The Gift of Private Confession
I'm thankful for private confession. If I had to confess my sins publicly, in front of my own community, I probably wouldn't seek out God's mercy. Instead, the Sacrament draws me in. I can go to God directly, ask for His forgiveness, and gain the graces to do better. It respects my dignity and allows me to work through my weaknesses without bearing a heavy burden of public shame. We're lucky to have private confession!
Private confession fosters openness. When you enter into the Sacrament, you don't have to hold anything back. The priest isn't judging you as he stands in the Person of Christ. The Seal of the Sacrament is permanent and binding, meaning no one will ever know what you disclose. It's perhaps one of the last places on Earth where you can bear your soul and not worry about reading about it later on the Internet. That's the genius of the Sacrament in the digital age; when you're in the confessional, you're off the grid. What's said there literally stays there.
It's precisely because of private confession that we're able to make a full disclosure of our faults and failings. We can name any sin that we've committed and truly be able to hold a mirror up to ourselves. You may share some of your faults and failings with your wife, and others she just knows. Yet, when we confess our weaknesses to others, we tend to hedge our bets. We leave something out that we think will be perceived as too evil. In confession, there's no need to hold back. It's in the Sacrament that we see ourselves for who we really are, where we stand in relationship to God, and how we are truly, wholly, dependent on His grace and mercy.
Finally, there's no fear in the Sacrament. I think we give our priests a little too much credit. I seriously doubt that they're as gifted in voice identification as we’d like to think, especially when you're simply one penitent in a line. We think that they hold all of our secrets and carry around that valuable information, but really, they've got other things going on in their lives. They hear hundreds (if not thousands) of confessions every month and I'd bet that most of them sound the same. Plus, what kind of life would it be if you were oppressed with the burden of the evil everyone else has done? There's something miraculous about the priest in the Sacrament. He's present, but he's not really present. He speaks, but he doesn't really speak. Instead, standing in the place of Christ, he's almost like a telephone, passing messages, yet retaining none. We have the option of going to confession behind the screen, meaning we can have complete anonymity and secrecy if we desire. There's nothing to fear.
When you think about it, we have an awesome gift in the Sacrament of Reconciliation because we're able to receive it privately. It's a gift we should use more often.