As a former college baseball coach and a lover of the game, I am frequently guilty of reducing life’s greatest lessons to a series of baseball analogies. I often tell my children that if they fail at various trials in life, they have to get up, dust themselves off, and get back in the box. Normally, I use this expression figuratively. This time, I mean it literally. When we fathers fall into sin, we have to get back in the box—the confessional box.
We are told that there is a crisis of the priesthood today—that there are not enough priests. However, if the only job of priests were to hear confessions, we would have a huge surplus. Whether we have a crisis of priests, one thing is sure: we have a crisis of Penance. The overwhelming majority of Catholics are not using the sacrament of Penance any more, especially men. If you are making good confessions regularly, then I, as a poor sinner, pray that God may continue to give you the grace of final perseverance. I also humbly ask your prayers to help me continue my lifelong journey of conversion. If you have not made a good confession in a while, you need to ask God for the grace to help you make a good confession now.
The effects of not using the sacrament of Penance are overwhelming. Those things that seem to weigh us down—our financial troubles, the political situation, our stresses at work—are not the things that are really hurting us.
Unconfessed sin weighs us down more than anything else. It creates a life of unhealthy fear and doubt. It creates a life in which we can’t be honest with God. It creates an environment of unforgiveness. Our inability to forgive others is often a result of the fact that we refuse to be forgiven ourselves. It also creates an unhealthy family environment. My mother has mentioned to home schooling groups that the reason we fathers have to teach our children the Faith is that we want our children to go to heaven with us.
The other side of the coin is this: we need to go to confession so that we can go to heaven with them. But unless we are living a life of repentance, we might be going to different destinations.
There is good news, and there is a cure for the chaos you may feel. Peace awaits you, and there is a very simple prescription: get back in the box. It is not “too late.” You are not “too far gone.” You haven’t made a good confession for decades? God will forgive you. You’ve lived in mortal sin for fifty years? God will forgive you. You are not even able to commit sins so grave or so numerous that God cannot forgive all of them. Jesus revealed to one of the saints that even if you have more mortal sins on your soul than all the grains of sand in the world, He would still forgive a repentant heart. St. Faustina wrote that she would confidently approach Jesus with all the sins of the world on her soul, and expect His Divine Mercy.
If you haven’t made a good confession for a long time, going to confession may be very hard for you to do. In fact, it might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Do it anyway. The harder it is to go will only make the satisfaction of a good confession that much more rewarding. Many men feel uncomfortable going to confession with their own parish priest. If you are uncomfortable with this, try another way. Call a priest in a different city and tell him that you haven’t been to confession in a long time, but that you want to set up an appointment to go to confession. It’s fine to admit to him that you are a little uncomfortable going to confession. (By the way, the sixth and ninth commandments are frequent topics in confession. You are not breaking any new ground by confessing these sins. I think in this day and age, priests are probably more surprised by men not confessing sins against purity than by confessing them.) Then make the best confession of your life. Make your confession with the idea that this may be the last one of your life.
Remember that Jesus is pleased with our repentance, and His mercy awaits us. Jesus said to Saint Faustina:
“Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one’s misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full.”
Fathers, let the mercy of Jesus overwhelm you. Go to confession as a family, and go to heaven as a family.