I still remember it like yesterday. As a new convert, I burned with a desire to grow in holiness. However, I struggled with certain sins and scruples. My RCIA class never talked about frequent confession but I knew it was a feature of saints’ lives. I wanted to grow in holiness, so, following the examples of those saints, I resolved to go to confession weekly.
“You are abusing the sacrament!” scolded the priest.
Horrified and ashamed at the idea of abusing God’s grace, I apologized. But I was confused. If it was all right for saints to go to confession more often, then why couldn’t I? What was I doing wrong? I wish that as I came out of that confessional hurting and confused, someone had handed this book to me.
Frequent Confession by Benedict Baur
Benedict Baur, OSB, was a Benedictine who lived from 1877 to 1963. First of all, we need to marvel at those dates. He lived through the transition of one century to another and through two world wars. Imagine his experiences!
As far as my research can tell, he left the world only a few books. Two of them are still in print through Opus Dei’s publishing arm, Scepter Publishing. These are Frequent Confession and In Silence with God. Frequent Confession was published in German in 1945 and the English translation followed in 1959.
The book discusses in detail not only why it is good to go to confession frequently but also how to do it. Baur teaches how to use the sacrament of penance as Christ intended: as a way to grow in holiness rather than a dumping ground for sins. He explains how to use frequent confession to hone in on specific vices a person wants to overcome, as well as explains the details of the sacrament that tend to get glossed over in today’s RCIA’s and CCD classes.
Strategy of the Book
Baur breaks the book into two parts. The first part is called “Frequent Confession” and discusses what is meant by the phrase, its advantages, and how to practice it. He also explains how spiritual direction fits into confession and gives a short treatise on conscience. Here, his doctorate on theology really shows through. That brief chapter is worth a second (or third) read to make sure you grasp everything.
The second part is called “Considerations”. Here he discusses in more detail penance, venial sin, sins of frailty, sins of omission, tepidity, and a long list of other elements of a deliberately holy life.
Despite being written in the 1940s in another language, Frequent Confession is clear and accessible. It could be read by a high school student, a cradle Catholic in his midlife, or a convert fresh out of RCIA.
Really, my only issue is the introduction. It is dry, forgettable, and, frankly, pointless. It’s not even written by the author but for the edition put out by Opus Dei. The reader can skip it without hurting his understanding of the text.
Coming into our third week of Lent, it’s still not too late to pick out some Lenten reading. I highly recommend Frequent Confession by Benedict Baur. It will change how you see the sacrament of penance and how you live it.