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Video – Help me understand confession

Help Me Understand Confession

Help Me Understand Confession:

Fr. John Bartunek and Dan Burke talk about how to better understand confession.


“The Father has shown forth his mercy by reconciling the world to himself in Christ and by making peace for all things on earth and in heaven by the blood of Christ on the cross. The Son of God made man lived among us in order to free us from the slavery of sin and to call us out of darkness into his wonderful light … The Lord said to Peter: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed also in heaven' (Matthew 16:19).” (From the Rite of Penance, paragraph 1)

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    I find myself searching for sins I’ve committed before I go to confession. I get very nervous going to confession because I don’t know if I’m saying my sins. I know the 10 commandments are sins. Do I confess my pride and jealousy?

    • Dear Friend: In every email we send out there is a resource at the bottom called “Encounter With Mercy” I strongly recommend you purchase and read this resource. It will help you to find peace and clarity on this matter.

  • Vivian ike

    I have to run to the confession boot as soon as possible, this video was amazing! I’ve got my confidence back and exactly what I needed at the right time! Thank God and His blessing to you both, Fr John and Dan!

  • BeckitaMaria

    Amen. Alleluia!

    How lovely on the mouontains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

  • It’s comforting to know that priests don’t remember the sins we confess. 
    But there is one confession I know where the priest definitely remembered! We all remember! :))Many little kids are curious about Holy Communion. Wondering why they can’t receive the Host yet… My younger brother was one of them. He was in Grade 2 and they were supposed to have their first Holy Communion early December. But they couldn’t wait. And so one day, he and two friends went to Mass before class. They lined up for Holy Communion. Their uniforms had a grade 2 patch, which they promptly covered with their ballpens. Fortunately, Father Unson SJ noticed them and said “You, you, the three of you, scurry back to your classrooms” They scurried! Father has told people this story several times in his homilies. And my brother’s friend gives him a jab when that happens… Father Unson and my bro have become pretty close… 🙂 But it doesn’t end there… This is the part that Father leaves out but we learned about from my brother…Months later, my brother had his first confession. Went he went to the confessional, wouldn’t you know it, Fr. Unson SJ was his confessor! When my brother confessed, “I tried to sneak Holy Communion,” Father replied with a “I remembered that!” And they actually laughed about it in the confessional! 

    Not at all solemn I suppose. But on reflection, I guess its good for our humility if we learn to laugh at ourselves sometimes… To be truly sorry then move on…Truthfully, something I do not do well at all… 

    • That was a lovely episode in your Brother’s young life. I am positive Jesus was very pleased with him.  So was He, when the youngsters just wanted to receive Him.  Remember His Words to Saint Faustina Kowalska…”the souls of little children throw Heaven into ecxtasy”

  • LizEst

    Great video. I plan to send this on to many. It will be a good resource for our upcoming journey from Lent to Easter and Pentecost, too. God bless you, Fr. John and Dan. Thank you so much.

    ps. Fr. John – I loved how you spoke about the grace being almost tangible, almost palpable. That has been my sense of this sacrament for some time now! Thanks for confirming that.

    • And LizEst, I pray you will celebrate appropriately the Divine Mercy Sunday which falls on the 7th of April and have all your Sins and Punishment thereof wiped out and your soul restored to the condition it was in on the Day you were Baptized.

      • LizEst

        Thank you, Mary…hope to see your picture soon! If you are having difficulty with this, perhaps one of your children/grandchildren can give a hand.

        • Oh, LizEst, yes I am stuck but I was able to send it to Becky I know not how!!!!! The grandchildren are so far away…..two in Canada, one in California  and my beloved 15-year old “husband” is about 250 ksm away in School….but I will get my niece to come to my aid

          • LizEst

            I am glad you were able to get it to Becky. I hope she will share it, soon. Thank you. Wow! Your family is sure spread out all over the place.

  • Confession brings such peace in knowing you are recieving God’s mercy. I did go to confession Saturday and because of some traumatic things that happen to me I felt to confess it. I was however worried about traumatizing the confessor. I learned through this video that God does give grace to the confessor to listen to some pretty traumatizing events. I have been trying to go to the same confessor but this has not been easy. I have made appointments with him so as to not take too much time in the confessional so as to give others a chance to receive the sacrament of mercy. This confessor does not do spiritual direction so I see another person for spiritual direction that is not a priest. . This can be difficult in separating Spiritual direction and confession. I have a question about confession one being why is it so dark in the confessional. The other I actually type out my sins or temptations or what ever I feel I need to bring up in confession in like a letter starting Heavenly Father I am sorry for…… I have to bring a flash light into confession just to read off my letter to God. The confessor laughs, but I am sure other people have done this before. I experienced on one occasion when the confessor was giving me absolution my mind went blank I could not hear it and for a week I went on thinking well maybe God did not forgive me but the next confession I was reassured that I was forgiven. I had a PTSD durring confession. I told this to my regular confessor he did not say anything other continue on with counseling. I was also given contradictory advice from a confessor which contradict my spiritual director. In confession is it good to say I want to let you know I do have a spiritual director? I do have alot of questions about confession and sometimes I feel weekly confession I am just wasting the confessor’s time or abusing the sacrament. Can this be possiable. I however feel I need the grace of this sacrament to be at peace and prevent grievous sins. Does others feel this way. What do you Father John think about this. I am getting a book about making frequent confessions but I am concerned about some of these issues. Thanks for the video and showing the beauty of the sacrament of God’s mercy.

    • Becky Ward

      Dear Teresa,

      Your comment about a confessor telling you something that contradicted what your spiritual director told you is one good reason to have two people that are familiar with you and what is happening in your spiritual life. I would suggest you discuss it with your spiritual director, AND see if you can learn what the Church teaches about the particular sin/issue so that you are informed and on solid ground.

    • Teresa, Weekly Confession is not a waste of time – for the Priest or for Jesus Christ Himself to Whom you confess.  And yes, it is very wise to note down your sins and transgressions.  This old gal has discovered that her memory of what happens during the week is not as good as it was.  So she has adopted the habit of noting down every evening during Prayers what sins/transgressions/imperfections she committed. Come the Confession Day, she reads them through either before she leaves the House or before the Blessed Sacrament before Confession.  She then leaves it to the Holy Spirit to tell Jesus the sins she is to confess and she does just that.  That way, she is assured of a Blessings-filled Absolution and Advice.

    • Terese10


      These are some very good questions. For some of us dealing with PTSD or other types of circumstances things are not as clear/clean as they are to lots of other people regarding how to confess. I think if I were you I’d discuss it with my spiritual director. I have found (and this varies with where you live) that priests here are overwhelmed with work so even though I usually confess to the same priest and have met with him outside confession there is only so far a confessor in this day and age and place where I live can do to provide good specific counsel. God bless you. It helped me to hear you say you had PTSD (I know, very strange) but it made me realize I’ve had that too. I hadn’t really connected my PTSD with how I acted in the confessional before.

      • I meet with my regular confessor once a month outside of the confessional. I guess I need to ask him directly. I am wondering what Fr. John’s thoughts on this.

      • Yes PTSD does influence how we confess. I am learning this as I go along. It is like I treat them as distractions and temptations or cause of,pattern behavior. I actually became discourage in going to confession because even though I was sorry for this pattern behavior I could not seem to change it or decrease it. My confessor said with PTSD you right now don’t have control,over this pattern of behavior. He also encourage to continue to confess it but right now you have no control. Lately I have been feeling maybe I am not contrite enough and so this is why I am not changing. In this particular behavior which is a form of spiritual panic and so I get discouraged because I do see it as a mortal sin. Scruples or not I think it is offensive to God. However I am reminded that this PTSD related behaviors is out of my control. So I just have to trust in my confessors and spiritual director’s words. It is even more humiliating but now I am quite used to it. I went to confession two days ago and I ask if this was the confessional line and a lady laughed and said no we are saints we don’t need confession. I said even saints went to confession. So that alone opened my eyes to why I am confessing things I can not control that are PTSD related is because I want to take away from my soul that in which is keeping me away from loving and serving God. Thanks for your prayers.

        • My Dear “Family”.  Please tell this old gal what is PTSD.  What are its symptoms?  How does it manifest itself? What is the treatment for it? 

          • Pat

            I think they are referring to Post Tramatic Stress Sydrome, like that suffered by those impacted by war or some other tramatic event.

          • Thanks, Pat.  Now I get what that good Doctor of mine calls my very low stress tolerance level.  Whenever I had a problem, either in my life or when my children or Grandchildren were facing problems, illness or other difficulties, I would very worried, feel helpless which made me very depressed such that I ended suffering from stomac ache and  I was unable to sleep.  So, from 2007, my Doctor placed me under medication to ensure that I can sleep soundly for 7 or 8 hours. Probably this emotional and psychological condition impacts me in my Spiritual Life as well.  I pray when I do find another Spiritual Director, we shall go into this and he will be in a position to advise me appropriately.

          • Pat

            PS I meant Post Tramatic Stress Disorder – PTSD.

          • Aaah, yes……that I now can recognize.  It is a distressful situation to live with.  But then one need not worry that it seriously affects one’s Spiritual Life…..God knows when we are offending Him with our full faculties  intact, our reasoning normal and with full knowledge of the seriousness of what we are about to do – or say, and we defiantly proceed to do what we have decided without any impediment…..As the CCC teaches us, for a Sin to be so, those Three Conditions are necessary.  If other conditions are present, the Sin is purely venial.

    • Pat

      It sounds as if you are suffering from scrupulosity like me. There is a little pamphlet called “Scroupulous Anonymous” from Liguori Publications (online) to which you can subscribe or just read online, also you can print out the “10 Rules for the Scroupulous” by St. Alphonsus Ligouri, himself suffering from scroupulosity. Although difficult to find, I am more comfortable having my Confessor be my Director as well. Father John would know, but my “opinion” would be that it always safer when there is a contradiction in advice, to follow one’s Confessor. Do you have a relatively close Retreat House or the like? Good place to find a Priest Director who can also hear your Confession and on those occasion, (once a month I believe is the usual) when you receive Spiritual Direction, and can get your questions answered. Some modern confessional are not so dark; I actually used to do what you are doing – write down my sins – until my Confessor/Director suggested not to do so. What people like you and me need to do is pray for trust, that God is merciful and wants to forgive more than even we want forgiveness; He isn’t interested so much in a “perfect” Confession as in our good intentions. After all we are only obliged to confess mortal sins which I doubt you even commit. Generally scroupulous people are rarely guilty of serious sin. Many years ago I used to go to weekly Confession, but I came to realize that every two weeks was better for me so that I was not constantly thinking of my sins. At this point in life (senior citizen), I am much better when it comes to scroupulosity which usually is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, according to “Scroupulous Anonymous”. Let us pray for each other. Know that many – like me – know the suffering you are enduring; may you find consolation in knowing you are not alone. God loves you (me) and is very happy – even proud – of our efforts, I believe.

      • Yes we will pray for one another to be healed of out scruples. Thank you for your insight and comments.

  • Gloryb2God

    My cousin is a priest and he uses this analogy to help people understand why they need confession even though they may not see or recognize the need. 
    When children are called to dinner, their mother tells them to first wash their hands.  The child may argue – but I don’t have to wash my hands, they’re not dirty. The mother doesn’t back down and reluctantly the child submits to hand washing. 
    As the child grows to adulthood, hand washing becomes part of the mealtime ritual and as an adult, he  no longer needs reminders because he can recognize the need on his own; he can tell just by rubbing his fingers together if his hands are clean or dirty.  
    Confession is like that.  First we need to develop a good habit of frequenting the confessional (once a month is a good practice).  After years of practice we will notice if too much time passes between confessions and we will begin to feel a kind of ‘grimy’ sense about ourselves.  This is our reminder – go wash your hands.  

  • Amen! You made me want to go to confession right now! The more “grace” the better for me, others, and the Church. Thank you.

  • Jeanne Borrman

    Is there a way  can get the video’s content in print? It is hard for hearing impaired.

    • No Jeanne – sorry

    • LizEst

      Jeanne – if you post your email address, I will make a transcript for you and send it to you.

  • What an inspiring video presentation!  I love confession and some of my Catholic friends are amazed at my eagerness for the sacrament.  It is very cleansing and I enjoy the blessings of the one on one as I feel so much closer to Christ then if I do confession in a Confessional or as I call it “a priest in a box”.  It is more meaningful for me.  When I confess, I usually preface it by saying “it is what has separated me from God” since my last confession. 

  • Pat

    I mostly only have difficulty with Confession when going face to face. I have a sensitive, mildly scroupulous conscience and tend to be hard on myself, not even being able – at times – to tell the difference between sin and no sin. When a priest does not understand this even when knowing this about me, I can get disturbed and discouraged. What does a person like me do? It seems to be very difficult for me to find a priest who understands the scroupulous.
    The Jesuits and the Redemptorists seem to be better in this area because of the “Spiritual Evercises of St. Ignatius and St. Alphonsus Ligouri (himself scroupulous and his10 Rules for the Scroupulous). Where can a person like me find a Confessor? I’m not annoyingly scroupulous for a priest and when giving a direction am very peaceful about being able to follow a priests direction about such things i.e. “No need to confess this…not a sin. But I do need this kind of direction and instruction. 

  • Fr. John, Dan, this is beautiful.  Just what I was trying to explain to my fellow Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy this Tuesday in our Weekly Cenacle Meeting.  I will forward this Video to them. 

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