Marriage Matters

My husband hasn’t been to confession in a long time, but I think he should go. How do I encourage him to go without sounding judgmental?

The wife who asked this question is likely a regular penitent — someone who knows that confession is a place to discover and experience the greatness of God’s love. She knows how satisfying it is to shake the weight of sin off of one’s heart and repair her relationship with God and his people. That is why she is motivated to invite her husband to know the same conversion of heart.

Penance strengthens our friendship with Christ and restores the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God. It also reconciles us with the Church and revitalizes our ability to live in community with the rest of humanity. It definitely improves one’s ability to live in harmony with family and friends. Finally, confession is a great reminder that we are imperfect and that we are in need of Christ’s grace.

My guess is that this woman’s husband may think that God is the one who ultimately forgives sin, so why must he go to a priest? Why can’t he just go to God directly in prayer and say he is sorry? The truth here is that one can and should reconcile with God in prayer, but one should also reconcile with the people of God, and that is where “going to confession” comes in. Here are some ideas that may encourage a loved one to receive the sacrament of penance.

  • Receive the sacrament of penance on a regular basis and let the benefits shine through your actions and behaviors.
  • Invite your loved one to receive the sacrament of penance soon after your own reception.
  • Pray and offer sacrifices for your spouse. Ask the Holy Spirit to deepen his or her desire for an intimate friendship with Christ through this sacrament.
  • Remember, you know your spouse better than anyone else, so you are the best person to extend the invite. If they decline, try again before your next confession. Never let a “no” discourage you.

The Church teaches us that it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the kingdom. That is why we should all encourage each other, especially in marriage, to regularly receive this sacrament.

Alice Heinzen, Director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life

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