Priests to penitents: ‘Be not afraid!’

By Christopher M. Riggs
A few weeks ago the Catholic Advance emailed the priests of the Diocese of Wichita asking them to contribute to a story about “What Father wants you to know about Confession.”
Their responses made it clear that pastors truly care about the souls of their parishioners and that they are happy you are in the confessional.
Those who fear confession – as most do – might remember what Jesus said to the terrified apostles in a boat being tossed about by a storm: “It is I; do not be afraid.”
That was the sentiment of Father Jerome Spexarth, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Wichita. There is “no need to be fearful or to be embarrassed,” he wrote. “There is nothing we haven’t heard before.”
Father Spexarth reminded those who might hesitate to go to confession that all are sinners and are in need of mercy.
Father Ken Van Haverbeke, reiterated Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid.”
He said he is honored to be in the presence of a penitent and to be able to bring the healing presence of Jesus to them.
“I, as a priest, go to confession, too!” he said. “I understand how confession can be both healing and humbling.”
Father Chad Arnold agreed, writing that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of love and healing.
“Deep within us we have a need – when we know we’ve done wrong – to say we are sorry and to hear that we are forgiven,” he wrote. “Our loving Father provides that in the Sacrament of Confession.”
Confession makes us truly born-again Christians, says now-retired Father Stephen Thapwa. “When God forgives, God forgets.”
Fear is one of the biggest hurdles many people have to opening the door of a confessional, said Father Aaron Spexarth, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Hutchinson, and Holy Trinity in Little River.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a neophyte or a seasoned Catholic, he said, neither finds the sacrament fun or easy – nor should it be, he said.
“By coming to this sacrament, the penitent is coming before God, to complete mercy and love, through his priest, his instrument of mercy,” Father Spexarth said.
He urged those who are in sin to overcome that fear. “What they should be doing is comparing those fears to the fear of holding onto their sins – right into the fires of hell.”
There’s nothing to fear about opening the confessional door, Father Spexarth said, adding that the priest is there to help you, to bring God’s mercy.
But don’t become complacent, he said, or fall into the sin of presumption.
Father Curtis Hecker urged penitents to not wait for a mortal sin to go to confession: “Frequent confession is one of the surest ways to grow in holiness and in your relationship with God.”
He urges those who have been away from confession, and who perhaps have forgotten how to go to confession, to wait no longer.
“All you have to do is let the priest know and he will walk you through it – it’s not that scary!”
Part two in the next edition of the Catholic Advance.

Confession tips
I. Confess mortal sins by name and number
II. Confess venial sins only by name
III. But, be specific: “I broke the X commandment” isn’t good enough
IV. Don’t be afraid: Confession may not be easy, but it’s life-giving
V. Visit Catholic.org for a “Guide to Confession.”

What is presumption?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2092: There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).
Don’t be presumptuous, go to confession!

Read Part II