Why do we go to Confession?


When we vacation, my family and I love to head to the mountains and national parks. There is something about being outside and hiking for hours that refreshes our souls.

Without anything to separate or distract us we talk, we laugh, we discuss, we confront, and we discover together. You never know what will come up, so I was interested when the topic of confession was tossed out by my teenager.

There’s a teaching that your venial (or minor) sins are forgiven each time you go to Mass. We have a prayer of confession that we recite each week, and if we mean it, and are truly repentant, that should do the trick.

“So why,” she asked, “do we go to confession if we’re already forgiven?”

Great question.

I asked her, “How often do you really think about what you have done wrong and ask forgiveness for it each week?” (not often) (actually not really ever)

The wonderful thing was that she and her sister had just been to church camp a couple weeks before, and one of the big things is to go to confession to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So, I knew I could explain to her the difference.

Yes, we can tell Jesus we are sorry directly, but we rarely do. Yes, we can say a prayer each week, but it’s so easy to gloss over it. There’s a difference when you have to face someone and own up to what you have done. There’s a difference to hearing that you are forgiven when you’re not sure you should be. And there’s a difference deep within you when you step out of that confessional and back into your life. You have a grace that you didn’t have before.

I know this because I see it in my family every time we go. We are different afterward. We are more loving, more forgiving, more generous, more peaceful, and more joyful.

And I knew they had just felt it at camp. Every day they went to Mass. Every day their sins were forgiven and they were reminded of the price that was paid for them. But it was different on the day they went to confession. And as soon as I pointed it out, they knew it, too.

If you haven’t gone in a while, I encourage you to try. It is such a beautiful gift.

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Karen May

Inspirational Catholic Writer and Speaker

based in Austin, Texas