I gave up dessert for Lent but one day I ate ice cream.  Do I have to go to confession?

Good for you for taking your Lenten fast so seriously! During the season of Lent, the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are meant to help us turn away from whatever has derailed us along the way and turn back to God. By giving up dessert for Lent, you are fasting from something that gives you pleasure and offering that sacrifice to God. If skipping dessert has been hard for you, it’s probably a sign that your sacrifice is working. Your effort in keeping to the fast is a concrete step that helps you to turn to God.

Is slipping from your Lenten fast a serious sin that requires you to go to confession? No. Giving up something for Lent (if it’s not something that’s a sin in itself) is a discipline that you set for yourself, not an obligation under Church law. But remember that the sacrament of reconciliation helps us unburden ourselves of any failings or obstacles that might keep us from God; it is meant to help us turn our hearts more closely to God, just like the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It’s not really about ice cream at all – it’s about turning away from sin and drawing closer to God. Take the time during Lent to examine your conscience about what is really turning you away from God. Then go to confession, so that you will truly be ready to share in the joy of the risen Lord at Easter. And when Easter comes, enjoy your ice cream!

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.