It seems like everywhere I go lately, I hear people talking about confession - homilies at church, discussions with friends, blog posts. It's a good time to talk about this great sacrament, because many people like to go to confession at least during Lent and Advent, if not more frequently throughout the year. Going to confession is a wonderful way to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus, both at Christmas and when he comes again.
For a long time, I went pretty much only during Advent and Lent - probably because that is when my mother would encourage us to go reconciliation services as a family. I started going a bit more frequently in high school, when I would have the opportunity for confession during the retreats I would go to with my youth group a couple times a year. But it wasn't until I got to college that I really started to feel the need to go more regularly, and to go on my own (as opposed to with my friends or family to a penance service). I still only managed to make myself go once every few months, but I did grow to love it more and more. This year I've finally started to get to confession once a month or so, which is my goal.
Obviously not everyone feels the need to go once a month, and it's certainly not required. Apparently, though, many people don't realize that the Church does mandate that we go at least once a year. Confession seems to be one of those things in life that always seems so overwhelming and even terrifying, until it's over and the person can walk out and realize how great it is. Because of our human nature, it's a bit too easy to convince ourselves that confession isn't really necessary. In some cases, people fall out of the habit of going, and before they know it it's been years and even if they realize how much they need to go, the prospect of confessing (and remembering) that many sins seems impossible. Luckily, priests know this happens, and they're not surprised by anything. Going to confession is an intimidating thing - admitting our faults and sins to another person is definitely not what many of us would call easy. But there isn't a much better, or completely awe-inspiring, feeling than the knowledge afterward that all those sins have been forgiven.
Confession is a sacrament that is woefully underused. I believe that people would be happier and better in general if we all went to confession more often (or at all). It is such a powerful tool for growing closer to God - without it, we would constantly have a huge wedge between ourselves and God. Confession allows us to remove that wedge and repair our relationship with God, which is damaged by sin.
If you haven't been to confession in awhile (or even if you have!), now is the perfect time to go. Many churches offer evening penance services during Advent, where there are often several priests available to hear confessions. Check with your church or diocesan website to find one near you.
Confession. It's great for the body and the soul!