By Ryan McAnany
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.” (1440)
These words from the Catholic Church provide the basis for what we know today as the sacrament of Confession, and although the act of Confession may be visible every Saturday at 4 p.m. in the chapel, the true meaning of the sacrament may never be fully comprehended or understood.
As for myself, I’ve always struggled to connect with the sacrament. To put it lightly (very lightly), I’m not exactly a familiar face in the lines on Saturday afternoon, and even though I know I’m supposed to go, it just wasn’t ever at the top of my priority list.
To me, it always just seemed a little too secretive and individual, as if we could tell the priest anything we wanted to and — as long as we were “really sorry” for what we had done — be completely right with God. It wasn’t a matter of pride or embarrassment for me. I simply just didn’t understand. It wasn’t until very recently that I took the time to delve into the real meaning of Confession.
Thanks to my roommates and a few close friends, I think I have a much better understanding now of what it means to truthfully confess one’s sins — to the priest, to God, to oneself and to the Church.
For junior Ali Sentmanat, the sacrament is about being in a state of grace with God.
“It’s not just a relieving of conscience,” Sentmanat said. “It’s about getting back to a state of grace with God.”
When asked how much of an effect Confession has on her life, Sentmanat was not shy in describing its importance.
“For me, it would be hard to continue to go to Mass, since you can’t continue to receive the Eucharist when you’re in a state of mortal sin,” she said.
It was responses like this that, up until very recently, would make me shake my head. I didn’t understand the reasons behind the rules, or the grace behind the absolution through the priest. It simply seemed like a “Get out of Jail Free” card, a blank slate on which people could make new mistakes, only to come back next weekend and do it all over again. I’ve since discovered that, although some of these risks are indeed inherent in the sacrament, this should not discourage us from participating in it anyway.
That being said, I do not wish to simply jump headfirst into the cleansing waters of the sacrament, blind to any of the risks that may be involved in it. I fear many things about Confession, mainly the risk of becoming numb to the effect of God’s forgiveness, wearing it out or making it just another routine in my week.
Confession is not just a crutch to rely on in times of distress. Can it be there to lend a helping hand when we are in times of need? Absolutely. However, we must take caution not to let it turn into a monotonous routine. Confession is meant to make a significant impact on the way we live, to draw us toward God and to encourage us to make positive changes in our daily life.
During the Lenten season, we should take the time to remember that Confession is not just another routine. It is instead a way in which we can get back into a state of grace with God, a way to effect positive, real change in our lives and a means by which we can repent for our sins and live faithfully as active members of the Catholic Church.