Recently, I’ve been making my way through “Introduction to the Devout Life”. It’s a brilliant book by the brilliant spiritual director St. Francis de Sales!
Chapter 6 begins the process of purifying ourselves from sin and the attachment to sin. St. Francis makes these remarks about how many of us approach confession:
“It often happens that the usual confessions of those who live a common and ordinary life are full of great defects. Generally they make little or no preparation, and they do not have sufficient contrition. In fact, it frequently happens that they go to confession with the implicit determination of returning to sin, since they are not willing to avoid the occasions of sin or to make use of the measures required to amend their life.”
Yikes! For this reason, he suggests a general confession. A general confession is a confession during which you confess all the sins you have committed from the age of reason to the present. (This is not to be confused with a general absolution.) General confessions are recommended for anyone entering a new phase in life or as recommended by a spiritual director.
A few weeks ago, I made my first general confession. The priest with whom I had schedule the confession told me to prepare by recalling the first few times I had ever sinned and by doing a thorough examination of conscience. I found an examination guide online which went through each of the ten commandments in detail.
The confession lasted about forty-five minutes…and then it was over. I think I was expecting something a little more dramatic: perhaps a little psychoanalysis, maybe some fireworks, gongs, or euphoric shouts of joy. But after the confession, I realized that what had happened was that I had quietly and contritely laid my sins at the feet of Jesus. Beautifully simple.
Has it made a difference? Yes! First, there is the freedom of knowing, with certainty, that all those sins are forgiven. Secondly, I realized again the importance of a true commitment to amend my life in my decisions and actions. Finally, after this process I certainly think about each confession I make more prayerfully.
“If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” 1 John 1:8