Photo: Felix Carroll
On Going to Confession Before Mercy Sunday
Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions on Divine Mercy
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Mar 28, 2007)
Questions about when to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to Divine Mercy Sunday are on the minds of many devout Catholics at this time of year.
After all, in the Diary of St. Faustina, entry 699, Jesus promised to St. Faustina: "The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened."
In the light of this promise, one of our readers named Connie recently asked me: "How soon before Divine Mercy Sunday can you go to confession and have it count toward Divine Mercy Sunday ?"
Here, I have to answer a question with a question: "count towards what?"
Connie, if you are talking about the plenary indulgence offered by the Church for the carrying out of certain types of Divine Mercy Sunday devotions, the answer is that the Church traditionally recommends that you make your Confession not more than 20 days in advance of performing the indulgenced work. But we need to remember that this "plenary indulgence" instituted by the Church for Divine Mercy Sunday is not the same thing as the extraordinary graces for Divine Mercy Sunday that Jesus promised to St. Faustina in Diary entry 699. To receive those special graces — "the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment" ... in other words, a complete renewal of baptismal grace in our hearts — all we need to do is to receive Holy Communion in a state of grace on Divine Mercy Sunday, with trust in our Lord's great mercy.
Whether your last confession was 10, 20, 30, or even more days before Divine Mercy Sunday, as long as you do not have the stain of unconfessed mortal sin on your soul, then you are spiritually alive in Christ and able to receive His special grace from Holy Communion on that great feast day! Divine Mercy Sunday could just as easily be termed "Divine Generosity Sunday," when we consider how little our Lord requires from us in order that we may be able to receive this extraordinary outpouring of His love.
Actually, some people seem to believe that you have to go to Confession on the very feast day itself! But nowhere in St. Faustina's Diary does it stipulate this. In fact, we know from Diary entry 1072 that St. Faustina made her confession in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday on the day before the feast, on a Saturday.
In fact, all of Lent should be a preparation to make a good confession in order to receive Holy Communion with an open and trusting heart on Easter Sunday and on the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday.
Sin without repentance is the only obstacle that prevents Jesus Christ from deeply healing and sanctifying our souls on these great feast days. That's why it is best not to count the days before these feasts and try to abide by some minimum requirement about when to make your confession. Rather, take an inventory of your heart. If there is anything in your heart that is impeding your love for Jesus and His for you — any grudge still held, any despair or mistrust, any kind word left unsaid, any duty seriously neglected — this is the time for a "spring cleaning of the soul." Make a good confession, and then try your best, with the help of grace, to keep your soul clean, open, and ready to receive our Savior in Holy Communion on the first and second Sundays of Easter. Even if you have not committed any mortal sins that need confessing, confessing venial sins also removes obstacles to all that our Lord wants to do in your heart. So clean them out, too!
However, I remember one time our Lord used this misunderstanding — that you must make a confession on Divine Mercy Sunday itself — to good effect.
About six years ago I was invited to give a talk in Dublin, Ireland, on Divine Mercy Sunday, at a huge Dominican parish that is also a designated Divine Mercy shrine for the archdiocese. The Dominican prior in that place was sure that all the talk about "extraordinary graces" to be had on Divine Mercy Sunday would lead the local people to neglect going to confession, because they believed they could get so many more spiritual benefits from Holy Communion on that day.
However, due to the aforementioned misunderstanding, when the day of the feast rolled around, the Dominicans found that they had 800 penitents lined up inside and outside the church waiting to make their confessions! Well, the Lord certainly "writes straight with crooked lines"! Those Dominicans really learned the lesson that day that confession and Holy Communion are both important and necessary means of receiving the extraordinary graces that our Lord wants to pour out upon us at that time of the liturgical year (even if we don't really have to make our confession on Divine Mercy Sunday itself).
Again, think of your confession before Easter Sunday/Divine Mercy Sunday as the big annual "spring cleaning" time for your soul. And then, when your inner house is all cleaned up, you will be ready to receive the Lord Himself in Holy Communion and enthrone Him in the center of your heart as your King!
Robert Stackpole, STD, is the director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy.
Got a question? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.