Around the world, access to the Sacrament of Confession differs from country to country, and even from parish to parish. 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:
- The Sacrament of Confession
- The Act of Contrition
- What Is an Occasion of Sin?
- "On the Sacrament of Penance"--Lesson Seventeenth of the Baltimore Catechism
- "On Contrition"--Lesson Eighteenth of the Baltimore Catechism
- "On Confession"--Lesson Nineteenth of the Baltimore Catechism
- "On the Manner of Making a Good Confession"--Lesson Twentieth of the Baltimore Catechism