30 January 2010

I Have a Confession to Make...

For the last week we were on retreat. During that time I went completely without emails or the internet. The doctors have told me that the tremors and the nervous tick should pass shortly. ;-)

A little while before the retreat while in prayer, the idea of making a General Confession came to me. Just a few days before the retreat I was reading from A Spritual Directory for Religious (Gethsemani, 1946). In it there is a recommendation that postulants should make a General Confession before receiving the Habit. I spoke to my Novice Master, and he thought it was a good idea. Then I made arrangements with my confessor.

A word to the wise, one should always talk with their spiritual director or confessor BEFORE making a General Confession. A General Confession is not for somebody who has a problem with scrouples, it is not for somebody who has a poblem with a past confessor, and it is not for somebody who is recovering from a sinful life and doubts the Mercy of God. General Confessions are often used by people as the begin a new chapter of their life: not just receiving a habit, but before marriage, before ordination, or when re-committing your life to God. I did it is not only to prepare for the new chapter in my life, but to firmly shut the book on the old chapter.

There are two schools of thought on how to make a General Confession. One is recommended, and one is not.

I had started down the wrong path. I tried to identify every sin in my life as best as I could. I began to think of things I did when I was eight and nine years old. DO NOT DO THAT! If you have confessed your sins before you can be sure of the absolution that was given. If you were baptised after leading a sinful life, those sins were forgiven. God's Mercy and Forgiveness is real, permanent, and absolute. God's Love is stronger than the memory of ANY sin.

What you want to do is examine the patterns of sin in your life. Examine them honestly. I prepared a number of hours of three days - with frequent prayers to the Holy Spirit for assistance to uncover everything. I included smoking the things in my past that I do not ever want to go back to. I even including smoking cigarettes. Now when someone has an addiction, there is a limitation to there culpability; but when I started smoking there was no addiction at that point. Now the body, as scripture teaches us, is the temple of the Holy Spirit. (And before you say it, cigarette smoke is not incense!). I knew that smoking can harm the body, and that is why it is a sin. I have written this not to preach at smokers, but purely as an example of uncovering ALL sinful patterns.

I looked on the internet for advise on making my General Confession. A lot of what I read was not helpful. But I did find one thing that was. If I can find it again, I will post the reference to it. But it gave a simple list:

Write down all your sinful patterns as a guide for your confession. DO NOT MAKE THIS LIST ON ANY COMPUTER. DO THIS BY HAND, AND DO NOT LET THE LIST OUT OF YOUR SIGHT.
At confession, if it is too emotional for you to read the list, hand the list to your confessor.
Get the list back.
After confession burn the list and flush the ashes down the toilet.

Now I did not follow the last peice of advice, but I did avail myself of a frequently used criss-cross paper shredder.

One last thing. General Confessions are not required of anyone. If it is not something you think is helpful in your spiritual life, you are by no means obliged to even consider it, let alone actually do it.

May God's Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, and Peace dwell with you always.

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