7 Ways to Make a Good Confession ………… by Shaun McAfee

7 Ways to Make a Good Confession
Here’s a number of things you should avoid in your confession.
Shaun McAfee

Shortly ago, here on the Register, I wrote a short post about the Sacrament of Confession. That post received a lot of attention and comments by readers of the Register, some positive, but some negative. If you didn’t read it yet, my post was a satirical take on the pitfalls one might experience when making a confession. The satirical angle created issue with some readers, but that was not my aim whatsoever. If you’ve ever read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters you might recognize the tone of that antagonizing demon who loves to corrupt the minds and behavior of humans. In that popular book, Uncle Screwtape advised a junior demon on the best ways to manipulate the souls and consciences of mankind, ensuring their eternal damnation. The point of the book—and also my post—was to use a creative style to understanding the mind, motives, and strategies of the enemy, Satan.

The satire I used, though, seemed to touch upon a few nerves unfavorably. These readers did not detect my satire, for which I am to blame, and I offer my most sincere apologies. And as a correction, I will, in more clear language, offer an identical message. Here’s a number of things you should avoid in your confession.

Try to be free of distractions
When in the confession line, you really should clear yourself of all possible distractions. If you can, leave your cell phone in your car. You don’t want to be checking Facebook, the score of the game, or the Pizza Hut menu. You want to be distraction free in order to examine your conscience more thoroughly, consider the ways the Holy Spirit wants to work in and through you, and how to best make a sincere and fully contrite confession.

Slow down, and take your time
Don’t rush the process. Appreciate being in line, even if it lasts a while. When it’s your turn, reverently make the sign of the cross, reigniting your confidence in the work of the cross, recommitting to your baptismal promises, and fully trusting that when you exit the confessional you are entirely forgiven. Take your time to go through your sins and don’t forget to mention the things you’ve not done, like pray, forgive, be merciful, etc. Take your time and allow yourself to fully take in the greatness of this privileged sacrament.

Don’t be defensive
Sometimes you might get a priest who takes the confessional as their opportunity to teach, whole others desire to be encouraging, and still others will persist with questions. Every priest is different, but they are all trying to help you complete your confession, receive absolution, and sin no more. This might require a bit of understanding on your part, and holy patience, too. Whatever you do, remain humble, and listen to what the priest is attempting to tell you. Don’t get defensive.

Don’t look for praise
You might not do this, but then again, you might not realize the subtle ways in which you do seek praises. You might name your sins, but preface and/or conclude them with the things you did right. You might be using complex theological words, interrupt the priest to supplement his advice, or offer a better quote you have in mind. The best offering you can make of yourself is the offering of the centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you . . .” Stay humble. Period. Anything that rings of praise, don’t. and instead, find a way to praise others.

Be specific
Along the same lines as slowing down and taking your time, you want to take the time you need to be specific about your sins. What caused you to sin? Is there a time of day [this sin] happens? Is there a common thread to your giving in to temptation? It will be more painful to confess strictly to looking at pornography than to just confess to looking at women with lust. It might be more painful, yes, but it will benefit your souls to practice the humility in a more specific confession. This honesty will grant you courage, self-integrity, discipline, and more. Don’t dance around the issue—confess exactly what you did. Sin is a disease, and a disease cannot be removed until it is properly identified.

Leave others out of it
General and simple rule: don’t bring others into your confession. Don’t confess the sins of others in order to make yours look less damaging, or to offer evidence of how [this sin] might not be your fault. Just don’t do it.

Absolution is complete and final
Lastly, you must have zero doubts about the finality of your absolution. Those sins are buried. Dead. They’re never coming back. Ever. So don’t think about them for a single moment longer. The work of the cross is unconditional that way—any other objection is an objection to the authority of Christ, so don’t do it. Have confidence in the graces given to you as a newly confessed soul, and be confident in the power of the sacrament over the realms of darkness.

In closing, I wish to thank all of the readers, even those who commented unfavorably of my previous post. One point was made, though, about being less desirous to read about the quality of confession, and that I should try to encourage going to confession as a whole. I disagree. Catholics come in all shapes and sizes: some are on the outer courts of the castle with the beasts, some linger in the courtyard with reptiles, and others are secure in the interior rooms, as St. Teresa of Avila demonstrated in The Interior Castle. Because of this variance in spiritual maturity, it is fitting, from time to time, to address those who practice their faith in order to encourage them to be better at it, while at other times, encouraging those who don’t practice their faith to do so with the most urgency.
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Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Filling Our Father’s House among other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Japan.

Ten Practical Steps to a Sanctified Life FR. WADE L. J. MENEZES, CPM

Ten Practical Steps to a Sanctified Life

Let us turn to some practical aids that can encourage us to establish a strong spiritual life. This is by no means an exhaustive list; rather, it’s simply a starting point for your own exploration. And realize, too, that you won’t achieve these all in one week or even one month — and you’re not supposed to. As St. Philip Neri says, “One should not wish to become a saint in four days but step by step.”

And remember this: Show me a room with seven different Christians who are committed to a strong daily spiritual life, and I’ll show you seven different regimens of prayers and other devotions. Quite simply, we’re all different. St. Francis de Sales tells us that our spiritual lives should “be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.” Even so, there are some staples that everyone should acquire and practice over time.

1. Monthly Confession
It will suffice to say that the beautiful Tribunal of Mercy that is this Sacrament is an irreplaceable fountain of healing grace for our souls. And let us not be afraid to call on Our Lady of Mercy to assist us in making a sound confession.

2. Weekly Eucharist
This, of course, includes your Sunday Mass obligation — which is an obligation not because we fear God but precisely because we love Him. Try, though, to attend one or two weekday Masses if your schedule permits. After all, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” You should also try to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament at least once per week. Whether it is a fifteen-minute visit or a Holy Hour, time spent in our Lord’s Eucharistic presence is invaluable.

3. Morning Offering
This is a simple practice every Christian can integrate into his or her daily life. After all, how do you know that today isn’t the day you’re going to die? How do you know you won’t be tempted to commit mortal sin? It is traditionally said that St. Philip Neri spoke these words each morning upon rising: “O Lord, stay by your Philip today, because if You do not, Your Philip will betray You before the day is over.” You might want to use St. Philip Neri’s model, write your own, or use any other Morning Offering found in a good Catholic prayer book. The Morning Offering can also be a great way to renew your consecration to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

4. Daily Rosary
Try to pray just five decades a day — a fifteen- to twenty-minute practice. You can even incorporate the Rosary into your daily commute or walk — be creative. In family settings you can pray it with your spouse and children. You can give children a chance to participate by letting them take turns in announcing the mysteries of the Rosary and leading the decades of prayer.

5. Daily Chaplet of Divine Mercy:
This simple devotion reminds us of our sinfulness, but also of the beautiful fact that God is always waiting to embrace us with open arms — provided we honestly repent. If you don’t have time for the entire chaplet, just remember this simple prayer brought to us by St. Faustina that you can say throughout the day: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

This article is from a chapter in “The Four Last Things.” Click image to preview or order.

6. Fasting
Fast according to the mind of the Church at least one day per week, preferably on Fridays. By “according to the mind of the Church” I mean simply one main meal and then two smaller meals that together do not equal the one main meal. It’s really a very simple fasting rule. Fasting regularly can be a powerful tool to overcome habitual sin. As our Lord says in the Gospel, some demons can be cast out only by “prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
7. Two Daily Examinations of Conscience
I recommend a par¬ticular examen and a general examen every day. Each of these should take only about two or three minutes and should close with an Act of Contrition (either a formal one from a favorite prayer book, or one of your own wording).

The particular examen is done around midday and looks at a specific virtue that you’ve been trying to cultivate in your life, or at a specific vice that you’ve been trying to eliminate. It is as simple as asking yourself: “How have I done so far today?” Similarly, at the end of the day, just before you retire for bed, make a general examen of your entire day — that is, how you did overall that day in following God’s will. Recognize certain instances during that day when you practiced virtue; and don’t hesitate to recognize certain instances when you sinned.

These two daily examens help us to grow in self-knowledge by recognizing and admitting any sin we may have committed that day. If your sin is venial, your fervent Act of Contrition will wipe it away. If it is mortal, pray an Act of Contrition and get to the sacrament of Penance as soon as is reasonably possible.

8. Aspiratory Prayers
These are simple one-or-two-sentence prayers that can be said in a single breath — hence, “aspiratory.” These are great to get into the habit of saying because they help us recognize the presence of God throughout the day. These short prayers can be based on Scripture or other devotions. For example:
This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. (Ps. 23:1) Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — I love you, save souls. My Guardian Angel, protect me.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.

Pick out a favorite passage from Scripture and make it your own aspiratory prayer, or invoke a favorite saint throughout the day.
9. Daily Liturgical Reading

Have a plan to read the daily Mass readings for the day, perhaps along with a short meditation, so that even if you don’t get to daily Mass you can still read the Scriptures with the Church. There are several daily devotionals you can subscribe to that have the daily Mass readings in them, and the readings are also available free online.

10. Sacramentals
Sacramentals are “Sacred signs which bear a certain resemblance to the sacraments, and by means of which spiritual effects are signified and obtained through the prayers of the Church” (CCC, glossary). They can include blessed objects and places, such as holy water, shrines, and religious medals (for example, those of your patron saints). Sacramentals can also include blessings of persons, meals, and objects — for example, the blessing of a mother before childbirth, blessings before and after meals, and having one’s rosary blessed. These practices derive from the baptismal priesthood in which all the baptized share, as “every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing’ and to bless (cf. Gen. 12:2; Luke 6:28; Rom. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:9)” (CCC 1669).
Suggested Reading

Lastly, there are four chief texts that I’d like to recommend that you become very familiar with:

1. Sacred Scripture: Try to read one chapter daily — roughly a five-minute exercise — leaving some time for meditation.
2. Catechism of the Catholic Church: Try to read and study three to five paragraphs each day. This is a great way to catechize yourself at your own pace and learn faithfully the teachings of Holy Mother Church.

3. Lives of the Saints: Try to read a condensed version of one saint’s life per week. Good, condensed versions will not take you more than a few minutes. While we can benefit from reading the life of any saint, particular benefits flow from focusing on those saints who shared our vocation and state in life. Remember: The saints lived in the modern world of their time just as we live in the modern world of our time. St. Faustina’s Diary: I have a particular affection for this beautiful piece of spiritual writing. Try to read three to five paragraphs per week. It will help you discover even more what an immense gift and treasure the mercy of God is.

4. St. Faustina’s Diary: I have a particular affection for this beautiful piece of spiritual writing. Try to read three to five paragraphs per week. It will help you discover even more what an immense gift and treasure the mercy of God is.

I hope that these ten spiritual exercises and the regular reading of these four staple texts will serve as a great foundation for you to begin a faithful regimen in the spiritual life. Again, this list is by no means exhaustive, nor do you need to incorporate each and every suggestion right away; it is simply a suggested plan of action meant to spur you on to a prayerful daily life. A strong spiritual life assists us all in staying in a state of sanctifying grace, which must always be our first goal.

Our Lord once told St. Faustina, “My Kingdom on earth is My life in the human soul.” What a wonderful truth! The soul in the state of grace is Christ’s Kingdom, allowing us to participate in God’s own divine life.
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Fr. Menezes’s The Four Last Things: A Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. It is available as a paperback or an ebook from Sophia Institute Press.
Tagged as: Faustina Kowalska, holiness, Sanctity, Sophia Excerpts, Spiritual Life,St. Francis de Sales

By Fr. Wade L. J. Menezes, CPM
Fr. Wade L. J. Menezes, CPM is a member of the Fathers of Mercy, a missionary preaching Religious Congregation based in Auburn, Kentucky. Ordained a priest during the Great Jubilee Year 2000, he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Catholic Thought from the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Toronto, Canada and his dual Master of Arts and Master of Divinity Degrees in Theology from Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

10 Bible verses that will enable you to place your problems in God’s hands …. re-blogged

10 Bible verses that will enable you to place your problems in God’s hands

Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.
Praying these short verses can set your heart, mind, and spirit at ease.

Nahum 1:7-8
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
a refuge on the day of distress,
Taking care of those who look to him for protection,
when the flood rages …

2 Cor, 4: 8-10
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

Psalm 138:7
Though I walk in the midst of dangers,
you guard my life when my enemies rage.
You stretch out your hand;
your right hand saves me.

Psalm 31:8
I will rejoice and be glad in your mercy,
once you have seen my misery,
[and] gotten to know the distress of my soul.
Read more: How to give up control and find peace in surrender

Romans 8:28
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Psalm 121:1-2
I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.

Matthew 6:34
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
Read more: The one thing you most need after a day (or week) that just wouldn’t end

Philippians 4:6-7
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Grace or karma? BY Bishop Robert Barron

Grace or karma?
Bishop Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron: “If amazing grace has saved a wretch like me, I have to become a vehicle of grace.”
Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Stephen Davis, retired professor of the philosophy of religion at Claremont University. In preparation for the meeting, I read Dr. Davis’s book called Christian Philosophical Theology, which includes a chapter contrasting two basic approaches to religion throughout the world. The first—which can be found in much of the East—is a religion of karma, and the second—prominent in the Abrahamic religions of the West—is a religion of grace.

The first approach has a lot to recommend it—which explains its great endurance across the centuries. A karmic approach says that, by a cosmic spiritual law, we are punished or rewarded according to our moral activities. If we do bad things, we will suffer, either in this life or a life to come. And if we do good things, we will be rewarded, again either here or in the hereafter. Karma might not be immediate, as is the law of gravity (remember John Lennon’s playful song “Instant Karma”), but in the long run, people are rewarded or punished according to merit. And this satisfies our sense of fairness and justice.

Now a religion of grace is different. It teaches that all people are sinners and hence deserving of punishment, but that God, out of sheer generosity, gives them what they don’t deserve. Think of one of the most popular lines in Christian poetry: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” In terms of a karmic religion, wretches deserve a wretched fate, and it would be unfair for wicked people to be given a great gift. But devotees of a religion of grace exult in this generosity. Think in this context of the parable of the workers hired at different times of the day or the story of the Prodigal Son. Those make sense only in a religion-of-grace context.

Now lest Christians become self-righteous about espousing a generous religion of grace, we must keep in mind that there is a serious objection indeed to such a construal of religion. If grace is a gift, and if there is no real warrant for the gift, then how come only some get it and others don’t? How could it possibly be fair that some people receive the gift of eternal life—through no merit of their own—and others don’t? This complaint becomes even more acute when we realize that the Bible—from beginning to end—presents a God who chooses. God selects Abel and not Cain, Abraham and not Lot, Jacob and not Esau, David and not Saul. In fact, one of the most basic truths of the biblical revelation is that Israel itself is a chosen people, a holy nation, a people set apart. And God insists—just to make the point clearly—that Israel was not chosen because it was the greatest, most just, most accomplished of all the peoples of the world, just the contrary. So again, is any of this fair? In response to this charge, Christian thinkers have tended to say that no one deserves anything and therefore we should never complain about inequities in the distribution of free gifts. Still. Still.

In order to resolve this dilemma, it might be useful to look at a couple of biblical texts, one from the Old Testament and one from the New. No one could ever accuse the prophet Isaiah of underplaying Israel’s importance or the fact that Israel is the specially chosen people of God. But listen to these words from the 56th chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah:

“The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants—all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer…for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”
Israel was indeed chosen, singled out, uniquely graced—but precisely for the world and not for itself. What is grace? Gift! But when you cling to a gift, hoarding it for yourself, you undermine its nature as gift. The whole point of receiving the divine life is to give it away in turn. If you hoard it and make it your private prerogative, you undermine it; it turns to ashes. But when you give it away, it is renewed within you.

We see much the same thing in controversial and puzzling story of Jesus’ conversation with the Canaanite woman recounted in the Gospel of Matthew. The foreign woman comes to Jesus seeking a favor, but he protests that he has been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He seems to be operating out of an exclusivist understanding of Israel’s privileges. When she presses the matter, the Lord comes back harshly enough: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” At which point, the petitioner utters one of the great comebacks recorded in the Bible: “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Delighted not only by her cleverness and pluck but by the depth of her faith, Jesus says, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done to you as you wish.” Yes, the table of grace was set for the children of Israel, but the food from that table was not meant for Israelites alone, but for all those who would come to that table, by hook or by crook. Israel was chosen, yes, but for the sake of the world.

In regard to Dr. Davis’s categories, I will speak my mind clearly. Thank God we are not living in the dispensation of karma, for who of us would be able to stand in the fierce winds of pure justice? But we devotees of a religion of grace have to know that the gift is not for us alone; rather the generosity of God is meant to awaken a like generosity in us. If amazing grace has saved a wretch like me, I have to become a vehicle of grace to every lost soul around me.END QUOTES