Most likely your parish priest(s) is/are about to begin the penance service cycle during Lent. Lots of travel, nights hearing confessions, and also fraternal time spent together. A lot of grace, but also this can be physically tiring. Please be sure to pray for your priests. Brother priests, let us pray for one another! Pray for many people to really have a deep conversion and have the grace to make good confessions. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, now is a good time. Now is the best time. We do not know when the Lord will call us, and we don’t want to throw away the wonderful gift of salvation that the Lord offers to us. One single mortal sin cuts off the life of grace in the soul, and if we do not repent of that sin, we won’t end up sharing eternal life with God. God loves you, and Our Lord waits for you to help you in the sacrament of Confession. The life of grace that we are given in Baptism and that is strengthened through this Sacrament is worth more than anything else in the world!
Take advantage of this sacred time! Common hangups, (thank you to Fr. Carlos Martins of the Companions of the Cross for this good four point breakdown. I think it is pretty accurate, so I will use it (there can of course be other hangups, but these are four are pretty universal):
1. Sunday Mass. Somehow Sunday Mass doesn’t take a priority. If we refuse to go to Mass, we refuse God. We don’t want to refuse God. He sent His only son to die on the cross for each one of us to open the gates of heaven. We don’t want to refuse to be at Mass ever, because that is refusing to partake in the eternal liturgy-eternal life with God. If we are sick and homebound and cannot make it to Mass, obviously we are not choosing to refuse to go. This is a different case from simply doing other things and not going. If God is a priority, Sunday and Holy day Mass will happen. To skip Mass without a real reason (i.e. inability to actually get there) is a mortal sin. If sometimes you wonder about this, look at the second quote I share below from John Paul II. Think about the great sacrifices people have made throughout the ages to get to Mass, including attending even knowing they could get arrested or put to death.
2. Not taking advantage of confession. This is a great and powerful sacrament. We all need it! Once a year is not regularly going to confession. Imagine if you bathed only once a year. Here is a good little catechesis on the Sacrament of Confession. Confession IS offered more than simply at Lent and Advent. Parishes usually have it every weekend, and often throughout the week.
3. Withholding a sin. Purposefully withholding a mortal sin from the priest will make the sacrament invalid…it didn’t happen, and actually we commit a sacrilege-making that mortal sin even worse. Be honest and open in confession. Do not hold anything back. If you honestly forget a sin, and remember after confession, it is forgiven–confess it in your next confession (which should not be one year later!). Sometimes people might find it helpful to write down some notes–this is fine, but be sure to destroy these afterwards. Use a good examination of conscience, such as one found here. If you are a priest, here is a good examination of conscience for you. If you have withheld something, it might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a priest and make a general confession of your whole life. This can be a great way to really have a fresh start in the spiritual life. Priests at penance services are usually crushed with a big crowd.
4. Refusing to forgive. God commands us to forgive those who hurt us. We even pray this when we pray the Our Father. Jesus forgave those who executed Him. He forgives you and me. The Saints give us good and heroic examples of forgiveness. If this is something that is entangled in our hearts, confess it. Be free-forgive those who have hurt you. Be sure to read about Saint Maria Goretti.
Do not be afraid of confession! Ask the priest for help. Always remember that whatever you confess in confession is bound by the seal–the priest cannot tell anybody for any reason. Ever. It is a great joy to hear contrite confessions, and the priest doesn’t keep a mental notebook of what sins you confess. We are simply overjoyed and humbled to act in persona Christi and forgive your sins and bring you closer to God.
N.b. If you are in an irregular marital situation (i.e. not married in the Church), talk to your priest about getting truly and sacramentally married. Until then, the priest is unable to grant you absolution. So the desire to return to the sacramental life (i.e Confession and reception of Holy Communion) should be a great spur for you to get this situation right in the eyes of God.Talk to your priest and follow through with him. If he doesn’t want to help, find a priest who is willing to help-if he says “it doesn’t matter”, find a priest who does believe it matters–because it does matter. Your soul is worth it!
I was reading Pope Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Priests from 1979, and found some very inspiring quotes. Please pray for your priests!
I say to you therefore, quoting these words of his: strive to be “artists” of pastoral work. There have been many such in the history of the Church. They speak to each of us, for example, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint John of Avila, the holy Curé d’Ars, Saint John Bosco, Blessed Maximilian Kolbe, and many, many others. Each of them was different from the others, was himself, was the son of his own time and was “up to date” with respect to his own time. But this ‘bringing up to date” of each of them was an original response to the Gospel, a response needed precisely for those times; it was the response of holiness and zeal. There is no other rule apart from this for “bringing ourselves up to date”, in our priestly life and activity, with our time and with the world as it is today. Without any doubt, the various attempts and projects aimed at the “secularization” of the priestly life cannot be considered an adequate “bringing up to date”.
Dear Brothers: you who have borne “the burden of the day and the heat” (Mt 20:12), who have put your hand to the plough and do not turn back (cf. Lk 9:62), and perhaps even more those of you who are doubtful of the meaning of your vocation or of the value of your service: think of the places where people anxiously await a Priest, and where for many years; feeling the lack of such a Priest, they do not cease to hope for his presence. And sometimes it happens that they meet in an abandoned shrine, and place on the altar a stole which they still keep, and recite all the prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy; and then, at the moment that corresponds to the transubstantiation a deep silence comes down upon them, a silence sometimes broken by a sob… so ardently do they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a Priest can efficaciously utter. So much do they desire Eucharistic Communion, in which they can share only through the ministry of a priest, just as they also so eagerly wait to hear the divine words of pardon: Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis! So deeply do they feel the absence of a Priest among them!… Such places are not lacking in the world. So if one of you doubts the meaning of his priesthood, if he thinks it is “socially” fruitless or useless, reflect on this!
Here is a good article with seven tips on making a good Confession.