If worry keeps you up at night, confession is helpful

Let’s be honest: Confession is absolutely terrifying.

At least, that’s what I used to tell myself. And, since moving to France, the thought of going to confession in French for the first time was even more terrifying. I knew I wouldn’t have the courage to get in line during regular confession times with people waiting behind me, adding to the pressure.

So instead, I sent my new parish priest an email to set up an appointment. I explained that I had never gone to confession in French before and that I might need a little help. He agreed to see me the very next day.

When I arrived, the church was basically deserted, which eased my stress. I knelt down and waited for him in the magnificent little side chapel dedicated to St. Joseph, whose feast day it was.

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And I’ll never forget how that saintly priest looked at me as he came in through the sacristy. It was a look of infinite kindness, understanding and compassion. It was the kind of look I imagine Jesus might have given Mary Magdalen when she sat at his feet and cried because she was desperately sorry for the life she had been leading.

I emerged from that confessional wondering why I had been so anxious and why I had put it off for so long. I had asked Jesus to forgive me, and he had. It was that simple.

And I was free.

No one is beyond God’s reach

Maybe you haven’t been to confession in a while, and the thought of getting in line scares you more than tax season. Maybe you’re thinking what you’ve done is much too embarrassing to say out loud or that there’s no point in going because you’ll just slip back into the same old sins as soon as you’ve finished your penance anyway.

Or, maybe the devil has slipped a terrible thought into your head: That it’s too late. That what you’ve done is too serious and that you can’t be forgiven.

If so, remember this: St. Peter denied Jesus three times. And yet, he became one of the greatest saints in history — not because he had never sinned, but because he showed genuine remorse for what he had done.

Ultimately, one key to overcoming our fear of confession is thinking more about how much we’ve hurt Jesus than about our embarrassment and discomfort. The focus should be on him, not on us.

If you’re anxious, like I was, break down your fears into more manageable steps: Send an email to a priest you trust to set up an appointment. Believe me, that takes the pressure off. Or, if you prefer, find a priest who doesn’t know you at all.

No matter what you’ve done, priests have heard it all, so don’t let that worry you. I’ve confessed some terribly embarrassing sins and have never — not once — felt judged.

You know that feeling when you’ve been sweating all day and you finally get the chance to take a shower? A good confession is like that — except way better.

Go to confession for the people you love

We wouldn’t dream of going out to meet friends covered head-to-toe in mud. But, all too often, we go about our days and interact with all kinds of people while being covered head-to-toe in spiritual mud.

And, because of that — let’s face it — we’re not the best people we could be. We’re more irritable. We’re more tired. We’re less hopeful. And, just as being covered in mud rubs off on others, being covered in sin does the same thing.

Going to confession gets rid of that mud. It helps us be kinder and more joyful. It helps us forgive others and live the life we were created to live. It helps us be better Catholics who can lead others to the truth by our example.

Don’t be afraid of confession. Be afraid of being covered head-to-toe in spiritual mud for days or weeks or months or even years on end. Be afraid of hurting your family and friends and the One who gave his life to save you. Be afraid of dying before you get the chance to apologize.

There’s nothing more beautiful after falling into a huge puddle of mud than getting up again and going to sit at Jesus’ feet — and crying because you’re desperately sorry for how you’ve been living.

Let him comfort you and put all your worries and fears to rest. Let him take you in his arms and hold you close to his Sacred Heart, telling you he’s forgiven you and that he loves you and that you can start over with a clean slate. Ultimately, that’s what confession is all about.

Don’t waste any more time. Go. You won’t regret it.

I’ll leave you with this:

“… there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15:7).

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