Dear Father Angelo,
I would like to bring to your attention this problem of mine that currently afflicts me; it is always in my mind when I pray or when I partake of the Holy Mass. In order to do this, I have to start with a short introduction. I converted 5 years ago. After about 20 years away from the Lord, I decided to confess and free myself from the weight of my sins. From that day on, dear father, I am afraid even to tell a single lie. That confession I made was liberating, I cried a lot, large drops fell from my eyes, not tears. The priest told me about the prodigal son and I was crying like a child, I felt a strong pain for having offended the Lord, but at the same time those tears were due to the strong feeling I was experiencing, just as if Jesus was hugging me, and I was caught off guard by that infinite love of his. At the end of the confession the priest gave me as penance 1 pater, 1 ave and 1 gloria and then told me that after saying these prayers I should open the gospel and read. So I did, and to my amazement, when I opened the gospel, the passage about the prodigal son appeared.
Now after 5 years the doubt suddenly comes to me: what if I have not properly confessed my very serious sins against God? And then my mind came up with sins I had committed when I was about 13 and that I didn’t even consider as such, and therefore I never confessed. In addition, I did not confess some other sins in detail , explaining them well … the only thing I did was cry out of pain and emotion because of that infinite love. I therefore ask you to enlighten me: what should I do, do I have to confess again? Am I in mortal sin? Dear father, if only I think I still have a mortal sin inside me, oh, I would rather die a thousand times but never offend God, but not for fear of going to hell, but because to hurt Him is to hurt me, I don’t know if I’m explaining myself properly, and I would never want to lose his grace. But it is happening to me that, when I pray, it is as if I feel something negative that tells me that I am in mortal sin, and that disturbs me so much and makes me feel bad. Please help me. Thank you.
Answer from the priest
1. in the confession you gave there was the will to be reconciled with the Lord.
If all the sins of the past life had occurred to you, you would certainly have declared them.
Therefore you must consider yourself in the grace of God. Do not be afraid.
2. However, if serious sins occur to you that you have not declared, you will tell them in the next confession that you will give without haste.
The declaration of sins is necessary because it belongs to the divine right.
And, although you are already in the grace, this declaration is instrumental both for the priest to suggest possible remedies and because the Lord wants to shed his redeeming Blood in a specific way on those wounds as well, having said: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23).
3. I suggest that you always go to the same confessor, so that he gets a true picture of your situation.
So if the confessor tells you: “Now don’t go back any more, don’t confess any more the sins of your previous life” you will obey him.
This means that the sins you intended to declare already belonged to the same kind as those you confessed, and that he well understood the condition of your soul.
4. You tell me that you converted about five years ago after twenty years of being away from the Lord.
From what you write to me, one might think that for five years now you have not confessed again because, thanking God, there have been no more serious sins in your life.
5. Nonetheless, confession, which is a healing sacrament, is also very useful in giving remedy to venial sins.
Therefore, for the sake of the progress of your spiritual life, I advise you to confess regularly and frequently, and possibly always with the same confessor so that he becomes, as Father Bosco said, the father of your soul.
6. I like to recall in this regard what John Paul II said in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia: “Though the church knows and teaches that venial sins are forgiven in other ways too – for instance, by acts of sorrow, works of charity, prayer, penitential rites – she does not cease to remind everyone of the special usefulness of the sacramental moment for these sins too.
The frequent use of the sacrament – to which some categories of the faithful [Note: this means priests, seminarians, consecrated] are in fact held – strengthens the awareness that even minor sins offend God and harm the church, the body of Christ. Its celebration then becomes for the faithful “the occasion and the incentive to conform themselves more closely to Christ and to make themselves more docile to the voice of the Spirit.”(194)
Above all it should be emphasized that the grace proper to the sacramental celebration has a great remedial power and helps to remove the very roots of sin” (RP 32).
Wishing you ever increasing progress in the spiritual life, I remember you in prayer and I bless you.