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A Catholic Newbie’s Take on Confession

Benefits of confessionI’ve shared already my experience at First Reconciliation as I was going through the RCIA process earlier this year. But I wanted to hone in a little further on confession/reconciliation as a Catholic newbie, because it has quickly become one of my favorite things about Catholicism.

I have only gone three times, but wow how powerful those three times have been. Here’s what I was expecting from confession: relief and joy at being forgiven for my sins. Here is NOT was I was expecting: help at overcoming those sinful tendencies.

Much to my surprise, I have found reconciliation to be an amazing tool for self-improvement in addition to forgiveness. During my second reconciliation, my priest asked me which of the sins I was confessing did I need to work on the most. It was a no brainer, as there was one I desperately wanted to improve, but felt it beyond my power. It just kept happening, popping in my mind, even though I didn’t want it to. Well, lo and behold within the next two weeks my tendencies toward that sin literally DISAPPEARED. This was one I’ve been struggling with a long while and poof, gone. With God’s help, anything is possible.

My son needed to go to reconciliation again after his First Communion and it had been about a month since my last confession, so we both went for my third time. First of all, I met a lovely family waiting outside the confessional who hadn’t been in seven years. It was great talking with them and helped calm the fears of my 9-year-old who was so nervous about going that he had cried the first time I suggested it. He got to talk with several preteens and teens who were nervous, too. Thanks be to God!

This time, I focused on a different sin/tendency that I wanted to work on. The priest chose a passage related to that sin for me to meditate upon — and it was perfect. Though that sin has not totally died away, my tendencies toward it improved substantially.

It has now been more than a month since I’ve gone and I feel myself sliding. I desperately need to go again and gain some graces and help from our Lord. I have a new sin I want to hand over to the Lord for help with this go-around and it’s one that I’m suddenly really struggling with. I have let too many things get in the way of going to reconciliation and I need to take a moment, do my examination of conscience and get in there and do it. (Side note: The Laudate app has a great Examination of Conscience that lets you check off anything you need to work on — and you could literally review it off of your phone during reconciliation, just remember to silence your phone!).

Has anyone else found this amazing benefit of confession? Do you feel you need to go regularly not just to follow church guidance but to further your path to sainthood? Please share your experiences!

My First Reconciliation Through RCIA

First reconciliationWow, I finally experienced my first reconciliation, also called “first confession” by many! Of all the portions of the Catholic RCIA process, this was the thing about which I was most nervous. Having to articulate — and thus face up to — all the wrong you have done in your life is not an easy task!

I love the idea of reconciliation, however. It forces you to regularly look your faults directly in the eye. There’s no hiding them shamefully in the back of your mind hoping you’ll forget them. That is not the path to self-improvement. If we want to become saints, or even just better versions of ourselves, we have got to start by discerning our flaws, acknowledging them and then addressing them. If you keep confessing the same sins over and over, that’s a sure place to start 🙂 on self-improvement.

I’ve been doing the Weight Watchers weight loss program over the last several years where I’m allotted so many points each day and week of food that I can eat. I find it greatly helps me resist an unhealthy choice because I stop and think “do I really want to waste 14 points on that?!!”

I feel like reconciliation gives me that same ability to resist. Since I did my first reconciliation, I stop myself when I start to do something wrong, as I can hardly stand to stain what has become so clean!

Reconciliation is an amazing gift for self-improvement and how wonderful that we are able to be forgiven of everything we have done wrong so long as we are truly sorry! It feels so joyful!

If you are nervous about reconciliation, here are a few tips that helped me for my first reconciliation through RCIA:

  • Make a list, but destroy it as soon as you’re done. I found I was so nervous I could hardly think and having the words in front of gave me the courage to just plow ahead!
  • Decide beforehand if you want to be face-to-face with the priest. Ultimately, I decided not to and I think that was a good call for the first time. Having to look someone in the eye while confessing your worst faults would have made me completely lose my train of thought I think.
  • Relax. The priest is there to hear you, forgive you and nothing more. There is no judgement. Remember, he’s heard it all before!
  • Don’t engage in a discussion. Just list out your sins, say your Act of Contrition and move on. Set up an appointment with the priest if you want to have a discussion.
  • Go regularly! I already strongly desire to go back so I can wipe the slate clean again. Again, I think this is such an amazing healing gift.

Do those of you experienced Catholics have any advice on reconciliation. What has helped you?