Why Go to Confession? (Part 1)
Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte
CHIETI, Italy, FEB. 18, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the first part of the pastoral letter for 2005-2006 written by Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, a member of the International Theological Commission, on the theme "Reconciliation and the Beauty of God."
The rest of the letter will be published by Catholic Online over the next few days.
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Why Go to Confession?
Copyright - Pauline Books & Media
Reconciliation and the Beauty of God
Together, let us try to understand what Confession is: If you really understand it, with your mind and heart, you will feel the need and the joy of experiencing this encounter, in which God, granting you his forgiveness through the ministry of the Church, creates a new heart in you, puts a new Spirit in you, so that you can live a life reconciled with Him, with yourself and with others, so that you also will be able to forgive and love, beyond any temptation to mistrust and weariness.
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1. Why go to Confession?
Among the questions that my heart as Bishop asks, I choose one that I am often asked: Why must one go to Confession? It is a question that is posed again in many ways. Why go to a priest to tell one's sins and not do so directly to God, who knows and understands us much better than any human interlocutor?
And, in a more radical way, why speak of my affairs, especially of those that even I myself am ashamed of, to someone who is a sinner like me, and who perhaps assesses my experience in a completely different way than I do, or doesn't understand it at all? What does he know is a sin for me? And some add: Does sin really exist or is it only an invention of priests so that we will behave well?
I think I can answer this last question right away and without fear of being refuted: Sin exists, and not only is it wrong but it does evil. Suffice it to look at the daily scene of the world, where violence, wars, injustices, abuses, egoisms, jealousies and vengeance burst out (an example of this "war bulletin" is given to us today in the news in newspapers, radio, television and the Internet).
He who believes in the love of God, moreover, perceives that sin is love that falls back on itself ("amor curvus," closed love, the medievals said), ingratitude of the one who responds to love with indifference and rejection. This rejection has consequences not only in the one who lives it, but also in the whole society, to the point of producing conditionings and interlacements of egoisms and violence that become authentic "structures of sin" (think of social injustices, of the inequality between rich and poor countries, of the scandal of hunger in the world …).
Precisely because of this, one must not hesitate to emphasize the enormity of the tragedy of sin and how the loss of the sense of sin -- very different from that sickness of soul that we call "guilt feeling" -- weakens the heart in the face of the spectacle of evil and the seductions of Satan, adversary who tries to separate us from God.
2. Experience of Forgiveness
Despite all this, however, I do not think I can say that the world is evil and that it is useless to do good. On the contrary, I am convinced that good exists and is much greater than evil, that life is beautiful and that to live correctly for love and with love is really worthwhile.
The profound reason that leads me to think this way is the experience of God's mercy that I feel in myself and that I see shine in so many humble people: It is an experience that I have lived many times, both giving forgiveness as minister of the Church, as well as receiving it. I have been going to confession regularly for years, several times a month, and with the joy of doing so.
The joy stems from feeling myself loved in a new way by God, every time that his forgiveness reaches me through the priest who gives it to me in his name. It is the joy I have seen often on the face of those coming to Confession: not the futile sense of relief of the one who has "emptied the sack" (Confession is not a psychological relief or a consoling meeting, at least not primarily), but the peace of feeling well "within" oneself, touched in the heart by a love that cures, that comes from above and transforms us.
To ask for forgiveness with conviction, to receive it with gratitude and to give it with generosity is a source of inestimable peace: Because of this, it is right and beautiful to go to Confession. I would like to share the reasons for this joy with all those whom I may reach with this letter.
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Confession, Mass, Forte, Forgive, Reconciliation
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