One of the gifts of our spiritual life at Christ Church is a robust practice of making confession to God in the presence of a priest. While this can be strange and uncomfortable, especially at first, many people have reported finding wonderful grace through this ministry. Of course, every Christian can (and should!) engage in self-examination and offer prayers of confession to God each day. But there are particular benefits to “auricular confession” with a priest or bishop.
Intentional, prayerful preparation helps us become more honest about our own sins.
Identifying and naming our sins aloud in front of someone else—especially the thoughts and actions we are most ashamed of!—can help break the power that secret sins hold over our imagination and self-perception.
There is a wonderful liberation in admitting what is most wrong about us, and receiving, not condemnation, but love and compassion.
A wise confessor can sometimes provide real insights that help us understand our own sin better. We may also receive spiritual advice and godly counsel that provide tools for overcoming temptation in the future.
There is great power in hearing someone authoritatively speak God’s forgiveness for our sins, and proclaim in Jesus’ name that we have been set free from bondage to our past. God really does give grace through this sacramental action to set us free for newness of life!
If you want to make a confession with the help of a priest, how do you prepare? Here are some suggestions:
Pray. Set aside some time to get ready, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and help you make a good confession.
Examine your conscience, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If you have made confession with a priest before, think about what has happened since that time. If you have never made this kind of confession, look back over your life as a whole. Be thorough, but pay special attention to patterns of recurring sin, anything that has been a source of particular guilt or shame in the past, and sins that weigh on your conscience now. What is coming between you and the Lord? What is keeping you from the center of the stream of grace? (Our Christ Church guide to self-examination can help with this part.)
Make a list. The best way to remember what the Holy Spirit brings to mind is to write it down. I recommend using a piece of paper, not your phone—partly because phones are not very secure, and partly so you can physically destroy the list after confession is over, as a way of accepting God’s forgiveness.
Pray again. Ask the Holy Spirit if there’s anything you have forgotten. (I do this again in confession itself, after I finish naming all the things I’ve written down, in case there’s any further healing and cleansing work that the Lord wants to do.)
Thank God. We come to confession, not just so we can beat ourselves up or feel bad about our failures, but in order to receive grace and restoration. All true repentance means turning to God. When we prepare to confess, we remember our sins… but we should also remember the lovingkindness of the Lord who draws us to confess them and be set free.
Come confess your sins and receive absolution.
Your priests are ready and available to hear confessions. We encourage each of you to take this opportunity: to open yourselves to restoration and healing.