XII said that the current disuse of the Sacrament of Penance
is "contrary to the mind of Christ and very disastrous for the
mystical body of the Saviour."
who have seriously tried frequent confession know how it can
help the interior life - sometimes even more than frequent Communion.
Indeed this latter practice can quite easily degenerate into
mere routine and illusion.
us from frequent confession is often that we have a "negative"
outlook. We see confession only as a "quick sweep" to
clean our souls, a duty which one would willingly forego.
If a St. Francis de Sales and a St. Vincent de Paul confessed
every day, it was because they had a more "positive" view.
try also to discover some of the wonderful benefits of this
neglected Sacrament. Pope Pius XII in his encyclical "Mystici
Corporis" reduces to eight the principal fruits of frequent
Frequent Confession increases the true knowledge of oneself.
But what, then, could St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de
Paul accuse themselves of in their daily confessions?
It is doubtless what many ask themselves.
a little: The more we spaceout our confessions, the more difficult
it is to remember exactly our faults. Of course there
are some grievous faults which will come back during the examination
of conscience. But, for habitual venial faults, one must
content oneself with vague "distractions and forgetfulness in
prayers, impatience, bad thoughts". One accuses oneself
of some habitual tendencies but not of acts with their cause
and their circumstances. The result is that at every confession
we confess the same things. This is wrong.
contrary, if I confess often, for example, every week or even
every fortnight I could be more precise because I keep exact
memories. Admittedly, the tendencies, the faults, remain
the same, but the sins are different. Also, from the fact
that my accusation will be more precise, it will be more painful,
more humbling and will bring more graces.
you will see. Make a good confession frequently and because
you will recognise better your sins, it will not be always the
same thing and it will lead to something better.
Frequent Confession will encourage Christian humility.
It is a result of the preceding observation: in recognising
better our sins, our confessions will be more humbling and more
humiliating. This is a good method of making up for the
pride which is the root of all sin.
method of helping us on this path of humility is confessing,
at least in general, some bigger sins of our past life at the
end of our accusation.
Frequent Confession tends to root out bad habits.
In our confessing, do not aim so much at telling everything
(it is not necessary except for mortal sins) as of telling the
dominant faults in particular.
The drops of water falling regularly on the stone wear it more
effectively than if a bucket of water were spilled on it.
If one has the desire to progress, these repeated blows of a
buffer will finish by making the biggest walls fall down.
not delude or discourage oneself, for weeds will always remain
in our gardens. But if, like the good gardener, we come
often to remove them they will not prevent the good plants from
growing and these, in growing, will hamper the weeds all the
Frequent Confession fights spiritual negligence and tepidity.
Tepidity is a blind settling into mediocrity without a real
willingness to come out of it. Frequent confession comes
precisely to shake us up a little and to ensure that we do not
commit ourselves to this state. In this sacrament, Jesus
Christ comes to touch the depths of our soul and to awaken it
out of its torpor. If we receive it regularly, with faith
and good will, we shall experience that power of grace which
alone can pull us out of our lethargy. Then we shall acquire
a true devotion to this sacrament.
one must not await 'to desire' or 'to feel' the need of confessing.
Often our desire is the opposite to our need. Like an
invalid at the beginning of his convalescence, we have no desire
to eat and we must force ourselves because we understand by
our reason enlightened by faith that here is our remedy.
Frequent Confession purifies the conscience.
It is evident because this is the first effect of confession.
Let us make some comments on this subject!
a) A long interval between two confessions
for someone who communicates often, is a lack of care which
certainly causes an obstacle to grace. "If some rich or
powerful friend," said St. Gregory the Great "should enter our
house it would be completely cleaned in great haste for fear
that he might find something which offended his eye on entering."
obvious: we do not receive a distinguished guest in a room or
on a chair where the dust has gathered for a month. Why
do we treat Our Lord Jesus Christ with such shamelessness?
b) This cleansing of our conscience makes our souls more
transparent, and little by little we notice the imperfections
which up to this did not appear to us. The Divine light
is enlightening our soul more and more, makes it see the smallest
stain, just as the ray of sunshine shows all the impurities
and dust floating in the air.
even have the impression of going backwards in seeing our wretchedness
more clearly but in reality we progress because it is not our
wretchedness which grows but our conscience which becomes more
sensitive. "Blessed are the pure of heart: for they shall
see God." (Matth. V 8).
c) A pure conscience is the first and indispensable condition
for the apostolate. Firstly because God would have trouble
using us as vehicles full of rust and badly needing to be "oiled".
Then, because souls which we encounter in the work can sense
the aura of a good conscience: the fiery charity of apostles
truly animated with the light and love of God.
Frequent Confession strengthens the will.
If there is really an illness of this century it is, first and
foremost, lack of will power and weak character... Only
the grace of God can penetrate to the inside of our will to
strengthen it and especially by means of this sacrament.
It is a fact of experience that we feel much stronger after
confession. But it is not only a feeling, it is a reality.
What is the advantage which may be gained by sometimes practicing
"preventive" confession. I know that I will find myself
in a situation where experience has shown me that I am frail.
Then I go to confess myself and I have recourse to the sacramental
grace so as to be better armoured to resist and to be more inspired
by the necessary prudence on that occasion.
it could be useful in confession to indicate the temptations
against which it appears sensible to protect myself. The
priest to whom I entrust myself will not fail, moreover, to
pray for me, especially if I ask him.
Frequent Confession lends itself to spiritual guidance.
Today it is often difficult to find a real director of conscience,
because of the shortage of good priests. A way of compensating
this is to confess regularly and, if possible, to the same priest.
He, when he knows us well, will be able to give the relevant
it happens that even this may be impossible because the priest,
overburdened with confessions, cannot take the time to counsel
penitents. It remains that frequent confession will give
us, even so, the seven other benefits listed here. From
time to time try to go to confession somewhere to an "extraordinary"
confessor who can help us in the guiding of conscience.
Thus by the Sacrament’s own effect, frequent Confession increases
Like all the sacraments, confession gives or increases sanctifying
grace, accompanied by a sacramental grace which wipes out sins
(No. 5), strengthens against temptation (No. 6) and gives feelings
of joy and peace to the soul. St. Therese of the Child
Jesus, as a little girl, loved to go to confession herself,
as she felt so light-hearted on stepping out again...
Consider the elation after strenuous physical exercise....
Our spiritual exercises should be not less satisfying than physical
not hesitate to go to confession when we feel the need of an
increase in grace, for example to undertake a delicate apostolic
task, an important choice for our life, etc.
To finish, a little advice about the preparations for confession.
In the examination of conscience after a prayer to ask for divine
light, one could examine oneself on the three following points
(by analogy with life which has three essential functions: i.e.
to feed oneself, to grow, to reproduce oneself.)
1 With regard to God, have I the concern
of feeding myself with His divine life? Prayers, sacraments,
theological virtues, reading, flexibility to grace etc...
Am I convinced that without Him, I can do nothing? The
Mass, is it the centre of my life?
2 With regard to myself: what efforts
am I making to grow strong roots with the virtue of humility?
How, then, am I pushing aside obstacles to reach above the soil
and how am I producing leaves and fruits through generous acts
3 With regard to neighbours:
have I the care of communicating the divine life? Firstly,
by the example of the practice of moral virtues, prudence, temperance,
justice (filial piety, obedience, gratitude, kindness etc.),
strength (patience, energy...) and then by the apostolate, fraternal
charity, prayer, penance...
Do not forget to examine oneself on the faults of omission.
Look at the Gospels. Our Lord appears to condemn to hell
even only for the faults of omission ("I was hungry and you
gave me not to eat, I was thirsty, etc." Mt, XXV, 42ff).
leaflet may be reproduced freely.
A ‘sampler’ of approximately 20 assorted leaflets
may be obtained from:
Catholic Wisdom Publications
P. O. Box 4120, Makati City, Philippines