Confession, and then what?


#1

I am finally responding to the pressing need to go to Confession after over a year in mortal sin. It was not just one sin a year ago but soon became a state of not at all consistently trying to avoid mortal sin.

I have dreaded Confession itself for so long. Recently (perhaps in response to prayers I asked my spouse to pray about other issues I knew I needed God’s help with but felt I could not pray well for myself) my great resistance has been reversed.

I chose with full knowledge and consent to enter the state of mortal sin, but it seems clear a huge occasion of sin in the past was a tendency to scruples. It was a large part of why I gave up the effort last year. Despite how sinful I have been, when I put my mind again to avoiding mortal sin, let alone all sin, the scrupulous tendencies are still there. By using the word scrupulous I am not implying I am virtuous or holy “underneath” the mortal sins; it’s just the way my mind/emotions tend to work when I try to make decisions, to evaluate what needs to be done or not to be done. I spend so much time analyzing and doubting the rightness of things that are nowhere on a “list of sins” but that I can imagine being prohibited by application of a general principle. The problems this causes range from taking on significant burdens in important areas that may be unnecessary, to having a million little restrictions that may be unnecessary that don’t mean much individually but add up to making life outside a cloister very difficult for a person who is not cheerfully sacrificing all of these things out of love of God, but fearfully avoiding sin based on out of control doubt. Yet, it could be so easy to use a tendency to scruples to rationalize away even prudent doubt. After being quite sinful for as long as I have, it is even harder to trust my own judgment to resolve a doubt about what is permissible.

In the past I had many doubts about whether I have made a good Confession despite going on and on, sometimes going right back again. For the first one I would have to make, I have been so sinful priests would probably be less bothered by how long I took trying to make sure everything was said properly. I do not want to be inconsiderate but being “concise” often seems just about impossible for me. I do take this into account when choosing where and when I go.

I don’t want to go down the same road of paralysis affecting not only my confidence about the state of my soul even shortly after Confession, but everyday life because of depression/anxiety over decision-making and my relationship with God, and plans made around driving to a place with yet a different priest to confess to, or ASAP because of how often I fear I’ve committed a mortal sin.

I’ve also recently added heightened concern about “occasions of sin.” I think it was something I needed my eyes opened more widely to but the “what ifs” are multiplying and that feeling of paralysis and dread is back. I am horrified at the thought of trying to figure this one out alone with the way I have functioned in the past when confronted with moral uncertainties to be resolved! It is also making me question whether I can have that firm purpose of amendment when the idea of avoiding everything that could conceivably be considered a voluntary near occasion of sin feels overwhelming. I really need counsel with this. The way I am I am probably going to need to get into specifics about my personal life because I have read the general guidelines on occasions of sin enough times that if they could solve the problems they would have.

Other than a priest or other very qualified person I might find, I have no one to consult who is impartial since my spouse could be unconsciously biased toward decisions that make our life easier.

I am so daunted by the idea of finding a priest to be a regular confessor and/or spiritual director. They are legitimately busy people, and I can apparently be exasperating as well as time-consuming. I am also afraid of putting this off because I have felt briefly inspired to change before during this year away, and I really feel like I’ve been at a crossroads lately where taking a turn for the even worse seemed like the only alternative to asking God for forgiveness.

As for professional counseling to help with this, we just can’t afford it right now, and even if we could scrape up the money, even Catholic counseling has not been too helpful in the past, so I am I believe reasonably reluctant to add this to our budget and schedule for the foreseeable future. I am not dismissing out of hand that another try could be helpful but money is huge right now. I recognize the limitations a priest has to “treat” what could come from some kind of brain thing, but when I look for moral guidance from older books I wish it were easier to find that kind of relationship described wherein a confessor learns about you, and gives you direction for applying principles of Church teaching to your own situation that you can follow without worry of sinning by deceiving yourself as to what is permissible.

I don’t know where in earthly terms I can find this help. I have reason to believe a certain priest might be able to absorb a lot of the things I have to confess and ask about without it being a frustrating experience for either of us, but, and anyone with experience with people like me could probably see this coming, I’m wondering if he’s “orthodox” enough to trust. There may be some kind of pride in a sinner like me needing to hear a homily on Humanae Vitae or the like to be sure a priest acceptable to advise me how to stay out of mortal sin, but it doesn’t present itself to me that way, it’s like, “Can you afford to go to a priest for advice who hasn’t provided unassailable evidence that he’s as orthodox as others you are more afraid of?” The most I’ve heard of concern was saying he was “sure” that someone I knew nothing about who’d died was in Heaven, btw. Ugh (at myself.)


#2

Some suggestions:
[LIST]
*]You need ONE regular priest-confessor who can get to know you well. Try the one you mentioned. If he says something that doesn’t sound right to you, just politely ask him. If he’s trustworthy, he shouldn’t be offended. You have to start somewhere; trust God to lead you to the right priest. A scrupulous person should NOT go to confession to a lot of different priests (it’s like going to a lot of different doctors who don’t know what medicines the others have prescribed). Once you find one you trust, stick with him and obey his advice.
*]Understand the difference between confession, spiritual direction, and professional counseling. If you have something that is likely to take longer than an average confession, make an appointment with the priest. Respect his time.
*]Scrupulosity is often related to OCD. You very well may need professional counseling beyond what a priest can offer. Do seek a good CATHOLIC counselor who understands the nature of sin, confession, etc. If you don’t have a local one you can trust, try Dr. Gregory Popcak exceptionalmarriages.com/index.htm who does counseling by telephone. I have heard his radio call-in shows, and he is very good.
*]Trust in God’s mercy!
[/LIST]


#3

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *

Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse.

My prayers are for those who suffer with scrupulosity. I have no words of wisdom to offer regarding scrupulosity, as I do not understand it very well.

However, I tend to lean on Daily Mass and daily prayer (particularly the Most Holy Rosary - as many mysteries as possible), rather than my own judgment on what is right or wrong. In the Scripture it says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but it eventually leads to death.”(Proverbs 14:12)

There are many quotations attached to the Most Holy Rosary
As a ready and easy means of preserving the Faith
"…We have elsewhere brought it to the attention of the devout Christian that not least among the advantages of the Rosary is the ready means it puts in his hands to nurture his faith, and to keep him from ignorance of his religion and the danger of error." – Pope Leo XIII

As a means of Christian perfection
"… Therefore we are sure that Our children and all their brethren throughout the world will turn (the Rosary) into a school for learning true perfection, as, with a deep spirit of recollection, they contemplate the teachings that shine forth from the life of Christ and of Mary Most Holy." --Pope John XXIII

For final perseverance
"No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary-- either he will give up sin or he will give up the Rosary." – Bishop Hugh Boyle

The following are the 15 promises of Mary to Christians who recite the rosary:
(given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan)

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.
  3. The rosary will be a powerful armor against hell. It will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. Those who recommend themselves to me by recition of the Rosary shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conqured by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided eath; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recit the rosary shall have during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by recitation of the rosary.
  12. All those who propogate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion to my rosary is a great sign of predestination.

More information on the Most Holy Rosary, True Devotion to Mary, and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I find this helpful because I think we may have nearly opposite approaches to our spirituality. I assume everything is allowed unless I read about it being wrong in the Ten Commandments or anything infalliable or the New Testament or most of the Catholic Church is against it, read about it being inadvisable by a spiritual book by a great saint or written in conjunction with a great saint, or I have personal reasons to consider it immoral - in which case I tend to present the full story to a priest and allow him to advise me. As a result, I don’t spend too much time worrying. Perhaps, I should???

Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse.

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *


#4

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *

Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse.

As a result, I tend to see what I do or pray outside of the basics and that to me includes Daily Mass, and Daily Most Holy Rosary (I try with Divine office but I don’t see it as a necessity just yet) as extra, that helps earn me merit. And I try not to take on extra if I cannot do it purely. I remember the Annias and Saphias, where they sold a piece of land but lied about it. I think that either St. Peter or St. Paul told them - they didn’t have to sell the land but since they lied about it - it was a sin! So I fear about doing too much out of false motives.

Free information on almost all I know on devoting oneself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
Pereptual online Adoration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus louisville-catholic.net/WebCameras/AdorationChapel/tabid/825/Default.aspx
**(2.)**True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin montfort.org.uk/Writings/TrueDev.html
**(1.)****Secret of the Rosary ** montfort.org.uk/Writings/Rosary.html
Preparation for 33 day consecration to the Blessed Virgin saintlouisdemontfort.com/consecration.cfm
Reflections on True Devotion to Mary by His Holiness Pope John Paul II http://www.michaeljournal.org/montfort.htm
**The Glories of Mary, ** by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, one of the 33 Doctors of the Catholic Church, explains Hail Holy Queen http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/glories.htm
On the Dolors of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, one of the 33 Doctors of the Catholic Church, explains the sufferings of Our Lady http://writer.zoho.com/public/immaculate/Seven-dolors
Marialis Cultus (Apostolic Exhortation for the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of His Holiness, February 2, 1974 by His Holiness Pope Paul VI ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P6MARIAL.HTM
**(3.)**Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus en.wikisource.org/wiki/Devotion_to_the_Sacred_Heart_of_Jesus#FIRST_POINT._.E2.80.94_The_ardent_desire_Jesus_Christ_feels_to_be_with_us.
Divine Mercy Chaplet ewtn.com/Devotionals/mercy/dmmap.htm

For a great prayer life, I believe 1,2,3 in that order are wonderful helps.

Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse. Come Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse.

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *


#5

Thanks for your ideas and advice.

I’m not opposed to ever trying professional counseling again but it is currently impossible to afford. (This is not coming from someone who has vacations or cable TV to cut back on.) I have tried Catholics before.

I think it’s not so much not understanding the difference between therapy and spiritual direction that is a problem as that problems that one might take to therapy affect various aspects of life or they wouldn’t be problems. They can’t be compartmentalized well enough that a priest dealing with the spiritual life of a person with OCD or another psychological/psychiatric issue doesn’t have to deal with the psych issue to some extent in dealing with the person. I’m so bad at saying things concisely.


#6

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.