We are in the first full week of Lent and so it seems appropriate, having completed our examination of the Service of Baptism, to undertake an examination of the short but very powerful Rite for the Reconciliation of a Penitent – aka confession.
James, the brother of our Lord, tells us: 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
Why is confession healing? Because when we address our disobedience and our shame, in lifting them before the Lord in the presence of a “righteous” man, it allows for God’s grace and healing to come through.
One of the most important things to do is to prepare to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. To help with this I recommend going through the examination of conscience found in the Saint Augustine Prayer Book (https://www.dioceseofsanjoaquin.net/uploads/1/9/3/7/19374831/selfexamination.pdf). It lists a lot of our common sins and helps us to think more about what we need to confess before God.
The sacrament of reconciliation takes place in a private place where one cannot be easily overheard. The confession occurs with a priest or bishop who is bound by the seal of the confessional, meaning that he cannot repeat to anyone save God what was said in confession, or even that a particular penitent made his confession, without the penitent’s specific permission. In addition, the priest should wear his stole marking the sacramental nature of the rite. Lastly, whenever possible the form of confession should follow the rite as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer.
Note that the rite begins with the Penitent’s declaration that he is a sinner in need of God’s Grace. “Bless me, for I have sinned.” This is followed by the priest’s prayer for the penitent asking God to grant the humility to be open and honest with himself, God and his confessor.
If you’d like to learn more about preparation for confession the following article by Fr. Edward Bouverie Pusey can be found on the diocesan website.
I pray you all a blessed week ahead.