Frequent Confession

Benedict Baur, in his fabulous book Frequent Confession, notes the immense power of this sacrament:

What we call the sacramental grace of the sacrament of Penance–the grace that belongs to this sacrament and that is not given and cannot be given by any other sacrament–is sanctifying grace with the special power and function of remedying the debility of soul and the lack of vigor and courage and energy, caused by venial sin, and of strengthening the soul and removing the obstacles that the working of grace encounters in it. (47)

The “strengthening the soul” that Baur mentions is key to the power of frequent confession. Too often we are focused on cleansing ourselves of past sins and forget about the grace God gives so that we may prospectively avoid sin in the future. But isn’t that our desire? We even say so in our Act of Contrition: “I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life (or to avoid the near occasion of sin).” This should be our hope when we go to the sacrament. For as Baur notes, frequent confession

looks not only backward to what was, to our past failings; it looks forward also into the future. Precisely by its frequency it aims at an eminently positive goal: at strengthening and invigorating our will in the struggle to acquire true Christian virtue, to become perfectly pure and pleasing in God’s sight, to put the supernatural man in full control, to make the spirit reign over the impulses and passions and weaknesses of the old man.

These are lofty goals for any of us, but attainable through God’s grace. Let us make this a goal for Lent–to frequent the sacrament of confession and to bring ourselves back into right relationship with God and the Church so that we may evidence the power of Christ in the world.

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