Confession and the Real Presence

I’m 16 years old, and I’d been away from the sacrament of Reconciliation since my first one back in 3rd grade – until last Sunday. I met with a priest about some other issues, but told him that I had fallen into some sin, and he asked me if I would like to go to Confession. I said yes, but told him I wasn’t sure how it was done really, since it had been so long. (Though I go to mass every weekend, my family doesn’t stress Confession.) I never fully understood the point of it until Sunday. I’m ashamed to admit I’d been straying more towards some Protestant ideas. But having the priest absolve me, and finally trusting that God forgave me… it was really kind of amazing, though I didn’t realize it right away.

At any rate, where I’m going with this is I have some questions about Confession and also the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Something about going to Confession kind of pulled me back towards Catholicism and reminded me that that’s where I’m grounded.

When you go to Confession, can you discuss other things with the priest? Like how does this kind of exchange normally work if there are other things outside the actual confession you wish to discuss? It was different for me this time, because Confession wasn’t the whole point of our meeting. I wasn’t really prepared to do it, and didn’t know what I was doing.

Also, what exactly is the Real Presence? How can I come to understand and appreciate it more fully and profoundly? Right now I’m not sure I really believe it, but I really would like to learn more.

Thank you so much!

~Lefty

Lefty,

I commend you for your decision to seek confession and your desire to understand the real presence. Read the information presented in the following link:

catholic.org/prayers/confession.php

After you read this information you will have a good understanding of how confession works. I am not sure what other questions you have for the priest but if you wish you can ask him questions in confession.

As for your question regarding the real presence please read the following link:

therealpresence.org/eucharst/realpres/a12.html

Here is an excerpt from that link:

"And as they were eating,
He took bread, and blessed, and broke it,
and gave it to them, and said,
‘Take; this is my body.’

(Mark 14:22)
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks
he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.
And he said to them,
‘This is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many.’

(Mark 14:23-24)

The simplest way to express what Christ asks us to believe about the Real Presence is that the Eucharist is really He. The Real Presence is the real Jesus."

Reconciliation can also be a time for some spiritual guidance, if time permits. If there is a long line of people waiting to confess, it is appropriate to make an appointment with the Priest to talk about other things.

If you can muster $20, there is a book that will really help you understand your faith. It is called Catholicism for Dummies, written by two excellent Priests. It is a gold mine of information about the faith.

As to the Real Presence, it is the consecrated host (bread) that has become the Body of Christ. Catholics are taught that it is our Lord with us. Since the consecrated Host contains Jesus in His fulness (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity), it is His “real presence” with us. It is the reason that the red candle is lit beside the Tabernacle - it indicates that our Lord is present in the Holy Eucharist.

Most parishes offer a time during the week when our Lord, in the form of the consecrated Host is displayed in a polished brass “monstrance” on the Altar. The faithful then go and spend time before our Lord in adoration, praise, thanksgiving, propitiation and petition. This is known as “Adoration” or “Holy Hour”. Ask your parish when they offer Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This is your chance to go and spend time with our Lord. It can transform your life. Really. This is also explained in the Dummies book.

The Lord is calling you to be an example of faith to your family.

Christ’s peace be with you.

Perhaps you could make another appointment with the father to discuss other things and then ask him about asking questions about other things in the confession setting. I can’t foresee it being a big issue, but then our parish is small so there isn’t long lines for confession that I am aware of.

Or even just after mass, go and speak with him.

That is one thing I love about my parish is the ability to just walk up to our priest and ask what I need to and not feel like I shouldn’t be doing that.

Thank you so much, everyone – that really helps. :thumbsup:

I have a few more questions: first, how many sins is it “normal” to confess? I know this could be a kind of personal question, but I’m just wondering… how small do you go? Also, God can forgive sins if you ask Him directly, right? I never really understood Confession before, since my family doesn’t stress its importance, but I do know that going last week has really helped me in a lot of ways, so it must do something different than just asking God to forgive you privately. I guess I’m just not clear on what that difference is.

The other thing – a Protestant friend of mine says the Real Presence is like re-crucifying Jesus. I know that’s not what it is, but I’m still a little unsure. Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist, I get that part (well, on the surface. I’m still working on completely trusting and believing it), but from the article, it sounds like His body and everything is actually IN the Eucharist. How? Or is this part of the mystery and we’re not supposed to understand it?

One last question: during the Consecration, the priest says, “may your angels take this sacrifice to Your altar in heaven so that it can become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” (something like that – I’m pulling from my memory here). I don’t understand the use of “sacrifice” in that context; what does that mean? Is Jesus the sacrifice being referred to?

Sorry for all of the questions. :o This has really been a kind of amazing week for me, though, and I feel really close to understanding these parts of Catholicism and my faith a LOT better. Thanks so much for your help!

~Lefty

The Priest sits in the person of Christ (in persona Christi), so you see the Priest, buy you should think “Christ”. It is only with the authority of Christ that your sins are forgiven. Well, you can ask your Priest how small you should go. Anything that offends God is certainly worth mentioning. The big ones for sure. Go once a month, or more if you know you’ve messed up.

Your protestant friend is poorly informed, and is passing on mistakes that he has heard from others who are just as misinformed. The sacrifice of Jesus is outside of time - it is eternal, since it must serve all generations, not just the generation of Jesus’ time. At the mass, Jesus’ sacrifice is made present to us. It is the one, true Sacrifice of our Lord for all time. In that regard, we travel through time - or time travels to us to make the sacrifice present in the here and now. Christ cannot ever be crucified again. Some protestants tend to view the crucifixion as striclty in the past.Well, Jesus, being God, does not live in time, but in eternity. Man lives in time. During the mass, eternity becomes present as we stand at the foot of the cross.

Through the grace of God, we join our sacrifice of bread and wine to the sacrifice of our Lord, so that the bread and wine that we have before us will become the Body and Blood of Jesus. At the same time, we also offer our very selves to God, joining ourelves to the one, eternal sacrifice. Offering ourselves to God’s service is also a sacrifice (of our lives to Him), but many nowadays simply don’t see it.

Many protestants have theology that, compared to Catholic theology, is very thin. There is precious little depth to it. Some just believe that “It’s me and Jesus” and that’s all there is to faith and salvation. Not. They often do not know as much of the bible as Catholics do. Some tend to focus only on bible verses that they like, and ignore all the rest.

I already mentioned Catholicism for Dummies. I only recently bought a copy myself and, believe me, it has the 411 on Catholicism. It’s a confusion eraser. Get one!

Confession should really just be for confession as generally there are others waiting. If you have spiritual questions, I suggest e-mailing your Priest and scheduling an appointment.

As to the “Real Presence” 1st - begin attending mass every Sunday and really attend. Don’t just show up and think that counts. Leave your cell phone and any other distractions behind - either at home or in your car. If you find yourself “people watching” sit in the front pew so that others around you will be less of a distraction.

I would also recommend making time to attend adoration. Adoration can be a very powerful time for quiet prayer and reflection. Most churches offer Adoration monthly although some offer it weekly and still others offer 24 hour perpetual adoration.

You have made a very good start in coming back to the Lord. Don’t give up!! and go easy on yourself…it will take time to relearn all you have forgotten.

I don’t imagine there is any “normal” number of sins to confess. I think when we were growing up - for some reason - the magic number was 3. As adults, it really does vary. There was a time not too long ago, that I went with a list of 9 or 10 or a dozen things. The Lord had given me the list when I was in Adoration, and so I went with it. Often times there are 4 or 5 things. Sometimes just a couple.

The grace that you receive from sacramental confession is one of the things that makes it so special - different from just going straight to God. Grace that will help you to avoid the sins you confessed in the future. While some things come up again and again, I can not tell you how often I confess something, and from that point on, it ceases to be much of an issue at all in my life.

Congratulations on your “second confession.” Echoing what someone else said about going once a month.

I sometimes bring up questions in confession if there is no one else waiting. During high-traffic times (Lent, Advent, First Fridays) I just stick to the issues.

welcome home, even if your journey was a short one, back in the arms of Christ in his grace is home

what you describe, talking to the priest about other aspects of your spiritual life outside confession is called “spiritual direction”. You usually make an appointment for this. Some priests are more gifted than others in this and he may refer you to someone, but your pastor should be willing to make time for you with personal questions that are not appropriate for your RE class or a general discussion, yet are not about sin. For a teen or young lady he will probably want the setting to protect your privacy, yet still have people around, just for the proper atmosphere, perhaps in an office with a glass window, or at the end of a hallway where you can be seen but not heard.

the Real Presence means, that because Christ says so plainly in the gospels, several times, he himself is present, Body, Blood, soul and Divinity, complete, entire, glorified, undivided in the Blessed Sacrament so he is who we receive in communion and who we adore when we pray before the sacrament.

Bear in mind a priest is not necessarily a counsellor and is primarily there to help you with the matters that affect the condition of your soul. He can give advice on problems with parents, relationships etc. but if he thinks you would benefit from more professional care he will refer you. Some examples where the pastor is the one to talk to, outside confession: you have doubts or questions about the faith that are not being answered in your RE/CCD/school religion class. you are discerning a vocation either to marriage or religious life, you are having trouble living according to your Catholic beliefs in daily life which don’t involve sin but are hard choices.

Lefty some other great books. Rediscovering Catholicism by Mathew Kelly and The Lambs Supper by Scott Hahn. Both are excellent books that can deepen your underestanding of your faith. Welcome back.

There isn’t any limit to the number of sins you can confess. Confess every sin you are aware of. There are examinations of conscience online and probably in your church to help you prepare.

Thank you all so much; this really helps!

One more question: I understand now why you aren’t supposed to receive Communion in a state of mortal sin, but can you be forgiven of mortal sins if you go directly to God? Or does it half to be through Confession? And if so, why?

I have been struggling with masturbation, and slipped today for the first time since going to Confession. I did not want to do it, because I knew it was wrong, but yet I did – even if only for a brief minute before I got control of myself and begged God to forgive me. Was this a mortal sin? The soonest I can get to Confession is after mass on Sunday, and even that is iffy, and I know how badly I need Communion right now… :frowning:

Certainly, one may be forgiven directly by God, but it requires perfect contrition of the heart. And, that is not how God set His Church up. He sent Apostles and gave them power over sin in His Name. Look even into the Old Testament: Nehemiah 9. Public confession was the practice. Keeping the confession of sin a matter between you and the Church keeps you from insulating yourself from the Church. It gives you a sense that you are hurting not only yourself, but also the Church, which is Christ’s Body on earth. If you confess directly to God, how does God then give you spiritual direction? What if the “direction” you receive is not actually from God? We are surrounded by spirits that seek only to lead us astray. What then?

Also, look at Jesus’ actions in healing and forgiving sin: He told the sinner, in so many words: “Your sins are forgiven”. This was designed to provide comfort and assurance that the sins were actually forgiven. How do you hear Jesus’ words when you confess directly to God?

You are far from alone in your sin. Yes, it separates you from God, and He has placed the Priest in authority over your sins to destroy them and repair that damaged relationship you have with God.

Imagine that you are on a rope bridge to God. Sin is the knife in your hand. The knife does not repair, but can only destroy. With that knife, you can cut the bridge, which puts you in danger of falling and cuts you off from God. You will still know of God’s existence, but you will not be able to reach him. He who lives by the knife will also die by the knife.

The Priest is the bridge repairman, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the tool that he uses to repair that bridge.

Certainly, one may be forgiven directly by God, but it requires perfect contrition of the heart. And, that is not how God set His Church up. He sent Apostles and gave them power over sin in His Name. Look even into the Old Testament: Nehemiah 9. Public confession was the practice. Keeping the confession of sin a matter between you and the Church keeps you from insulating yourself from the Church. It gives you a sense that you are hurting not only yourself, but also the Church, which is Christ’s Body on earth. If you confess directly to God, how does God then give you spiritual direction? What if the “direction” you receive is not actually from God? We are surrounded by spirits that seek only to lead us astray. What then?

Also, look at Jesus’ actions in healing and forgiving sin: He told the sinner, in so many words: “Your sins are forgiven”. This was designed to provide comfort and assurance that the sins were actually forgiven. How do you hear Jesus’ words when you confess directly to God?

That makes SO much sense! I’ve been struggling for years to accept that God’s forgiven me, and I couldn’t do it until after I went to Confession two weeks ago (and even then, I didn’t realize it right away). It’s kind of a link between the individual and the Church, right?

The Priest is the bridge repairman, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the tool that he uses to repair that bridge.

Isn’t God the repairman, too, though? And Reconciliation, through the priest, is the tool He uses? Or am I looking at this backwards?

At any rate, thank you so much; that really helps. One other question: is it possible to achieve perfect contrition, even if you don’t feel wholly sorry for what you’ve done at first? I’ve been having a hard time with motives and sincerity lately (I’m indifferent to a lot of things), and I’m a little worried about my sincerity in Confession. I’m afraid that it’s going to become a crutch, like “even though it’s wrong, I can masturbate because I can go to Confession and be forgiven.” How do I keep from using God’s forgiveness like that?

Thanks!

Just to add, note that the Sacrament of Reconcilliation doesn’t only reconcile us with God, it reconciles us with His Church. The priest stands as a representative to both God and Church. If we go to God directly, how do we reconcile with His Church?

We, each of us, are parts of Christ’s Body on earth. When one part suffers, the whole Body suffers.

Certainly! However, God works through the Priest in all of His Sacraments. I speak only of that which you can see. The power comes from Him Whom we cannot see.

Perfect contrition means that you are sorry to the very core of your being - for having sinned against God. Not that you fear punishment, or know that it’s a sin, but that your choice has grieved the very God Who gave you life. Perfect contrition requires such a degree of holiness, such a degree of perfection, that you most likely would not have sinned in the first place.

Intent to sin again can render your confession invalid, since your act of contrition may not have been sincere. No Sacramental grace can flow to a heart that is not disposed to receive it. Look at these two Acts of Contrition - one older, the other more modern. Read through them slowly, word by word. Stop when you get to the bolded part. Focus strongly on those words in particular:

Act of Contrition

        O my God, I am heartily sorry for
        having offended you, and I detest
        all my sins, because of Your just
        punishments, but most of all because
        they offend You, my God, who are
        all-good and deserving of all my love.
        I firmly resolve, with the help of
        Your grace, **to sin no more and to
        avoid the near occasion of sin**.

Act of Contrition (modern)

        My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
              In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
              I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.
              I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, **to sin no more,
              and to avoid whatever leads me to sin**.
              Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
              In His name, my God, have mercy.
              Amen.

These words must be from your heart, expressing your firm resolve to do what is necessary to avoid sin, or even the occasions of sin. In sexual sin, that means thoughts and actions. You cannot look upon another with lust, you cannot look at porn (or most of today’s movies actually), and you cannot entertain impure thoughts. Each sin begins with an impure thought. You have to make some adjustments in your life.

Again, you are not alone. Every human who has ever lived has faced these struggles. Sin can be defeated, but it takes resolve. Time spent before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration is especially powerful against sin. The Rosary is a powerful tool against impurity.

But, expect some spiritual attacks, since the evil one knows your weakness very well. He hates the Sacraments, since they draw you closer to God and further away from the devil’s influence.

Christ’s peace be with you.

I have similar questions and would appreciate some guidance. I was raised Catholic and I’ve always considered myself a “Catholic,” but haven’t always been a faithful one. My last confession was about 3 and a half years ago, but there were things I didn’t confess out of fear.

I plan to return to confession, and I want to give a good confession after a good examination of conscience. My primary concern is that we are supposed to confess all mortal sins by number and name. But there are some things I did over a period of years out of bad habit that would be virtually impossible to count by number.

Is it permissible to confess that you engaged in something over a period of years? The issue of the “name and number” of sins is concerning to me, because I truly want to give a good confession, and while I may remember certain sins, I couldn’t even guess how many times I did them.

I can’t tell you how many times I missed mass for example, because I attended sporadically for years.

Thanks in advance for any input. I truly appreciate it.

Praise God that you have received the grace of returning to the practice of your faith! Let the Priest be your guide, and simply explain to him at the beginning that you are returning after quite an absence. As to number and kind, the kind is usually easy. The number you may estimate, as I’m sure you did not keep track! Number is important, but kind is equally important, as it marks the differences between mortal and venial sins.

Go here for a list of various examinations of conscience, which you may do ahead of time. Write sins down if you think you may forget them. Mention also that you purposely failed to confess some sins before. That could have invalidated your prior confessions, so you have been bearing the weight of all of those sins with you. It will be a blessed relief once they are gone.

Rather than fear of confession, it is more appropriate to fear not confessing. Once you hear the words of absolution, your sins are destroyed and God remembers them no more. It is an exhilarating sensation to leave the confessional with your soul as pure as the day you were baptized.

Christ’s peace be with you.

“Number” does not have to be exact unless it’s something unforgettable like murder. If it’s a sin that has been committed many times over a long period of time, it’s fine to estimate. For example, “I only attended Mass at Easter and Christmas for a period of 7 years.” “I had a sexual relationship with someone not my spouse that lasted for 8 months.” “I regularly stole from my employer for three years, amounting to a total of about $45,000.” “I have viewed pornography about five times a week for the last year.” These estimates give a clear picture of how much sin has been committed without doing a lot of impossible math. Does this help?

Your responses are very helpful. Thank you!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.