June 26th On the preparation we ought to make for confession
Consider first, that confession, without due dispositions, will only serve for our greater condemnation; so that the great business of a sinner that desires to receive such an absolution for his sins as may be ratified in heaven, must be to procure the necessary dispositions, by making a due preparation for confession. And as thee dispositions must come from the giver of all good gifts, and as the sinner has removed himself to a great distance from him, amongst the husks of swine, the first part of his preparation must be to begin to turn to God, with a great sense of the misery of his present condition, by fervent prayer and desire. The raising up of a soul to life, which is dead to God by mortal sin, is in effect no less a miracle of the divine power than the calling of Lazarus out of his grave, after he had been four days dead and buried; there can be no expectation of succeeding in so arduous an undertaking, without taking him along with us, by earnest prayer, who alone can raise the dead. No, my soul, the most essential conditions of a good confession are a change, of heart, and a perfect sincerity in the accusation of ourselves, even of those sins which we are most ashamed of – and who but God can change the heart of man, or bring him to overcome his pride, by a full confession of his shameful sins? or how can so great a grace as this is be procured without ardent prayer?
Consider 2ndly, that another necessary part of the preparation for confession is to find out, by a serious examination, the true state of our interior. Alas! it is one of our greatest misfortunes not to know ourselves, and it is much to be feared that many pass their whole lives under the guilt of mortal sin; pride, envy, hatred, detraction, of omissions of essential duties, &c., which for want of a serious and impartial examination of the true state of their consciences, they neither confess, nor repent of, nor amend. Hence their confessions are null, their Communions sacrilegious; they go on all their lifetime in their sins, and they die in their sins. O my soul, see this be not thy case; see thou labour in earnest to know thyself; see thou examine seriously thy whole interior, that thou mayest be able to discover, by the light of God, which thou must implore, those lurking evils which thy busy self-love, or the false maxims and practices of deluded worldlings, may otherwise disguise under false pretences, and hide from thy eyes.
Consider 3rdly, that the principal and most necessary preparation for a good confession is true contrition; that is, a hearty sorrow and detestation for our sins, by which we have offended so good a God; with a firm resolution of a thorough amendment for the time to come, and of making the best satisfaction we can for our past offences. This is the most essential part both of the virtue and of the sacrament of penance. This we must take the most pains about, when we are to go to confession. This we must labour to procure by serious and deep considerations of the most moving truths, and by repeated and fervent prayer; and never leave off knocking at the door of divine mercy till he is pleased to open to us, and to touch our hearts. Alas! none but he can bring forth the waters of true compunction out of these hard rocks.
Conclude to be diligent in every branch of this necessary preparation, as often as thou pretendest to make thy peace with God by confession; lest otherwise, instead of obtaining a discharge, thou increase thy debt.