Because of poor catechesis or any number of other reasons, you might not be making the best confession possible. And that’s a problem…especially if it means you aren’t receiving the grace of the sacrament. So, here are five not uncommon ways that one might fall short of a good confession.
1. Confessing only venial sins
Now, maybe you only committed venial sins since your last confession. In that case, fine. But if you have committed any mortal sins, then you must intend to confess those. No holding back! It’s one thing to forget (or for a priest in a hurry to cut you off); it’s something else entirely to deliberately not confess a mortal sin. Doing that is actually an impediment to grace, which means no reconciliation, even if the priest said the words of absolution.
2. Turning your confession into a counseling session
Alright, this isn’t all that bad. But do be courteous. If you’re going to a confession time open to all, and you hold up the line because you want to talk with a priest at length, you should try to ask for a personal meeting instead. If a counseling confession session is what you need, your priest and fellow parishioners will appreciate your thoughtfulness in scheduling a private meeting.
3. Not saying the act of contrition
So, this one’s not totally your fault, right? Occasionally, you might come across a priest who fails to prompt you to say the act of contrition; he jumps straight into the words of absolution. Not cool… Honest mistake, maybe, but still not cool. So, if you can do it quick and with tact, interrupt the good man and let him know that you’d like to say it. Don’t worry, he’ll hardly be upset that you want to make a good and proper confession. Also, don’t worry about the efficacy of the sacrament if you didn’t get to say the act of contrition.
4. Not having a firm purpose of amendment
Do worry about the efficacy of the sacrament if you were not properly disposed. If you walk into Reconciliation and confess sins that you don’t truly intend to stop, you’ve got a problem. There’s good reason that the various written acts of contrition all say something to the effect of, “I firmly intend, with Your help, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.” This is about being reconciled to God, and we can’t simultaneously ask to be reconciled while intending to separate ourselves from God. If you’re not ready to let go of a sin, tell the priest, because not meaning what you say is going to keep you from the grace of reconciliation. However, is “imperfect contrition” should be acknowledged.
5. Failing to do your prescribed penance
Forgetfulness might be excusable; God knows. But a habit of forgetfulness might just be neglectfulness, and that’s not earning you any points. If it’s worthwhile going to confession – it certainly is – then it’s worthwhile doing your prescribed penance as soon as you walk out of the “box”. If you can’t, make a note on your phone, on your hand, on your forehead. Deliberate refusal is an impediment to grace, and negligence is sloppy. Don’t be a sloppy disciple.