In the first couple of years after my reception into the Catholic Church, I struggled with trusting in the mercy of God, particularly in the Sacrament of Penance.
I would go to Confession, come out, feel good for about five minutes, and then start to doubt. Were my sins really forgiven? Even the “really bad” ones? What if the priest misunderstood what I was talking about? What if I forgot to mention one of the numerous sins I must have committed in my twenty-three years before I become Catholic?
My mind would spiral out of control.
Is God really merciful? Does He really love me?
After talking with my priest and spiritual director, I learned there was a name for the turmoil I was experiencing: religious scrupulosity. This is where a person over-scrutinizes her sins and fears she is constantly in a state of mortal sin.
Overcoming scrupulosity has taken a lot of work with my priest, a licensed Catholic therapist, and lots of time in prayer with the Lord. At one of my spiritual direction appointments the Lord provided healing in the form of a simple question.
“Are you sorry for your sins?” My priest asked me.
I answered, "Yes."
“You may never make a perfect confession, but He knows that is your desire. Trust in Him.”
At the end of the appointment, I made my confession, and my priest asked me again, “Are you sorry for your sins?”
Again, I answered yes. Then he spoke the words of absolution, and I knew that my sins were truly forgiven.
"A heart contrite and humbled, O God, You will not spurn” (Psalm 51:17).
When scrupulosity creeps back into my life, these words are a great reminder to me that the Lord desires to show us His mercy. There may be sins we are ashamed of, wounds we are holding on to, and our minds may be plagued by doubt, but none of these are too great for the Lord's mercy.
We need only turn our hearts to Him in contrition in order to receive the mercy He wants to give us.
Scroll through this insight on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
Anna Coyne is a wife, mother, and convert to the Catholic Faith. She is a classically trained pianist who, after teaching for ten years now stays home with her three young children. but still manages to flex her creative muscles through writing, knitting, and gardening. She is proud to call Saint Paul home and loves everything about living in Minnesota, except for winter. She is a contributing author to our children's devotional prayer book called Rise Up. You can find out more about her here.