What makes a quality confession?
We often hear from priests who lead retreats at this special place where Our Lady graced us with Her presence that "the quality of the confessions is so high when these people are here." Many times these priests will ask if it is just the nature of the people who are on these retreats or if it is due to some other influence upon these people during their visit that makes them immerse themselves more fervently into the sacrament of reconciliation. It is interesting that the priests would even consider the notion, but they are feeling "it" too. Perhaps it is a bit of both, but it sure seems like the gravity of the spiritual environment plays a very prominent role in placing people in the proper reflective spirit.
By Church law, Catholics are required to make a confession at least once a year. Others who are more inclined to the spiritual life, make confession much more frequently just as they might attend Mass more times throughout the week.
The quality of our confessions
Though many go to confession many times a year what is important is not so much the quantity of our confessions but the quality of our confessions. By this, it means that we are called to make good confessions.
A bad confession is done without the necessary preparation and without a contrite, humble, and penitent heart.
A good confession is done with the necessary examination of conscience and the qualities of heart and soul that are important to receive the grace of the sacrament.
Examination of conscience
Before going to confession, it is important to examine our souls. Most people usually hold their recent life experiences up against the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins: pride, lust, avarice, gluttony, anger, sloth, and envy. If any bells go off, they report them as necessary.
There is, however, another way of examining our conscience which focuses more on the status of the relationships in our lives. This takes a greater amount of introspection and individual discernment than just holding your own moral scorecard up to the answer sheet of the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins. It takes quiet time in the right setting. A place where Our Lady has prepared the environment especially for us to grow closer to Her Son.
When examining one's conscience this way, one should examine one's relationship with:
4) our self
If we use these four parameters to examine how we fall short of Christ's teaching, then it will help us see where we have sinned.
Just as your doctor tries to create the proper setting and environment for your exam by having you abstain from food or medications before your procedures, so it is with putting yourself in the right setting and environment for a quality confession while on retreat at one of these pilgrimage spots.
You must be with God, with others, with nature, and alone with your self. Space is still available (see Retreat schedule).
In case it has been a while since your last confession
As you make your confession with the priest, this is what you will say:
"Bless me Father for I have sinned. My last confession was last ________.
Since my last confession I __(tell him what you have discerned)___... "
Keep it natural and conversational, but with all the qualities of heart and soul necessary to make it a good confession - humility, honesty, seeking mercy, penitent, sorrow for one's sins, etc...
a.. As you finish with your confession, wait for the priest to give some spiritual advice and encouragement and then bow your head for his absolution.
b.. Make sure you remember the penance the priest gives and perform it right after the confession lest you forget what the penance was. Many times we are so relieved of our tensions that we forget what we were told to do.
c.. After confession you should make the Act of Contrition.
This is the Act of Contrition:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because I have offended You, my God, Who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.