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Ask a Priest – Are Catholics obliged to go to Confession before Christmas?

20 Dec 2013

Dec 20, 2013

I know that we are obliged to go to Confession at least once a year in Lent – but what about Advent? Are we obliged also to go to Confession before Christmas?

Answer:
Annual confession and communion is a traditional practice during Lent and Easter, as you can see in number 2042 of the Catechism. There is no obligation to go to confession in Advent.

In Advent it can certainly be a good way of preparing for Christmas to go along to confession, and many people do this, but it is something optional.

There have been some changes in the history of the Church regarding the penitential aspect of Advent, as you can read here. As you can see in early centuries in the Gallic tradition there was a strong emphasis on penance, but the Roman tradition, which eventually prevailed, was different.

As you can see here at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney we are encouraging people to prepare for Christmas by offering the opportunity for prayers, adoration and also confession.

In his visit to a Roman parish on the first Sunday of Advent Pope Francis talked about how we can encounter Jesus. He mentioned how we come into the presence of Jesus in the sacraments. He said:

“Jesus heals our sins. And along the way Jesus comes and forgives us — all of us sinners, we are all sinners — even when we make a mistake, when we commit a sin, when we sin. And this forgiveness that we receive in Confession is an encounter with Jesus. We always encounter Jesus.”

Therefore, even though confession is not obligatory in this period it can be a good way to prepare for the coming of Our Lord at Christmas.