Here are three easy-to-remember points, ladies and gents.
1. Quite simply, we have to go to Confession if we know we have committed a mortal or grave sin. Such sin can only be forgiven in Confession.
2. What the Church also requires is that we go to Confession once a year (CCC 1457). And perhaps she has in mind that we do this before or in the Easter season, in which she requires us to receive Holy Communion (we are required to receive Communion at least once a year, specifically in this season). As you probably know, one cannot receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. So one has to be in the state of grace first — received through Confession — in order to receive Holy Communion.
(I once questioned why the heck we have all these “requirements”. Then I realized — Confession as the embrace of our Father God, and Communion as the tangible self-giving of the Maker of the universe — what stupid question!)
3. What the Church strongly recommends, however, is that we go to Confession once a month. This is just about enough for the Christian to follow an OK path to sanctity. Going to Confession in this frequency — whether or not one has committed mortal sin — can already help her or him to stay on track to holiness. Of course, this takes for granted that the person is also intensely striving to improve in other aspects of Christian life, such as in prayer, good works, apostolate, and especially, the Holy Mass.
But depending on one’s conscience, a Christian can always decide to go more frequently than once a month. Pope Francis goes to Confession every two weeks. Blessed John Paul II went every week. St. Josemaria Escriva even said sometimes he would go more than once a week, when he thought he needed it. It’s important to note that Confession isn’t just about having our sins forgiven, but also about receiving actual graces.
In conclusion, then, frequent and regular Confession is beneficial to everyone. The minimum is set by the Church to, I guess, remind us how much we’re missing if we only go to Confession once a year, or less. That minimum requirement is an invitation for us to reconsider the true nature of Confession, which is astoundingly beautiful! And once we see that beauty, then we can decide to go monthly, or more frequently than that.
I will write a separate post specifically on frequent Confession in the future. For now, let’s settle with the basics. OK?