Time for Confession?

I’m frequently asked how often Catholics should go to Confession. Many people just want to know the minimum requirement. In that regard, the Church provides that all Catholics who have reached the age of discretion (approximately the age of seven) are required to confess their mortal sins once a year. In addition, if one has committed a mortal sin, he or she must go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion.

While that is the minimum requirement, the Church strongly recommends frequent reception of the sacrament–even when one has not committed a mortal sin (see 1 John 5:16-17) since the previous Confession–as a means of growing in holiness (see Catechism, no. 1458). The Introduction to the Rite of Penance puts it this way:

“[T]he frequent and careful celebration of this sacrament is also very useful as a remedy for venial sins. This is not a mere ritual repetition or psychological exercise, but a serious striving to perfect the grace of baptism so that, as we bear in our body the death of Jesus Christ, his life may be seen in us ever more clearly. In confession of this kind, penitents who accuse themselves of venial faults should try to be more closely conformed to Christ and to follow the voice of the Spirit more attentively” (no. 7).

As for what might constitute “frequent” reception of the sacrament, monthly or even weekly Confession can make a significant difference in the spiritual lives of those who hunger and thirst for holiness.

After all, Christ’s first gift to His Church after rising from the dead was the gift of Reconciliation entrusted to His Apostles and their legitimate successors (John 20:19-23), so that we may personally experience God’s mercy and peace.

How often should we go to Confession? Whenever we want to experience anew the mercy and peace of Christ.


2 Responses to “Time for Confession?”

  1. JohnE says:

    I just finished the 4th out of 5 weeks of the 1st Saturday devotion which includes going to confession (I didn”t think I was going to make it this past week since I had to stay up late the night before). I think monthly is a good pace for me, although I might forget less if I went weekly.

    Unfortunately, our pastor seems to frown upon weekly confession unless mortal sin is involved, but with monthly confession I have noticed in myself a quicker awareness of when I have sinned or am being tempted to sin. I”m "tempted" to try weekly confession for a period of time if I knew the priest would welcome it.

  2. leon says:

    There was a generation of seminarians (indicative of where the Church was at the time) who really weren”t given good training in this area. We see it reflected now in minimal scheduled Confession times, relative disuse of the sacrament, the ease with which people who haven”t gone to Confession in years (and persisting in objectively grave sin) go to Communion, and of course issues such as what you raise, John, among others.

    I think all that is gradually straightening itself out, and I”ve been to several young priests for Confession lately who have been outstanding. But alas, the "perfect parish" doesn”t exist, and we have to patiently and affably work with the hand we”re dealt, trusting that God”s will is playing itself out in our lives.

    If all Catholics did monthly Confession (and the First Saturday devotion), we”d be in good shape!

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