The How and Why of General Confessions

September 23, 2021 • 3 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 12
By St. Francis de Sales


The first Purification, which is from mortal sin.

The first purification which ought to be made is from sin; the means to make it is the sacrament of penance.

Seek the most worthy confessor you can: read one of the little books which have been composed in order to help us to make an entire and good confession; read it carefully, and observe from point to point in what you have offended, beginning from the time you had the use of reason, and on to the present hour.

If you distrust your memory, write down what you have thought of; and, having so prepared and gathered together the offensive humours of your conscience, abhor and reject them with the greatest grief and contrition that your heart can conceive, well meditating on these four things: That by sin you have

  1. lost the grace of God,
  2. forsaken your part of heaven,
  3. deserved the perpetual pains of hell,
  4. and renounced the eternal love of God.

You see, Philothea, that I speak of a general confession of your whole life, which, though I confess that it is not always absolutely necessary, yet I consider that it will be exceedingly profitable to you in this beginning, and therefore I earnestly advise it.

It often happens that the ordinary confessions of those who live a common and vulgar life are full of great defects, for many times they do not prepare themselves at all, or very little; neither have they sufficient contrition; nay, it so frequently happens that they confess with a tacit desire to return to sin, because they are not willing to avoid the occasions of sinning, nor make use of the means necessary to amendment of life; and in all these cases a general confession is requisite to secure the soul.

But, besides, a general confession brings us back to the knowledge of ourselves; it stirs us up to a wholesome shame and sorrow for our past life; causes us to admire the mercy of God, who has so long and so patiently expected us: it quiets our hearts, refreshes our spirits, excites in us good resolutions, gives occasion to our spiritual father to give advice more suitable to our condition; and opens our hearts, that we may with more confidence express ourselves in our future confessions.

Speaking, then, of a general renewing of our hearts, and of an entire conversion of our souls to God, by means of a devout life, it seems reasonable to me, Philothea, that I recommend this general confession.

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