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Pondering Confession (7)

I came across and odd article the other day. It was describing how to wake up. It gave details on eye exercises, stretches, etc. Quite interesting. In other words, it was saying "you're already doing this, here is how to make it easier". What if there were something like that for the Sacrament of Confession? There is! It is personal acts of penance. We already know how this works, and many of us do it regularly, but we do not always make the connection in the right way.

When you go to Confession, the Priest gives you a penance to do at the end which is your way of saying, "Thank you God for forgiveness". We also know how to do acts of penance because most of us give up something for Lent. This is a personally chosen act that stems from a repentant heart that helps us to build up spiritual strength and better overcome temptations. A personally chosen penance is really what we find at the grounds of the practice of indulgences. You do not have to do them, but if you do, then you receive a special grace as a result.

There are many ways that this can be done, but the main issue is that you choose it yourself, because it is a willing self-sacrifice that you are performing. It is something you do not have to do, but do so out of a desire for holiness; that is what makes it effective in Confession. If you strengthen your ability to do something self-sacrificial outside of Confession, then when you go to Confession you will be better able to deal with your sins and receive the greatest amount of grace at that time.

I know someone who had a relative that fell away from the faith. He chose to give up all alcohol until the relative came back to the faith. He said "alcohol is for celebration, not for penance". Another person intentionally chose to give at least $10 to every person who asked for a handout for a year. This was to help to learn to let go of any greed about the money God gives him. Whatever it may be, it should be simple and possible, but also a true sacrifice. It would not be a personal penance for me to give up lima beans (I cannot stand them).

Before choosing a personal penance for your sins (or maybe even for the sins of another!), make sure that you spend time in prayer about it, and even consider asking others around you for advice. You do not want to choose something unreasonable that you will end up quitting after a week or two. Neither too strong, nor too weak is the general rule.

I cannot say this enough: Go To Confession.


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