Personally I dread confession. The first time I went to confession a few weeks ago as a new Catholic, I was nervous as hell after making several failed attempts due to cold feet and bailing. I was literally shaking from nerves hours before I was to go to confession. I even went to one of my Greek Orthodox friends to talk to her about confession to lessen my nerves. It helped a little but I was back to my state of nervousness as I walked to the chapel for holy hour. I sat in the chapel for a little bit, took part in Holy Benediction, prayed the rosary, and then it was time for confession. As I got up to walk to the confessional I started to trip over my own feet from nerves. I finally made it to the confessional and when I knelt on the kneeler I could feel the kneeler shaking under me. I was clearly nervous but I plunged into my confession and when it was done I was relieved. I didn’t feel anything walking out of the confessional other than I was glad that confession was over with.
I’ve now been Catholic for a few months and have gone to confession a number of times. Going to confession is a little easier but still, the nerves come back. Every time I walk out of the confessional I ask myself why I have reservations about going to confession. After all penitence is a beautiful sacrament. One is confessing their sins to God, then are forgiven by God for their sins and sacramental grace is restored.
While penitence is a wonderful blessing it is possibly the most dreaded sacrament offered by the Catholic Church. I know cradle Catholics who still get nerves before confession or forget the prayers that accompany it. So I am not the only one. But was is it about confession that makes people nervous? The only explanation I can come up with is that it’s just that: confession. After all confession requires that we confess our wrong doing and admitting that we have done wrong. Sure, we are told that we are confessing to God while we confess in the presence of a priest who will absolve us of our sins (on behalf of God) and dispense advice on how to avoid sin. What I have found particularly difficult about confession is that I am confessing my wrongs to another human (albeit a priest) and that humans have a tendency to judge. I should take comfort in that I am confessing to a priest who holds himself to a higher standard than most humans but humans are humans and we all error. On top of that humans don’t like to admit wrong to other humans. It’s not always in our nature to do so. Encouraging humans to admit wrong to other humans and overcoming the animal instincts is part of the beauty of confession. It allows us to be more aware of our wrong doing.
At the end of the day we should be thankful for confession and be a little less terrified of it. After all it is a blessing to ask God for forgiveness and then to be forgiving by God by the time confession is over. Not too many people can forgive like that.