It's hard for me to believe how long its been since I'd been to the sacrament of reconciliation. It had been a period of several months. Far too long. Since my conversion to Catholicism, I've been an every two week kind of guy. It certainly prevents the dust of the world from settling on you so thick that your way becomes hard to see, and your heart becomes hard. So a couple of weeks ago, I asked my most trusted priest, the man who shepherded me into the Catholic faith, if I could make an appointment for him to hear my confession. Today was the day.
I have a number of priests I turn to for confession, and I've found that making (and keeping!) an appointment for confession is the best way to make a good confession. Not only is it generally more relaxed and intimate, especially when done face to face, but you're not thinking of the person waiting in line behind you. They have as much right to the confessional as you do, after all, so it's only natural to sometimes feel a bit rushed. I also think it might give the priest the opportunity to listen, and engage you, and even give you a penance that is truly fitting for the occasion. It lets the priest be your priest.
One thing I always do - and in some respects this makes the process more of a challenge - is to prepare for confession. Another advantage to making an appointment is that it gives you the opportunity to reflect on what the Holy Spirit has been saying to you about your inner life, and where correction is needed, and where you might have gone off the rails. Having a trustworthy examination of conscience handy is a good thing. The bishops have approved a number of online confession apps, and I have found one that is now, for me, indispensable, even if at first it seems a little odd to enter into the sacrament with a cell phone in hand. But once you get used to it, it becomes indispensable. Not only does it help you prepare, it keeps track of when you last went to confession, and if you choose, can set a reminder that it's time to prepare again. Very handy.
Of course, preparation involves more than software. Reconciliation is more than something that appears on a spiritual to-do list. It is something that is to be done, but it should be done properly if the healing that is supposed to follow will actually take place. Here's another advantage to making an appointment. It gives you the opportunity to plan some quiet time of reflection. I once told a priest friend of mine, "You will never hear anything from me in a confessional that God has not heard first." (To which he replied, "And you will never say anything I haven't heard before.")
Going deep in confession really produces a great peace. And I have found that the sleep I get after reconciliation really is deeper and better than before. I have no easy explanation for that. It just is.
And so today was truly a day of peace.
—Deacon Chuck Hall
( Just a note to my Protestant friends who say a priest is not essential for confession. I'd like to ask you, 'When was the last time you did that? When was the last time you had a quiet session with God, alone, and confessed your sins?" I have never known anyone to do that on any kind of regular basis. As a Catholic, I believe in proceeding according to the instruction God has given, and in this case, I believe God has made clear that confession is to be a part of our regular piety, and the method He has established involves a priest. And as Chesterton writes, "When people ask me, or indeed anybody else, “Why did you join the Church of Rome?” the first essential answer, if it is partly an elliptical answer, is, “To get rid of my sins.” For there is no other religious system that does really profess to get rid of people’s sins. It is confirmed by the logic, which to many seems startling, by which the Church deduces that sin confessed and adequately repented is actually abolished; and that the sinner does really begin again as if he had never sinned.")