On Concealing Sins in Confession

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The Confession - by LONGHI, Pietro - from Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


And He was Casting out a Devil,
and the same was Dumb - Luke 11:14


On Concealing Sins in Confession

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

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The Devil does not bring Sinners to Hell, with their Eyes-Open; he First (1st) Blinds them with the Malice of their own Sins. "For their own Malice Blinded them" - Wisdom 2:21. He thus Leads them to Eternal (∞) Perdition. Before we Fall into Sin, the Enemy Labors to Blind us, that we may not see the Evil we do, and the Ruin we bring upon ourselves by Offending God. After we Commit Sin, he seeks to make us Dumb, that through Shame, we may Conceal our Guilt in Confession. Thus he Leads us to Hell by a Double Chain, Inducing us, after our Transgression, to Consent-to a still Greater Sin - the Sin of Sacrilege. I will speak on this Subject Today, and will Endeavor to Convince you of the Great Evil of Concealing Sins in Confession.

In Expounding the Words of David, "Set a Watch, O Lord, before my Mouth: and a Door round about my Lips" - Psalm 140:3; Saint Augustine says: "Non dixit claustrum, sed ostium; ostium et aperitur et clauditur; aperiatur and confessionem peccati; claudatur ad excusationem peccati". We should keep a 'Door' to the Mouth, that it may be Closed against Detraction, and Blasphemies, and all Improper Words; and that it may be Opened-to Confess the Sins we have Committed. "Thus", adds the Holy Doctor, "it will be a Door of Restraint, and not of Destruction". To be Silent, when we are Impelled-to Utter Words Injurious to God, or to our Neighbor, is an Act of Virtue; but to be Silent in Confessing our Sins, is the Ruin of the Soul. After we have Offended God, the Devil Labors to keep the Mouth-closed, and to Prevent us from Confessing our Guilt. Saint Antonine relates that a 'Holy Solitary' once saw the Devil standing beside a Certain Person who Wished to-go-to Confession. The 'Solitary' asked the Fiend, what he was doing there. The Enemy said in reply: I now Restore to these Penitents, what I before took away from them; I took away from them Shame, while they were Committing Sin; I now Restore it, that they may have a Horror of Confession. "My Sores are Putrefied and Corrupted, because of my Foolishness" - Psalm 37:6. Gangrenous Sores are Fatal; and Sins Concealed-in Confession, are Spiritual Ulcers, which Mortify and become Gangrenous.

"Pudorem", says Saint Chrysostom, "dedit Deus peccato, confessioni fiduciam; invertit rem diabolis, peccato fiduciam praebet, confessioni pudorem". God has made Sin Shameful, that we may Abstain-from it, and gives us Confidence to Confess it, by Promising Pardon to all who Accuse themselves of their Sins. But the Devil does the 'Contrary'; he gives Confidence to-Sin, by Holding-out Hopes of Pardon; but when Sin is Committed, he inspires Shame, to Prevent the Confession of it.

A Disciple of Socrates, at the Moment he was leaving a House of Bad Fame, saw his Master pass; to avoid being seen by him, he went back-into the House. Socrates came to the door, and said: My Son, it is a Shameful thing to Enter, but not to Depart from this House. "Non te pudeat , fili egredi ex hoc loco, intrasse pudeat". To you also, O Brethren, who have Sinned, I say that you ought to be Ashamed to Offend so-Great and so-Good a God. But you have no Reason to be Ashamed of Confessing the Sins which you have Committed. Was it Shameful in Saint Mary Magdalene, to Acknowledge Publicly at the Feet of Jesus Christ, that she was a Sinner? By her Confession, she became a Saint. Was it Shameful in Saint Augustine, not only to Confess his Sins, but also to Publish them in a Book, that for his Confession, they might be Known to the Whole World? Was it Shameful in Saint Mary of Egypt to Confess, that for many Years, she had lead a Scandalous Life? By their Confessions, these have become Saints, and are Honored on the Altars of the Church.

We say that the Man who Acknowledges his Guilt before a 'Secular Tribunal', is Condemned; but, in the Tribunal-of Jesus Christ, they who Confess their Sins, obtain Pardon, and Receive a Crown of Eternal (∞) Glory. "After Confession", says Saint Chrysostom, "a Crown is given to Penitents". He who is Afflicted with an Ulcer must, if he Wish to be Cured, show it to a Physician; otherwise it will Fester and bring-on Death. "Quod ignorat", says the Council-of-Trent, "medicina non curat". If then, Brethren, your Souls be Ulcerated with Sin, be not Ashamed to Confess it; otherwise you are Lost. "For thy Soul be not Ashamed to say the Truth" - Ecclesiasticus 4:24. But you say, I feel Greatly Ashamed to Confess such a Sin. If you Wish to be Saved, you must Conquer this Shame. "For there is a Shame that bringeth Sin, and there is a Shame that bringeth Glory and Grace" - Ecclesiasticus 4:25. There are, according to the Inspired Writer, Two (2) kinds of Shame, One (1) of which Leads Souls to Sin, and that is the Shame which makes them Conceal their Sins at Confession; the Other is the Confusion which a Christian feels in Confessing his Sins; and this Confusion obtains for him the Grace of God in this Life, and the Glory of Heaven in the Next.

Saint Augustine says, that to Prevent the Sheep from Seeking Assistance by her Cries, the Wolf seizes her by the Neck, and thus securely Carries-her-Away and Devours her. The Devil Acts-in a similar manner with the Sheep of Jesus Christ. After having Induced them to Yield-to Sin, he Seizes them by the Throat, that they may not Confess their Guilt; and thus he Securely brings-them to Hell. For those who have Sinned Grievously, there is no Means-of Salvation but the Confession of their Sins. But what Hope of Salvation can he have, who goes to Confession and Conceals his Sins, and makes use of the Tribunal of Penance to Offend God, and to make himself Doubly the Slave of Satan? What Hope would you entertain-of the Recovery of the Man who, instead of Taking the Medicine Prescribed-by his Physician, drank a Cup-of Poison? O God! What can the Sacrament of Penance be, to those who Conceal their Sins, but a Deadly Poison, which Adds-to their Guilt, the Malice of Sacrilege? In giving Absolution, the Confessor dispenses to his Penitent, the Blood of Jesus Christ; for it is through the Merits of that Blood, that he Absolves from Sin. What then does the Sinner do, when he Conceals his Sins in Confession? He Tramples Underfoot the Blood of Jesus Christ. And should he afterwards, Receive the Holy Communion in a State of Sin, he is, according to Saint Chrysostom, as Guilty as if he threw the Consecrated Host into a Sink. "Non minus detestabile est in os pollutum, quam in sterquilinium mittere Dei Filium". Accursed Shame! how many Poor Souls do you bring to Hell? "Magis memores pudoris", says Tertullian, "quam salutis". Unhappy Souls! they think only of the Shame of Confessing their Sins, and do not Reflect, that if they Conceal them, they shall be Certainly Damned.

Some Penitents ask: What will my Confessor say when he hears that I have Committed such a Sin? What will he say? He will say that you are, like all Persons living-on this Earth, Miserable and Prone to Sin; he will say that, if you have done Evil, you have also performed a Glorious Action, in overcoming Shame and in Candidly Confessing your Fault.

But I am Afraid to Confess this Sin. To how many Confessors, I ask, must you tell it to? It is enough to mention it to One (1) Priest, who hears many Sins of the Same Kind from others. It is enough to Confess it Once (1); the Confessor will give you Penance and Absolution, and your Conscience will be Tranquillized. But, you say, I feel a Great Repugnance to tell this Sin to my Spiritual Father. Tell it then to another Confessor, and if you Wish, to One to whom you are unknown. But, if this come to the Knowledge of my Confessor, he will be Displeased with me. What then do you mean to do? Perhaps to avoid giving Displeasure to him, you intend to Commit a Heinous Crime, and remain under Sentence-of Damnation. This would be the very Height-of Folly.

Are you Afraid that the Confessor will make known your Sin to others? Would it not be Madness, to Suspect that he is so Wicked as to 'Break' the Seal of Confession by Revealing your Sin to others? Remember that the 'Obligation' of the Seal of Confession is so-Strict, that a Confessor cannot speak, out-of Confession, even to the Penitent, of the smallest Venial Fault; and if he did so (without the Permission of the Penitent), he would be Guilty of a most Grievous Sin.

But you say: I am Afraid that my Confessor, when he hears my Sin, will Rebuke me with Great Severity. O God! Do you not see that all these are Deceitful Artifices of the Devil to bring you to Hell? No, the Confessor will not Rebuke you, but he will give Advice, suited-to your State. A Confessor cannot Experience Greater Consolation, than in Absolving a Penitent who Confesses his Sins with True Sorrow and with Sincerity. If a Queen were Mortally Wounded by a Slave, and you were in Possession-of a Remedy by which she could be Cured, how Great would be your Joy in Saving her Life! Such is the Joy which a Confessor feels in Absolving a Soul in the State of Sin. By his Act, he delivers Her from Eternal (∞) Death; and by Restoring to Her, the Grace of God, he makes Her a Queen of Paradise.

But you have so many Fears, and are not Afraid of Damning your own Soul by the Enormous Crime of Concealing Sins in Confession. You are Afraid of the Rebuke of your Confessor, and Fear not the Reproof which you shall Receive-from Jesus Christ, your Judge, at the Hour of Death. You are Afraid that your Sins shall become Known (which is impossible), and you Dread not the Day of Judgment, on which, if you Conceal them, they shall be Revealed-to all Men. If you knew that, by Concealing Sins in Confession, they shall be made Known to all your Relatives and to all your Neighbors, you would certainly Confess them. But, do you know, says Saint Bernard, that if you Refuse to Confess your Sins to One (1) Man, who like yourself is a Sinner, they shall be made known not only to all your Relatives and Neighbors, but to the entire Human Race? "Si pudor est tibi uni homini , et peccatori pecaatum exponere, quid facturus es in die judicii, ubi omnibus exposita tua conscientia patebit"? "Lazare veni foras". If you do not Wish to Confess your Sin, God Himself shall, for your Confusion, Publish not only the Sin which you Conceal, but also all your Iniquities, in the Presence of the Angels, and of the Whole World. "I will Discover thy Shame to thy face, and will shew thy Nakedness to the Nations" - Nahum 3:5.

Listen then to the Advice of Saint Ambrose: The Devil keeps an Account of your Sins, to Charge you with them at the Tribunal of Jesus Christ. Do you Wish, says the Saint, to prevent this Accusation? Anticipate your Accuser; Accuse yourself now to a Confessor, and then no Accuser shall appear against you, at the Judgment Seat of God. "Praeveni accusatorem tuum; si te accusaveris, accusatorem nullum timebis". But according to Saint Augustine, if you Excuse yourself in Confession, you Shut-up Sin within your Soul, and Shut-out Pardon. "Excusas te, includis peccatum, excludis indulgentiam".

If then Brethren, there be a Single Soul among you, who has ever Concealed a Sin through Shame, in the Tribunal of Penance, let him take-Courage and make a Full Confession of all his Faults. "Give Glory to God with a Good Heart" - Ecclesiasticus 35:10. Give Glory to God and Confusion to the Devil. A certain Penitent was Tempted by Satan to Conceal a Sin through Shame; but she Resolved-to Confess it; and while she was going to her Confessor, the Devil came-forward, and asked her where she was going. She Courageously answered: I am going to Cover myself and you with Confusion. Act you, in a similar manner; if you have ever Concealed a Mortal Sin, Confess it Candidly to your Director, and Confound the Devil. Remember that the Greater the Violence you do to yourself in Confessing your Sins, the Greater will be the Love with which Jesus Christ will Embrace you.

Courage then! Expel this Viper which you Harbor-in your Soul, and which Continually Corrodes your Heart, and Destroys your Peace. Oh! what a Hell does the Christian Suffer, who Keeps-in his Heart a Sin Concealed-through Shame in Confession! He Suffers an Anticipation-of Hell. It is enough to say to the Confessor: Father, I have a certain Scruple regarding my Past Life, but I am Ashamed to tell it. This will be enough; the Confessor will Help you to Pluck-out the Serpent which Gnaws your Conscience. And, that you may not entertain Groundless Scruples, I think it Right to tell you, that, if the Sin which you are Ashamed to tell, be not Mortal, or if you never considered it to be a Mortal Sin, you are not Obliged to Confess it; for we are 'Bound' only to Confess Mortal Sins. Moreover, if you have Doubts whether you ever Confessed a certain Sin of your Former Life, but know that, in preparing-for Confession, you always Carefully Examined your Conscience, and that you never Concealed a Sin through Shame; in this case, even though the Sin, about the Confession of which you are Doubtful, had been a Grievous Fault, you are not Obliged to Confess it; because it is Presumed to be Morally Certain that you have already Confessed it. But, if you Know that the Sin was Grievous, and that you never Accused yourself of it in Confession, then there is no Remedy; you must Confess it, or you must be Damned for it. But, O Lost Sheep, go Instantly to Confession. Jesus Christ is Waiting-for you; He Stands with Arms-open, to Pardon and Embrace you, if you Acknowledge your Guilt. I assure you that, after having Confessed all your Sins, you shall feel such Consolation at having Unburdened your Conscience and Acquired the Grace of God, that you shall Forever (∞) Bless the Day on which you made this Confession. Go as-soon-as Possible, in Search-of a Confessor. Do not give the Devil Time to-continue-to Tempt you, and to make you Put-off your Confession; go Immediately, for Jesus Christ is Waiting-for you.


- End of Liguori Sermon -


Prayer Before Confession

God of Infinite Majesty, Behold at Your Feet a Traitor who has Offended You over-and-over again, but who now Humbly seeks Forgiveness. Lord, do not Reject me; "A Heart Contrite and Humbled, O God, You will not Spurn" (Psalm 51:19). I Thank You for having Waited for me until now, and for not letting me Die in Sin. Since You have Waited for me, my God, I Hope that by the Merits of Jesus Christ, You will Pardon me in this Confession for all the Offenses I have Committed against You. I Repent and am Sorry for them, because by them I have Merited Hell and Lost Heaven. But it is not so much on Account of Hell, but because I have Offended You, that I am Sorry from the Bottom of my Heart. I Love You, my Supreme Good, and because I Love You, I Repent of all the Insults I have Offered You. I have Turned my back on You; I have Despised Your Grace and Your Friendship. Lord, I have Lost You by my own Free Will. Forgive me all my Sins, for the Love of Jesus Christ, now that I Repent with all my Heart. I Resolve for the Future, by Your Grace, never more Willingly to Offend You. Yes, my God, I would rather Die than ever Sin again.



Prayer After Confession

My Dear Jesus, how much I Owe You! By the Merits of Your Blood, I have this Day been Pardoned. I thank You. You Deserve all my Love. I will give it all to You. I will no longer Separate myself from You. I have Promised You this Already; now I Repeat my Promise of being Ready to Die, rather than Offend You again. I Promise also to Avoid all Occasions of Sin. My Jesus, You know my Weakness; give me Grace to be Faithful to You until Death, and to have Recourse to You when I am Tempted. Most Holy Mary, help me. You are the Mother of Perseverance; I place my Hope in you.