this respect. Our pastor makes Confession available one half hour before Mass everyday (morning and evening) in addition to the usual Saturday afternoon times. During Holy Week and the Week before Christmas our pastor will bring in several retired priests who are all hearing confession before and during Mass to accomodate as many people as possible. We always have lines and not just of us old people but a lot of the youth are there right along with us. What a blessing! I wonder why most priests don’t do this? Since most parishes have at least one Mass a day, coming in a half hour earlier than usual couldn’t be that much of an inconvenience considering all the good they could be doing.

June 15, 2013 at 8:54 pm
(7) NoreenRose says:

There is nothing unique about having confession before every Mass. We have one 72-year old saintly priest. He celebrates 2 morning Masses every day except Saturday when he celebrates one Latin Mass. We also have a Thursday evening Mass, & all have confession beforehand. On Sundays, we usually have one or two priests from a monestery to assist. On Sundays, we have confession before and during all Masses and up until the Consecration. Confessions are put on hold while the non-celebrant priest helps distributes the Holy Eucharist. We even have confession available before other events such as novenas on weekday evenings when there is no Mass and no distribution of Holy Communion except by special request.
We do not have unconsecrated persons distribute Holy Communion, only priests, and we love it that way.

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