Unlike the other sacraments, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one that we as individual sinners must determine when and with what frequency we should receive the sacrament. Most other sacraments we receive only once, except the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which we can and are encouraged to receive as frequently as every day. But the frequency with which we ought to go to confession is less clearly defined by the Church as the necessity of the sacrament can only be determined by our individual consciences.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are only commanded to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year (CCC 1457). However, if you are someone who wishes to receive the Eucharist often, then chances are you also find yourself going to confession more often than once a year. This is because the Church also teaches that “anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution” (CCC 1457). Therefore, the frequency with which we ought to receive the sacrament depends on the state of our individual soul, how well-formed our conscience is to be aware of this state, and how frequently we desire to receive Holy Communion.

However, although the Church only requires that we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year and before receiving Holy Communion when we are in a state of mortal sin, more frequent confession of venial sins is “strongly recommended” as it “helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit” (CCC 1458). Going to confession often, therefore, although not strictly necessary, has a meaningful place in the spiritual life as it also provides spiritual direction, remission of sins, and the increase of grace.

Interestingly, frequent and even weekly confession seems extremely opposed to the early Church’s understanding of the sacrament, which allowed only one public penance per lifetime. Early Church fathers were concerned that frequent reception of the sacrament would cheapen it and lessen the gravity and sacredness of the sacrament. There is also a danger that the sinner will become too scrupulous by going to confession so frequently. However, the Church today now understands and teaches that frequent confession of venial sins serves a far greater good in the spiritual life of the sinner than the threat these dangers pose.

The Catholic theologian Karl Rahner explains in greater depth the good that frequent confession serves in his essay, “The Meaning of Frequent Confession of Devotion.” One good of frequent confession is that it helps us develop an attitude and understanding of our extreme need for God’s unmerited grace. Every confession acknowledges that only God’s freely given grace remits sins, and that it can only be found in “His historical revelation, in His visible Church and His visible sacraments.” The Sacrament of Reconciliation, more than just contrition, shows that “God’s answer must be added to man’s contrition, so that He may have the last word and man may bow humbly before His judgment.”

Another point Rahner considers for the good of confessing venial sins is that even venial sins are a spiritual injury and “an injustice to the whole Body of Christ,” which is a historical and visible Body, and so the Sacrament of Reconciliation acts as reparation of the sinner not just with God, but with the whole Church in a very visible and historical way. Rahner concludes his argument for frequent confession by summing up its meaning to be “that we might meet the reconciling God as often as possible in the way in which the God of ‘un-owed’ grace reveals himself most clearly.” There is certainly great good, then, in receiving this sacrament more than just once a year.