The Following is taken from an article I wrote for the St. Martin's newsletter. Many found it helpful, so I though more people might find it useful if I posted it on this blog. Enjoy.
Dear People of God,
A few months ago the topic of confession found its way into our discussion in adult education. As we talked together, I realized that very few episcopal priests ever teach on the sacrament of confession. Because of this, many of you may never have confessed your sins to a priest, and you might even be scared to do so. Let me ease your fears.
The classic Anglican teaching on confession is that “All may, none must, and some should.” Sacramental confession is not a requirement in our church as it is in the Roman Catholic Church, but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing. You might be saying, “I don't need to confess my sins to a priest, I can confess them directly to God.” If that is you, you are right, you don't need to confess your sins to a priest, and you can confess them directly to God. Be careful, though, because you may be missing out on two important things.
The first is that confessing to a priest requires that you take time to meditate on your sinfulness. For most of my life, I didn't like the idea of confessing to a priest, so I didn't. What I have realized though is that in all of that time, I rarely took time to examine myself and to ask for forgiveness for all of the ways that I had sinned. Thus, I wasn't keeping short accounts with God, and I really lacked in accountability.
The second important thing about the sacrament of confession is that it is a wonderful tool to use against Satan. Have you ever had a sin that you didn't really feel forgiven for? Even if you know in your head that God can forgive anything, you still might have a nagging suspicion that you haven't really been forgiven for that one thing. Satan knows this and he loves to use it against us. When you confess in the presence of a priest, however, you receive a definite assurance of forgiveness. You have conquered your shame by naming your sins to the priest. The priest says, “I absolve you,” and it is done.
That absolution is so final, that the priest can never bring it up ever again. Most of us know that a priest cannot tell the things they hear in a confessional to anyone else, but do you know that the priest cannot even mention your past sins to you? If you want to talk about a sin in your past that has been forgiven, you yourself must bring it up. Once it has been forgiven, it drops away. In fact, God frequently removes even the memory of that confession from the mind of the priest. As far as the east is from the west, that is how far your sins are removed from you.
If you have never before made a confession (or have not done so for a long time), this Lent might be a great time to begin the practice. I would encourage you to set up an appointment with me so that I can help you through the process of your first confession, and this way we can allow as much time as you need to feel comfortable. After that, you can check the Lenten schedule for posted times of confession, or your can always set up an appointment with me if none of those times work for you.
May God give you the grace to keep a holy lent this year.