By Renee Webb
It’s the season of Lent. Along with prayer, fasting and almsgiving, many Catholics use this time leading up to the resurrection of Christ to take part in the sacrament of reconciliation.
To shed some light on confession, The Catholic Globe consulted Father Brad Pelzel, co-vicar general of the Diocese of Sioux City who also serves as administrator at Immaculate Conception Parish in Moville and St. Michael Parish in Kingsley. He provided answers to some frequently asked questions about the sacrament.
Q. What if I can’t remember how to go to confession?
A. As a priest, I am always willing to help anyone with any part of the confession they may have forgotten and I am practiced at “walking people through” their confession if they need the help.
Q. How often should I go to confession?
A. As a priest, I try to go to confession every month. For most people, every 3 or 4 months should be sufficient.
Q. Should I go to confession if I haven’t committed any sins?
A. Yes. We need to keep in mind that our sins don’t consist only of things that we’ve done, but things that we’ve failed to do as well. Far more often than we realize, we’ve failed to be patient, thoughtful or grateful for the people, events and love of God that is a part of our daily lives.
Q. How does one get the courage to make a sincere confession?
A. Remember that God already knows what we’ve done. What God is looking for is for us to be sorry for what we’ve done and to have a firm resolve to do the best we can to avoid sinning in the future. He uses the priest to talk to you about what is going on, and to be dispensers of his grace and mercy.
Q. What is the best way to prepare to go to confession?
A. There are many different “Examination of Conscience” lists out there. Go on the internet to find one, talk to your priest to see if he has one for you to use, or look for one in the pamphlets that are usually found in the back of most churches. Pick the one that seems to fit your situation, read through it carefully and spend some time in prayer. Then you’ll be fully ready.
Q. Why do some people call it confession, some reconciliation and others penance?
A. Over the years the name has changed to reflect how people approach the sacrament. Some call it confession because it is where they confess their sins, some call it penance because it’s not easy to admit to God or ourselves what we have done wrong and part of the sacrament involves doing a penance to demonstrate our contrition. Some call it reconciliation because sin estranges us from God and this sacrament reconciles us back to God.