The Sacrament of Conversion

As we enter into the season of Lent, it is important to reflect on the significance and necessity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Lent is a time in which we should work towards conforming our hearts to Christ. This preparation typically involves prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Confession is also an essential step in acknowledging our sinfulness and turning back to Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls Reconciliation the “sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin” (CCC 1423). Confession not only helps us understand our sinfulness, it also allows us to be forgiven and restored to a rightful relationship with God. It gives us a fresh start.

The Sacrament of Penance has been indispensable in my own life. I often have found myself discouraged by my tendency to continue to fail in the same areas. I become frustrated and impatient with my lack of progress but then I realise that I have been trying to rely on my own strength. At times I have wanted to avoid Confession perhaps because I’ve been in denial about my behaviour or because I’ve been embarrassed or prideful. Confession helps me reorient my life toward God. It helps me understand that I must draw closer to Christ, if I am to become more like Him. Reconciliation gives me a deep sense of peace in knowing that I have been forgiven and that I am on the right path again. The “sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship” (CCC 1468). Whenever we fall into sin, we need to seek the restoring graces of Reconciliation, it is not something we can resolve on our own. There is no better way to prepare for Lent than to seek to mend our relationship with God.

In my own experience, there are a number of steps that I can take that help me reflect honestly on my actions and I hope you may also find these tips helpful.

Tips for Making a Good Confession:

  • Know thyself – It is important to regularly reflect on how we are doing spiritually and what areas we are struggling with. The Daily Examen, practiced by St. Ignatius Loyola, is one tool that we can use to see if God is at the center of our lives and to identify patterns of temptation and sin.
  • Pray before confession – We need to set aside some quiet time in order to properly prepare and to remember what we need to confess. Confession shouldn’t be rushed and we need to be truly sorry for our sins. Saint Catherine of Siena’s prayer God’s Mercy has helped me prepare for confession:
“Merciful Lord, it does not surprise me that you forget completely the sins of those who repent. I am not surprised that you remain faithful to those who hate and revile you. The mercy which pours forth from you fills the whole world. It was by your mercy that we were created, and by your mercy that you redeemed us by sending your Son. Your mercy is the light in which sinners find you and good people come back to you.
  • Trust – Confession can be daunting as we are faced with our sinfulness but we must trust in God’s mercy. Saint John Paul II implored that we return to confession, “come back to this source of grace; Do not be afraid! Christ himself is waiting for you. He will heal you, and you will be at peace with God!” We can also trust that our sins are truly forgiven and that this sacrament can really transform us.