How to Turn a Sob Story into a Good Confession

The other day my husband and I had a decently intense conversation about the merits of a sob story. One of us (my husband) prefers to speak to a contractor in simple terms. His details are succinct and to the point. The other (me) likes to paint a beautiful picture, complete with smells and sound if possible. I want you to SEE and FEEL that our cut propane line is an emergency. When my husband calls a plumber, his conversation goes something like this:

Hi, yes – our propane line is broken. Mmmhmm…yes, we need it repaired. Oh, next week? Yeah, we’re going to need it taken care of sooner. Calls someone else, rinse and repeat.

When I call the plumber, it goes like this:

Hi! I’m driving behind one of your trucks and thought I’d call! We have a bit of an emergency with six children at home and have been without hot water or the ability to cook on the stove the past five days. Is there any chance we could expedite service? Oh, I see the truck I’m behind is turning into my neighborhood – can you send that guy over?

30 minutes later, the plumber shows up – I would wager because I gave enough description for them to determine our need and location to a worker in the area.

Tying this into confession

But how does this relate to what God wants from us? I immediately likened it to confession. I mean a REALLY GOOD confession. You know the kind you give when it’s a priest you’ve never met? I know you’re nodding in agreement right now.

I know when I sit in the pew waiting for confession to begin, I feel nauseous…because sins. Same sins as last time and the time before that and the…well, you get the point. We usually try to get to confession ahead of time so we can wait on the front end instead of wondering if we’ll get to have our confession heard before Mass begins.

And then…as I inch seat by seat as members of the family head into the confessional, that stress creeps in.

“Just focus on how you’ll feel when you walk out,” I tell myself.

And the internal dialogue that follows resembles that of a tantruming toddler tussling with the momma.

I go in and I bare my soul, and pour out my sob story because I think it’s what God wants of me. I know that confessions of old (and even today still) involve enumerating ones sins in an effort to provide a succinct list of what’s what and possibly helps the priest focus on some problematic areas for the penitent. And I appreciate that for what it is and respect Father’s time.

When I say sob story *in* confession, what I am really saying is even if you are enumerating your sins, it can also be super helpful for the priest to hear some backstory, especially if this is a regular confessor and has heard your same sins time and again. It helps them give specific advice and support unique to your state in life.

So, what are some solid ways to make a good confession?

  • Go frequently. Or go back. Yes, I know the virus has made things infinitely hard and maybe, just maybe, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we may have rationalized ourselves into a corner where we have not been to Reconciliation or even Mass in a very long time, but understand this. The priest is there to guide you and be that channel for God’s infinite Mercy. Think of and perhaps focus on how you’ve felt walking out of the confessional!
  • Do a thorough Examination of Conscience. This is especially important if it’s been a while since you’ve been to Reconciliation. Make it a good one!
  • Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with the priest. If it’s been a number of months or longer, consider making an appointment with the priest so you can say all you need to without the potential stress of holding up the line.
  • Make a daily examination of conscience a part of your routine going forward. Now that you’ve been to confession, it’s time to see where you can tweak things on the daily. I highly recommend a daily reflection on areas where you’ve improved and need improvement. This will help your next confession tremendously. If you’ve purchase DAYBOOK, there is a place to do a daily Ignatian Examination of Conscience.

Interested in more resources on Confession?

Read previous articles

Download a good Examination of Conscience

Consider purchasing the Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation from Ascension Press and keep it in your purse (ladies) or in your car (ladies and gents)

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