Jun 2, 2009

Confessions: Why Shoo Away God's Love?

Fr Mark Mossa, SJ has a great post on confession in which he refers to our Busted Halo videos on confession which you can view below. He writes:

One of my favorite things to do as a priest--believe it or not--is to hear confessions. Some people are afraid to go to confession because they are afraid that the priest is going to yell at them (and, unfortunately, it may even have happened to them once). Honestly, I can't imagine any reason why I would feel compelled to yell at someone during a confession. One might need to be firm about something at times, but there's still no need to yell. Indeed, my experience is that usually it becomes a joyful and healing conversation, once the person has gotten past the difficult part of confessing his or her sins. Sometimes people laugh, sometimes they cry, but it is because it has been a good experience.
Another reason people don't go is because they feel embarrassed because they don't know what to do. I wouldn't let this deter you because, in my experience, nearly half of all my confessions have been with people who weren't sure what they were doing. I'm happy to help. In fact, I often have to stop people from leaving because they've stood up to go before I've had the chance to give them absolution!

He also pointed out The BustedHalo new cheat sheet for confessions. Which essentially allows you to review the steps for confession before you enter the box or reconciliation room. A good rule of thumb for priests when hearing confession: "Don't hate the playa, Father--hate the sin."

Here are the aforementioned videos:

I would say this from my own sinful experience...

I don't confess enough. And when I do I always come out feeling lighter, free from burden and simply filled with God's love. I really do feel that way. I don't take advantage of it for some reason though and I really can't understand why we all do this. Studies show that confessions are down. Why do we shoo away God's love? It is there freely offered and freely given. But God never forgives sins against our will and perhaps that's where we come in with the giant God-swatter?

We think we know better. We think we know when the best time is for us to have sex with someone instead of freely giving of ourselves in marriage. We justify our petty outbursts of anger by saying that the other person deserved it. We claim that "it's nothing personal" when we stab a co-worker in the back. We ignore the homeless and forget that they are God's children too and claim that we can't help everyone. We say what other choice did the woman have who aborted her baby and we then exonerate her choice as necessity and don't ever ask how we played a part in these deaths.

We know better. There's nothing wrong with us. We're basically good people.

Bullshit. (Now I need to go to confession for cursing!) These are lies we tell ourselves to ignore our need for God and for one another.

Confession exists for precisely this reason: We are imperfect. Better stated: We are not God. We need God and we are not even gracious enough to welcome forgiveness when it is freely given.

So today, go to confession. Seek out a priest you are comfortable with and spill your guts--but first think about what kind of betrayals you really take part in and most of all BE HONEST. You're not going to fool God--he knows your sin even before you committed it.

My most memorable confession was with a priest that I was very close to in college. I left in tears--but in a good way. It was my most honest confession because I was telling someone that I trusted all the things that I hate about myself.

Yeesh! That is not always easy to admit--especially to those who know us well. Chances are, however, they know our faults anyway--just as God does and they, like God, love us anyway.


Carlos said...

I agree whole-heartedly, Mike. I think there is a fear that exists out there, if not about being yelled at (either figuratively or literally), then about being judged by the priest. Some people say they confess straight to God. I get a kick out of that because I think that lacks humility at a minimum and completely bypasses what Christ established for us.

Anyway, my most memorable confession was fairly recent. I was pretty upset about a couple of things I had done and was beating myself up about that a bit. At the end of the sacrament before he dismissed me, the priest said enthusiastically, "It was an honor to hear your confession today." That was the last thing I ever expected to hear in a confessional. However, those words evaporated and anger I had towards myself and really made me feel joyous about the experience. As you said, it made me feel light and free. I don’t think I will ever forget that.

St Edwards Blog said...

This was a beautiful post - I love what you say and thanks for Fr. Mark Mossa's words.

I find that confession is so misunderstood... it is the whole "getting yelled at" thing along with people not understanding the value of what confession means. I have been in many conversations about better adult catechizing about this lately.

People tell me they go to therapy - which is fine, I have gone. I also say - go to confession.

Now time for the busman's holiday report. I work in a church. Please don't ask me the last time I went. *sigh*

Time to get moving on that one!

Thanks for another thought provoking and stirring post. I love how you admit just who you are. No bullshit.


Anonymous said...

I have found a confessor that I see twice a year. And I agree that it can be a wonderful healing sacrament.

But not every priest is good at this. Look, everyone has their special charism, right? I would say if you have a bad experience, keep looking. It's worth it.

I stayed away from reconciliation for many years because a priest asked me in detail about my sex life. I was appalled and couldn't get away fast enough. It felt voyeuristic and very much like sexual harrassment. That was 20 years ago with an unknown priest, but imagine the damage one person can do.

Seriously. He asked if I was sexually active, how often I had sex, if I used birth control or if I gave anal or oral sex to avoid pregnancy. I was 24 years old and engaged to be married.

When I think about all the evil I've encountered within the church it's a marvel I'm still here, let alone active and working for the church. In some ways I feel that I am a protector or shield for others.

god googler said...


MYOB was the answer you should have given that priest who was obviously using confession as a way to soothe his own sexual frustrations. I've also heard the reverse story--the person who confesses all the details surrounding sexual sins to re-live the experience. Weird.

An interesting story: a young boy of 11 said he had no clue what masturbation was until a priest in confession asked him if he had experienced it. The priest meant well. He thought that a lot of boys didn't know that this was sinful behavior and they just did it without confessing it.

A priest-friend said that he was instructed to not ask questions at all of people who come into confession. That you guide people to understand the sins they confess as being wrong and how they might go about healing that--but that's it.

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree with the "don't ask" method. It is supposed to be a sacrament of healing. An individual confesses the things that make him or her feel the need for healing. That's what needs to be addressed.

Yes, you could just tell God you're sorry and He would forgive you. Does anyone really deny that? But hearing the words--hearing you are forgiven and absolved--that has a very powerful healing affect. Especially when the priest is a well trained counselor and not an opportunistic jerk.

On the amusing side, a priest friend told me about an 8 year old boy who confessed to "adultery." He asked him "what type of adultery?" The boy said he peed outside in his backyard once. :)

god googler said...


No son, that's not sinful, that's just disgusting.

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