2 years catholic and still terrified of the confessional


#1

Okay, so I need some kindness here, so please…no harsh comments, mmkay?

Basically, I have been catholic for 2 years now. I came from a church where we used an “accountability partner” system. It basically left my crushed under its boot. I “confessed” to a friend, who told the WHOLE church EVERYTHING. I almost had to leave the church. Then to settle the score, I went to a school where if you made a mistake and you told ANYONE about it, they’d kick you out. Example: I suffer from an eating disorder. I’ve been better about it recently, but in college I had an episode. I went to a friend for help, and she turned me in. I was told “Either stop doing this, or we’ll expel you. We don’t want people like you associated with our school.” And of course, there was a therapist I was seeing that told me not to see her anymore when I told her about some of my struggles (she hated me being a christian, and when I told her I was having suicidal thoughts, she kicked me out the same day) ANYWAY, to make a long story short, I was protestant and abused like this as far as my personal struggles and trying to get help for about 6 years. I went to confession for the first time 2 years ago when I became catholic, and I cried and shook through the whole thing. I have not been to confession since. I am terrified of it! I know I NEED to go, and I know I technically shouldn’t be receiving eucharist since I have not been to confession in so long and I have been struggling with some habitual sins. I pray fervently for forgiveness, and try to say the rosary after I pray for forgiveness, and I really focus on the kyrie and such, but I know I NEED to go to confession. I know there are a lot of other issues in my life that are probably stemming from all of this. Things like suicidal thoughts, and a passive attempt…

How do I stop being so scared of the confessional? How do I go about finding a priest I can be comfortable confessing to, that I won’t be too embarassed to see when I cantor? It’s all so overwhelming and horribly scary and traumatic for me. I plan to confess receiving communion having not gone to confession, but how bad is it in my situation? Do you think God understands my utter horror that keeps be out of the confessional? It’s not because I don’t htink I need it, or that I don’t want to do, but because it’s so scary I’d rather skydive without a parachute.


#2

hi Whitacre_Girl,

Let’s start with the happy part: You are not feeling the need to go to confession all on your own. That is the Holy Spirit at work in you, helping you, giving you that little nudge you need to do what is needed to be in communion with the Church (Christ). Actual grace is the term for it, and it is indeed strong. So one thing you can do to start easing the fear is to first give thanks for getting that grace, and while you’re at it, ask that it keep coming.

This is going to probably sound very weird to someone having fears about confession - and here I am assuming your last one was done behind a screen - but I think you would greatly benefit from doing your confession face-to-face. Before you say, WHAT?, please hear me out.

What I recommend you do is this; call up the parish and make an appointment with one of the priests for reconciliation. Tell the priest what’s going on without a lot of extra details. You might just say you haven’t been in a couple years, you know you need to go, and that you have had difficulty in the past because it creates a lot of fear for you, that sort of thing. Then pray, and go to the appointment.

This gives you and the priest a bit of a chance to talk, maybe discuss your fears, etc. before he begins the Sacrament. I think it will give you a lot more comfort than you may think.

I used to feel that same kind of terror. I remember days I thought it might be easier to just jump in front of a bus than go in that confessional, but now that I’ve lived a lot longer, I know the real issue is that I was really just feeling the weight of my sins - which is exactly what I should feel. God’s grace is incredibly powerful, and you get it every time you go. It makes you stronger, it makes you better, and it lets you heal.

So piece of advice #2 is once you get through this confession, go more often. I’d wager your priest will say this to you also. It will help you get over the fear if you don’t have to face it burdened with a couple year’s worth of sin on your shoulders.

Every single time our Lord extended His hand to someone and they chose to take it, good things were always the result. Reconciliation is that hand, so let the goodness of the end help you through your fears.

I will pray for you. Let us know how it works out for you.


#3

Thank you for your prayers.

My first confession was actually face to face with a priest who was largely responsible for converting me to catholicism. I had a great respect and trust in the man, but it was still horrifying. I might have to try behind the screen approach. He evenknew how horrified I was of the whole process. The problem was, I was so embarassed and scared that I didn’t see much of the priest afterwards. I know this is TOTALLY weird, but it’s like this intense psychological fear. LOL

I know the Holy Spirit is leading me, and I keep praying for his courage to actually do it. I have had a chance 2 times a month to go to confession. I drove the the church early before mass, walked up to the confessional, started shaking and sweating, and walked away. Too scary!


#4

Well I dont know if you had a good feeling after your first confession, but I hope you did. God knows about what you are thinking, how you are feeling, and the sins you commit. He has probably already forgiven you for a lot of your sins if not all of them. I dont think confession should be something you should be terrified of, because after you go you will feel a lot better (or so I hope!)
Keep in mind that when you do go to confession your priest has most likely heard a LOT worse then what you will confess, and he isnt there to judge you. If you are terrified to confess to a priest this time, you could always go to a parish you never plan on going to. And until you feel more comfortable confessing to your priest go to all the ones around! (May sound crazy, but I dont see any problem in it).
If these sins you commit make you this nervous, and make you not be able to look your Priest in the face the next day… How would you feel looking God in the face? (May sound harsh but I think thats how you should look at it).
Lastly, try and go tomorrow, just get up one day and go. I think it will help if you dont sit there and think about it all the time either!! :slight_smile:
I am here for you, and I am sorry for all the struggles you go through in life. Know that Jesus is always there for you, and at any time of the day or night he is there to listen to you :slight_smile: He doesnt want to see you suffering.


#5

I like your idea of going to a different parish to confess. That’s not a bad idea. The fear is I was trained for 6 years to keep it all to yourself, because if anyone found out, they’d remove you from any volunteer positions, or from the church altogether. It’s so hard to kick! It’s not that I think the priest is judging me per se, but scared he’s gunna tell everyone, he hates me, etc. (I have a little social anxiety thinking that even my husband hates me from time to time. He loves it when I get like that…:rolleyes: lol)


#6

I can see where you are coming from. I actually confess face to face! Imagine that! lol.
A different parish and a confessional may help you be more at ease, and help you go more often. Until you are ready to go to your own parish.


#7

You have some options when you got to confession… Do you think you would be more comfortable confessing behind a screen or face to face? Would you rather make an appointment with a priest and meet him in his office or use the confessional. Perhaps, you would feel more comfortable meeting with a priest outside of a confessional just to talk about this fear. Perhaps he could put your mind at ease?

Would it help if I said that I’ve been to confession quite a few times in my life as a Catholic (40 something years) and I’ve never once been treated unkindly by a priest in the confessional. I do not leave feeling the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders every time, but many times I have received wonderful advice in just a couple of sentences.

As far as the embarrassment factor…I prefer to go face to face, and usually it is a priest that I know. My parish is a small parish and we have just one priest, so he greets me by name when I walk in. I have never been treated any differently outside of the confessional because of what I’ve said inside the confessional. I can be hitting all the low-lights of my life one day in the confessional, and the next day be sharing a chuckle about something on an altar server outing.

You do know that a priest can never reveal to anyone what has been told to him in confession? He can’t even bring it up to you at a future date.

Can I share a personal story with you that might help? Nearly 15 years ago, I took a “leave of absence” from church. I didn’t go anywhere else, I just didn’t bother myself with attending on Sundays, etc. And even before that leave of absence, I hadn’t been an epecially faithful Catholic. I had figured that you could go to confession and just confess the things that you intended to do better on, while continuing to have premarital sex…things like that. So when I decided to return about 8 years ago, I had quite the list to confess. I spent several months searching the internet for loopholes, so I wouldn’t have to go and confess all THOSE things, but to no avail.

Finally, I decided I would just have to suck it up and go. The icing on the cake was when I saw a sign outside of a evangelical church that said “Humble yourself before God and repent!” What was I waiting for - that was exacty what I needed to do. I was worried that the priest would just tell me there was no room for a sinner like me in the church, so I picked one that I knew well. I knew he would be kind and gentle. I picked out a date; I took the day off of work. I couldn’t sleep the night before, but it wasn’t nervousness by this point. It was almost an excitement because I was going to meet the Lord Jesus PERSONALLY. WHen we confess, we are confessing to Jesus - the priest is His ears and His mouth.

It helped me to think of the image of Jesus leaving a flock of sheep and going after the one lost sheep and carrying him back on his shoulders. THat is such a tender picture of mercy. Another image is the story of the prodigal son. The Father runs out to meet the son, so excited is he at the son’s return. Those 2 things were very comforting to me.

When I finally got to make my confession, I was so surprised that the priest didn’t gasp in horror. He didn’t even bat an eye. They have heard everything. I don’t remember what my penance was or anything after that, but I know I left that confession floating on air. I floated for days.

Our God wants to draw us close to Him. He wants to heal us and to make us whole again. God made you; he surely understands the things that are keeping you away from the confessional. But He also gives you His gifts of strength and courage to draw on. He wants to give you His Peace, too.

You would not want one of your children to be afraid to come to you to admit something wrong that they have done. It is the same with God.

In some respects - because I’ve sometimes had sins that I weren’t sure were “worth” confessing, etc - going to confession is kind of like telling a friend in person that you are sorry, rather than emailing them a confession. I figure if I would apologize to my friends in person, then I owe that much to Jesus, as well.

Please don’t be afraid. There is nothing to fear. Jesus is sitting there waiting for you to come to HIm. Pray for the strength and courage to meet Him, and I will do the same.

That feeling you feel of “needing” to go - that’s grace acting in your life - God working through the Holy Spirit, perhaps. Don’t turn your back on grace. Ask for the grace to be open to what God wants for you.

Having said that, though, even though I find myself in the confessional fairly often, there are times when my heart is pounding and my palms are sweating, and I am nervous. That may never go away…it IS unnerving to sit there and admit your failings to someone else. But I sense you are experience more than that.

Forgive me if I rambled. I hope there is something in here that can bring you a step closer to the confessional.

God bless.


#8

*Dear Whitacre Girl,
I hope it will help you to know that you are not the only one that gets scared when it comes time to go to Confession. For one reason or another there are times when certain ones are afraid about going to Confession. (We need to focus on what a wonderful Sacrament this is and how blessed we are to have it!)

You may feel you might say something dumb, or forget something you wanted to confess. As long as you go in with true remorse for your sins you should have no problem. God is so good!

 You are starting out well .... you realize your need to go to Confession. I'm sure your experience with confiding in others does make it hard for you to trust others. You do know the priest should hold your sins in confidence. 

I believe you will feel better once you go, and the next time it will not be so hard or scary for you. It is an awesome Sacrament!

  I will be praying for you!

God Bless,
Angel Face
*


#9

Thank you for sharing that. I may just have to set a date and go. I know they have general open confessionals before mass on saturday nights…I may just have to force myself. If only I wouldn’t get so freaked out walking over there, that I convince myself I need a drink of water instead :wink:

it wasn’t rambling at all. You said some helpful things. Thanks.

The main thing bothering me is, as I am working up the guts to go into the confessional, do I need to stop taking communion? I have to admit, some of the sins should bar me from it, but it’s not that I am avoiding talking about it, I am just horrified of it. Does God understand? I have to be honest, I recieve a tremendous amount of grace through communion. It is a powerful experience each and every time, and having to give that up while I am trying to get over the phsycological fear of mine (which may even need a therapist!) takes away one of my biggest and most vital pillar of strength. Also, if I got hit by a truck tomorrow, is God gunna send me to hell for this?


#10

Hi Whitacre_Girl! Wow, what a journey to the Church! God bless you for taking it!

I am a convert also. The idea of confessing my sins to a priest was just so foreign to me. Theologically I had no problem with it - in fact, it even sounded good. Practically I had no idea how to make a good confession. I can’t say I did a very good job with my first confession - nor was I well catechised for it. And then for the first couple of years, I probably went about once a year or so. So you’re not very far off of my record – and I didn’t have the same challenges that you are dealing with.

Through the grace of God, I went to a retreat offered by Opus Dei. The priest was great, and he gave a great talk about the sacrament of Confession and making sure that we attend the sacrament often. I also had gotten into the habit of receiving the Eucharist when I went to Mass even if I didn’t feel ready spiritually because, well, everyone else goes up to receive, and it would be so embarrassing to be the one not to go up and receive, and everyone else would be wondering why I didn’t go up…

The priest really encouraged us not to go to receive the Eucharist if we knew we had a serious sin that we needed to confess. I left the retreat with a resolution not go to receive the Eucharist if I wasn’t spiritually ready. I also planned to go to Confession every two weeks or so. That way I figured if I missed, I’d still go about every month. Boy was it tough. The first time I stayed in the pew and motioned my wife to go to Communion without me, I felt like everyone was staring at me. I’m sure my ears were flaming red. Oh well - a great opportunity to practice the virtue of humility. After that it got easier.

Going to the sacrament of Confession also got a lot easier as I got more practiced at it. Also, if you go more frequently (say every 2-4 weeks), the list is a lot shorter. It might help to find a short “cheat sheet” about how to go to Confession. You can go behind the screen and just use your cheat sheet. Then you know the order, what you should say, what the priest should say, the Act of Contrition prayer, etc. It also helps to make a cryptic cheat sheet of what you want to confess. Don’t write it in detail and put your name on it, in case you drop it somewhere public! Just little tiny hints to yourself or abbreviations.

Now I’m just in the habit, if I’m not ready to go up for Communion when I’m at Mass, then I just stay in the pew. And I make sure I ask the priest if he has time to hear my confession after Mass. It’s still a great opportunity to practice humility - but I don’t think people are staring at me any more.

There is a great free talk on Confession available by Fr. Larry Richards at this link. I highly recommend it. He has some great suggestions for when it is hard to go to confession.
catholicity.com/cds/confession.html

There are also very good examinations of conscience available. Let me know if you’d like me to post a few links.

Also, if you need to go to Confession and it’s been a long time, you can ask the priest to help you make a general confession. If the priest is willing, he can query you “Have you committed xyz sin” and you say “Never, rarely, or sometimes” for each sin. It’s a pretty painless way to do it. (I am pretty sure this is still a valid confession - I’m sure someone will correct me if it’s not!)

A holy priest I only met briefly told me that I needed to memorize the Act of Contrition prayer. Before that, I had always made up a short prayer of contrition when I was going to Confession. The priest said, “when you are dying, you need to know this prayer!” So I’ve memorized it also.

To be a valid confession, you have to confess the mortal sins you are aware of since your last confession, and approximately how many times you have committed them. Guesses and estimates are fine if your memory isn’t exact. (For example, maybe five or ten times, or whatever.) However, you don’t need to go into painful detail. As another poster mentioned, it’s nothing the priest hasn’t heard before.

I always like to think of the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus said that neither did he condemn her either - but to go and sin no more.

I also love the picture of the story of the prodigal son. Not only is the father happy to see his son returning - he is so delighted that he sees him a long way off and rushes out to meet him! I picture God is also so happy to see us when we approach him in the confessional.

I find I personally like to go to confession behind the screen and kneeling. I like kneeling as a pentential posture - even when the priest knows who I am, because I just asked him to hear my confession!

I hope this is helpful. May God bless you in your journey!


#11

You know what, sometimes still the hardest thing for me - is walking up to the door and opening it. Like there is something unknown on the other side. But you gotta do it. (Kind of like swallowing the nasty medicine when you are a kid.) But once I am in there, it’s usually not too bad. Sometimes I stumble around and try to remember what I wanted to say; I ALWAYS take a list in with me, but I don’t always read from it…

I can’t pretend to speak for God about whether you should go to communion or what would happen if you would get hit by a bus. He is God, and He can certainly do what He will. However, don’t discount that He is also sending you that grace and calling you to Himself and saying “come meet Me, beloved daughter - let’s talk”.

Pray for courage, strength, humility, obedience…all the good stuff. You can do it!


#12

you having nothing to fear the priest is there to help you confess to the lord. he is not there to judge you at all no matter what you have done in life. I went to confession yesterday and during the whole week i remembered four or five things from the past that i have never confessed. it like the lord placed them in my mind to remind me that i have done these things and should confess them.

When i first had the thoughts i was oh no i have to confess these things. things that i regret and hopefull will never do again. to be at peace i told the preist all of them i told him the sin that i have done since my last confession then i told him i have sins that i remebered from the past and told. now i am at peace in my heart and can move on. if these sins dont get confessed then you will never be at peace with yourself and with GOD. DONT FEAR GOD LOVES YOU AND WANTS THE BEST FOR YOU AND WANTS YOU BACK CLOSER WITH HIM.

YOU ARE GONNA FILL BETTER AFTER THE CONFESSION TRUST US


#13

Terrified we should be, when we finally realize how we have offended almighty God who created us and realize that this great body of ours belongs to Him; for it won’t be ours until after the resurrection of the dead on the last day. If we truly take good care of our body and soul we will live forever with our loving Father, His beloved Son, and His wonderful Holy Spirit.
Your sins are represented by the drops of blood from the crowning of thorns, or perhaps the scourging, or maybe the nails in His hands and feet. Yes, you.!
The Roman Catholic Priest sits waiting for you, he can’t take you on his lap as your mother did when you were in pain or wanted to confess to her that you did something stupid, no but he uses the words of Jesus in the confessional to give you absolution and a penance to reassure you of Almighty God’s love for you. There has never been known of a priest who has ever broke the seal of confession. There are many stories of priest who have gown to their death rather than break the seal of confession. This is one of the most beautiful moments with the Lord.
Once a month go to confession, especially for your venial sins.
God dosen’t tell me everything, sometimes I have to ask Him:):):):):):):):slight_smile:


#14

I don’t know if any of us can tell you about whether or not to go to communion, but if you go to confession before Mass, you will no longer have that issue, right? :slight_smile:

Lots of people are scared. I am, too. For years I’d go to priests who didn’t know me, and with the fear you experience, that’s not a bad idea.

Then someone made a comment about the effectiveness of finding a priest you trust a LOT, and I thought it made sense…but when I thought of going to the priest I trust most, I didn’t think I could do it.

But I realized something. You show God your love for Him when you do the difficult things for Him. So I set a date (one that had some importance to me) and went.

The whole drive there, I was thinking…can’t believe I’m gonna do this.

And I really had to force myself. But it’s true, going to someone I trust that much was the way to do it.

Since then…well, I’d like to say I’m not nervous anymore, but that wouldn’t be true. Still, I’m so glad I go. So glad. This priest has been both completely understanding and very helpful.

But go wherever it takes to get you there. Maybe you need to start with a priest you don’t know and behind a screen. Do what it takes. God is calling, and you’ll show how much you love Hi by doing something so dfficult for Him.


#15

Thanks guys. I will try again this saturday before mass to go in. Hopefully I don’t chicken out again. LOL


#16

You have my prayers.


#17

I can relate, because I also am scared to or nervous when I go to confession. The last time I went was probably 2 months ago, and I want to go every Sunday but I always chicken out. And, when I do confess my sin, I always forget to say all my sins, because i am so nervous. It’s hard for me also. But, you shouldn’t worry about the fact that you think the priest will tell people what you did. Because, he can’t!!! And, if he does, he will not be a priest anymore. They are not allowed to do that, and as a priest, he shouldn’t judge you. So, you shouldn’t be afraid of that. God Bless and good luck!!


#18

I’m so sorry that you’ve been so undeservedly and badly hurt in the past :console: I’m not surprised that you feel as you do after having had that happen.

Tell you what, I’ve grown up Catholic (36 years old), for the past three years I’ve been taking my faith seriously and confessing almost every week. And … I STILL get quite nervous when going.

I would be much more worried if I DID start feeling too comfortable about the process - it would mean I was getting desensitised to my sins or something.

Having said that, if you developed a fear of doctors or dentists, or a fear of driving - you’d try to conquer that fear, I trust. You wouldn’t avoid them altogether, I hope, because being an intelligent person you’d realise that avoiding things that you need to do is going to harm you more the more you avoid them. And we all need confession just as much as we need the doctor, the dentist, or to be able to drive places.

Firstly, try what has already been suggested in terms of talking to the priest beforehand about your nerves. The confessionals round here tend to come equipped with big and well-used boxes of tissues, so if you cry rest assured that you’re far from the only one! And if you get nervous, also rest assured you’d absolutely not be the only one.

Also think about using the screen and/or going to a parish where no-one knows you. If you take those precautions there’s no way the priest could recognise you - and who would he tell about your confession if he doesn’t know who it is who’s confessing?

Another thing - remember in this instance the priest is in exactly the same boat as you. He too sins in embarrassing ways, possibly worse and more embarrassing than anything you could have to confess. Remember that he too has to go through the nervous process of confessing those sins to another. All that means that there’s no reason on earth that he’d discuss your confession with anyone else - after all, he knows exactly what it feels like and exactly how he’d feel if someone broadcast his confessions to other people.

I’m sure if the priest can talk openly about it he’ll tell you any number of stories of people (kids especially) getting so nervous that they throw up, pass out, forget the sins that they intended to confess and the like.

Two things help me with my nerves. The first is a lot of prayer. Remember how scared Christ was in Gethsemane, and how in spite of that fear He went ahead with what He knew He had to do. Not because He wasn’t afraid afterwards, of course He must’ve been, but because He knew it was the right thing to do.

The second is to remember what we are taught as Catholics, that the uncomfortable, unpleasant and painful things in our lives actually have immense value when we offer them up in union with Christ’s sufferings. We need to remember the words of St Paul, who said ‘I rejoice in my sufferings, for I make up in my body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ’.

When we offer up our sufferings to God and courageously face them rather than avoiding, we are in fact co-operating with Christ’s work of redemption. What a wonderful opportunity and privilege He gives us by enabling us to be truly at one with Him in His sufferings as well as His glory to which those sufferings lead!

So get to praying and offer up the nerves, the anxiety and everything else that comes, because doing so contributes to your salvation and that of others.


#19

You received a tremendous amount of great advice in this thread. I will pray for you. You are in great company with those who have anxiety with confession. When we go we open up with our worst choices leaving all of our beauty behind. It is very humiliating but it is also profoundly reassuring to experience the mercy of God. No one here knows you like God does. God is Love. You do well to recognize the Eucharist as food for the journey. Remember that the priest has heard almost every sin imaginable and nothing will knock him off of his chair. The seal of the sacrament is something that you can trust since the priest is under the pain of excommunication if he were to reveal anything that you said to anyone.

I will pray that you go. If you are so afraid and cannot go this morning just know that God understands that you are trying your hardest. I pray that your next post exhibits that sigh of relief that we all feel once we rid ourselves of our sins…teachccd :slight_smile:


#20

Not knowing your time zone, praying you went or are going to go.


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