Father Wade LJ Menezes writes for catholicexchange.com about the sacrament of Holy Confession and points out nine powerful graces of frequent visits to the sacrament of Holy Confession.
“During my priestly ministry, I noticed several reasons why people hesitate to approach the sacrament of confession. Here are the most common:
Fear: Although the vast majority of priests are kind and understanding, many would-be penitents fear being judged or scolded.
Pride: Confessing sin means facing the fact that we have really sinned and need God’s help to heal. Our personal pride rebels against it.
Shame: Although well-organized guilt should prompt us to the sacrament of confession, shame can keep us away because of the knowledge that we must confess our sins to another—and speaking our sins out loud seems unbearable.
Ignorance: This is twofold. First, we can be unaware of the reality of sin in our lives and its devastating consequences. Second, we may be ignorant of the necessity of sacramental confession for the remission of mortal sins.
Unavailability: Too often there is simply not enough time for confession in local parishes, which is the right of every penitent according to the church discipline of this sacrament.
Objection There is also a common objection to the sacrament and the claim that we can and should go “straight to God” with our sins to be forgiven. Well, you can do that for venial sins, but mortal sins require the sacrament of confession. Furthermore, did we go “straight to God” for our baptism? Have we gone “straight to God” for our confirmation? Marriage? Anointing of the sick or another sacrament?
Indeed, we need not be afraid to return again and again to the Court of Mercy.
Let us remember that the grace of the sacrament can protect us from sin by strengthening our resolve and reforming our habits. So, although church law requires us to go to confession at least once a year if we are aware of mortal sin, we still benefit from the ancient tradition of going monthly (say, on the first Friday in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or on the First Saturday in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary ). A faithful, monthly penitent most likely never, or at least rarely, has to confess a mortal sin, because the zealous practice of monthly confession keeps him from committing a mortal sin. And remember that Pope Pius XII recommended the practice of frequent confession, even if only venial sins are involved:
Nine graces of frequent confession
Here we present the nine benefits of the sacrament, whether only venial or mortal sins are confessed, or a combination.
Let’s take a brief look at each of these benefits:
Self-awareness is increased.
Many saints in their writings and teachings clearly point out that self-knowledge is necessary for growth in holiness. This means knowing and acknowledging your virtues so that you can improve them in your life, and knowing and acknowledging your flaws so that you can eradicate them from your life.
Christian humility is growing.
Humility is “a moral virtue that prevents a person from reaching beyond himself. It is a virtue that curbs the unbridled desire for personal greatness and leads people to an orderly self-love based on a true appreciation of their position in relation to God and their fellow man.
Not only does the practice of frequent confession help us grow in humility, but the very act of a good examination of conscience (which is required before we even step into the confessional) is humbling—and helps us grow in self-knowledge.
Bad habits are corrected.
Little by little, through frequent confession and honesty with the confessor, who will give appropriate advice, bad habits can be overcome. Frequent, worthy reception of the sacrament of confession means frequent graces received from that sacrament for those bad habits.
Resisting spiritual neglect
Let’s say you’re struggling to establish a practice of praying the Rosary or Divine Mercy Rosary every day, or even just making the morning offering every day after getting up. Your failures to practice these devotions would be examples of “spiritual neglect” that make your spiritual life suffer. Frequent confessions can help you get back on the right path, especially if your confessor assigns them to you as a form of penance and thus you begin to perform them more faithfully yourself.
You resist spiritual lukewarmness.
Let’s say you do have some spiritual practices – but only rarely. In other words, perform them the mla way. The graces of frequent confession can help ignite a renewed spiritual fervor that will help make your daily spiritual life stronger and more committed every day.
Conscience is cleared.
Confession of one’s sins brings with it purification and, what is important, peace of conscience. This is related to the healing aspect of Confession. Indeed, confession is one of the two sacraments of “healing”, along with the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.
The will is strengthened.
While our intellect is what helps us “to know”, our will is what helps us to “choose” (based on rightly ordered love). Through the practice of frequent confession, our will becomes strengthened to help us more often choose good over evil, virtue over vice, and good over evil.
A salutary self-control is achieved.
Only you can control yourself. Frequent confession makes us simply want to “be better” in all aspects of everyday life. It is the grace of the sacrament that makes us take better control of our lives by practicing ordinary love for persons, places and things, and not an immoderate or disordered love for them.
Grace is increased by the power of the sacrament itself.
Every sacrament, when worthily received, increases sanctifying grace in the soul. This is especially true for the Eucharist and confession — the only two sacraments that can be received repeatedly and often. In fact, the sacrament of confession can even help to perfect the grace of our baptism. This is because baptism, while it erases the original sin we inherit from our first parents, also erases any personal sin (also called “actual sin”) we might have (ie, any venial or mortal sin). Confession always helps us get rid of personal sin.
However, we should add that going to confession out of scrupulousness does not help the penitent , nor is it the intention of the sacrament. Scrupulosity is to see sin where there is no sin at all but, say, a simple fault; or, to see a mortal sin when, in reality, it is a venial sin. Indeed, scruples can hinder one’s growth in spiritual life. Don’t be your own savior; let Jesus Christ be your Savior.