Making a fruitful Confession during Lent Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes

A Catholic convert in her 60s made her first Confession.

As she confessed her sins, she began to weep. The priest listened and gently asked only a few questions. She exclaim-ed, "He was so understanding and non-judgmental. It was easy for me to open up and confess."

She remembers sobbing tears of gratitude for the healing feeling and weight gone from her shoulders. After receiving absolution, she said that she felt drained, but very uplifted.

Since that first face-to-face Confession, she has always chosen the anonymity of the confessional. But two things remain the same: she always cries and always comes away feeling healed. This priest was not the master of forgiveness but God's servant of forgiveness.

Philip Kosoloski wrote an article entitled, "The Key to Making a Good Confession That Will Change Your Life Forever." The article is based upon the Catechetical Instructions of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of all priests, who heard Confessions sometimes 16 hours a day and made the unlikely village of Ars the European capitol of Confession.

He believed that if we realized how much our sins helped to put Jesus on the cross, we might weep as the woman convert and St. Peter did.

St. Peter, who bragged that he would never deny Christ, denied him three times on Good Friday. After Peter's third denial as soldiers led Jesus past Peter, Jesus looked with forgiveness into Peter's eyes, the windows of his soul. Peter wept because he recognized that though his sins helped to crucify Christ, Christ forgave him.

In John 20:19-23 on Easter evening, Jesus breathed on the apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

Cross is reminder of Christ's death

The late Fr. Joseph De Stefano said, as Anton Graue,l a famous artist, carved a huge crucifix for a Beloit church, a friend found him in tears as he contemplated the crucified Christ.

The Venerable Fulton Sheen said that the crucifix reminds us that when Jesus died on the cross, he "offered his life to the Father to make reparation for our sinful disobedience." His saving life, death, and resurrection repaired humanity's relationship with God, lost by the sin of Adam and Eve."

Sacrament process

Important steps of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation fruitfully include facing up to our sins in a culture which often tends to denying sin, being sorry for them, confessing them, and making an "Act of Contrition."

In perfect contrition, we are sorry for our sins because we have offended God who is all good and deserving of all our love.

In imperfect contrition we are sorry for our sins because we dread the loss of heaven and pains of hell.

Next, the priest gives us a penance. In no.1459 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, "Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, help to restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries, and the like). Sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself and his relationships with God and neighbor.

In no. 1460 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says "The penance the confessor imposes can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all, the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all."

We also promise to amend our life and avoid occasions of sin which takes God's help. The steps of confession, the "Act of Contrition," and absolution make good meditations.

The Sacrament of Penance reconciles us with the Church, but has also a revitalizing effect on the Church which suffers from her members' sins.

Since Reconciliation is the sacrament of conversion, Pope Francis urges us to join him and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent, the season of conversion.

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.