How to overcome shame when going to Confession

You’re at the Confession line. The entire congregation can see you and your fellow penitents. Two thoughts can come to mind:

  1. These people must be thinking I’m such a sinner, a criminal maybe, a mortal sinner on the verge of damnation.
  2. The priest! He must be horrified at my new mortal sin. Worse, he knows me personally. He would never look at me the same way again!
  3. The priest! He must be disgusted to learn that I fell into the same sins — including that one sin I am most ashamed of — again and again and again. He will kick me out of the confession box!

You know what? Just. Stop. Thinking. About them. THINK ABOUT GOD!

Sometimes this looks more like what I would rather do than be at the Confession queue. Photo from Calaimage on Getty Images

Sometimes this looks more like what I would rather do than be at the Confession queue. Photo: Paul Bradbury on Getty Images

Really, when we go to Confession, we’re neither there to please the public nor the priest; we’re there to please only God, who is reaching out to us to¬†reconcile us with him.

The people might think badly about us — fine! (Although, if those people are in their right minds, they would in fact be edified, seeing people, including you, who are contrite enough to approach the Sacrament.)

The priest might think badly about us — fine! (Although, actually, that would make him a mediocre priest. Because a true confessor assumes the merciful fatherhood of God, who waits and welcomes his daughter or son who returns to him.)

But we can be sure that Jesus — God — will be happiest of all when he encounters us at the confessional through his ordained minister, the priest.

So when we go to Confession, and we feel some shame (which is healthy, as Pope Francis said, because it makes us humble), we only have to think of one thing, one being: God. Confession is our meeting with our Father God.

And instead of worrying, let us be consoled by the fact that Confession is not like the courts of justice, where offenders are punished; Confession is a “tribunal of mercy,” as St Josemaria Escriva would say. Instead of punishment, forgiveness and joy are what we receive in Confession.

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