We Need Confession
Humans need confession. It is so apparent. Just watch any talk show or reality TV show. People confess to the world their darkest sins regardless of the fallout or consequences.
Prior to the 15th century, confession was public. It is easy to find stories of not-so-ancient people standing in the marketplace and telling the world of their sins, begging forgiveness, and performing all sorts of penance. It was the original reality show, I'm sure. And what a deterrent! Today, I find myself thinking I would never do something simply because I wouldn't want to tell Father about it in the confessional much less stand in public and make my confession.
There are all sorts of reasons why confession became private, including shame, social shunning, and religious persecution. I often consider how the movement of personal revelation from the town square to the inside of the church has contributed to the current culture of perceived perfection. No more are we allowed to admit our failings, our brokenness in public for fear of being identified as abnormal, peculiar, or even deviant. Instead, we hide our minor and major sins away, pretending they don't exist. Over time, this has to compromise our mental condition and our character. Rather than recognizing and admitting we are not perfect, we actually start to believe our public story and work extremely hard to maintain it.
Then finally, when our transgressions come to light, by our hand or someone else's, we may be subject to public ridicule and persecution. We are not allowed to grow and develop as humans. The arena of public opinion says we have to be perfect from birth if we are worthy of public recognition and dignity. It seems a single sin DOES make the person in the current culture.
The solution? The sacrament of confession. When we must admit our venial and mortal sins to a priest, we are able to control our base impulses. We are able to recognize sin before we commit it. We are able to recognize our human condition and guard against worshipping ourselves.
So few Catholics take advantage of the sacrament of confession these days. Rather than embracing the event as a blessing, most avoid it. Perhaps avoiding shame, being reminded of imperfection, or worrying what the priest will think of them.
The reality, priests have told me, is truly a gift from God. You see, God pours his grace on both the confessor and the priest. As Father acts in persona Christi, absolving you of your sins, He is wiping them from your soul so neither He nor his servant sees their stain any longer.
The act of verbally sharing our most terrible selves with God, and another human, is liberating and renewing. Before Easter arrives, get thee to the confessional!
I took this picture at Subiaco Academy in Paris, Arkansas. I highly recommend a pilgrimage.