I.-IMPORTANCE OF FREQUENT CONFESSION.
I do not intend to treat in this place of the Confessions of those who commit mortal sins, although I shall say something on proximate occasions and on sacrilegious Confessions; but I will principally speak of the Confessions of timorous souls that love perfection and endeavour constantly to purify their souls more and more from the stain of venial sins.
Cesarius relates that a good priest commanded, in the Name of God, a devil who appeared to him, to tell what was most hurtful to him. The demon answered that nothing was more injurious or displeasing to him than frequent Confession. Jesus Christ once said to St. Bridget, that they who wish to preserve fervour should often purify their souls by accusing themselves in Confession of all their defects, and all their negligence in His service. Cassian says that he who aspires to perfection should aim at great purity of conscience; because from purity of conscience the soul passes to perfect love. Hence love corresponds to cleanness of heart. It is, however, necessary to know that in the present state this purity of soul does not consist in a total exemption from all faults; for except our Divine Saviour and His Divine Mother, there neither has been nor will be in this world, any soul free from all stain. In many things we all offend. (James iii. 2). But it consists in two things: first, in a careful guard over the heart, to prevent the commission of every deliberate sin, however venial; and secondly, in instantly purifying the soul from any fault that it may commit. Now these two are precisely the fruits of frequent Confession.
In the first place, Confession cleanses the soul from the stains it contracts. St. John Climacus relates that a young man, in order to discontinue the scandalous life that he led in the world, went to a Monastery in order to become a Religious. Before his admission the Abbot told him that if he wished to be received, he must make a public confession of all his sins. The young man, who was sincerely resolved to give himself to God, readily obeyed; and behold, while he confessed his faults in the presence of the monks, a holy Religious who was among them saw a man of venerable aspect cancel from a written paper that he held in his hand, every sin the penitent confessed, so that at the end of the Confession all his sins were cancelled. Now, what then took place in a visible manner, happens invisibly to every one that confesses his sins with the requisite dispositions.
Confession not only washes away the stains of the soul, but it also gives it strength against relapse. The angelic Doctor teaches that the virtue of Penance not only destroys the fault that has been committed, but also prevents it from budding forth again. In his Life of St. Malachy, St. Bernard relates that there was a certain woman who was so much given to impatience and to anger that she became insupportable. Hearing from her that she had never confessed her impatience, St. Malachy induced her to make a Confession of all her sins of anger. St. Bernard states that after her Confession she became so meek and patient that she appeared incapable of resenting any injury or insult that she received.
Hence, to acquire purity of conscience, many Saints confessed their sins every day. Such was the practice of St. Catharine of Sienna, of St. Bridget, of Blessed Colletta, of St. Charles Borromeo, of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and of many others. St. Francis Borgia went to Confession even twice a day. If worldlings cannot bear to appear before those whom they love with a stain on the countenance, what wonder is it that souls that love God should endeavour always to purify themselves more and more, in order to render themselves more pleasing in the eyes of their beloved Lord! Now, I do not intend to require of those who practise frequent Communion to go to Confession every time they communicate; but it is right that they should go to Confession twice or at least once a week, and also when they have committed any deliberate fault.