Confession and dementia

Q.I am 87 years old, a Catholic all my life, and I have been diagnosed with dementia. My memory is terrible; my wife has to identify even relatives for me by name. How should I handle this problem in confession with a priest? Should I tell him my problem first? I have always used the commandments of God and the church in examining my conscience, but now I wonder if I should be wasting a priest's time by going to confession if I can't even remember my sins. I'm looking forward to a response which will let me continue to be a good Catholic.

A. You certainly are a "good Catholic," and your devotion to the sacraments is commendable. I would encourage you to continue to go to confession even though you can't remember specific sins.

Tell the priest that you are 87 years old, have been diagnosed with dementia, that you can't remember any specific sins but that, if there's anything you have done to offend the Lord, you are sorry.

You surely have the sincere contrition that is required for the sacrament, and the priest will give you absolution for any and all sins. (And if you can't remember what penance the priest has given you, don't worry: Just say an Our Father and a Hail Mary.)

The sacrament will bring you grace and blessings; each sacrament is an act of worship, because you are thanking God for His goodness. (Pope Francis has said that he goes to confession every couple of weeks and that it helps him to think about the great mercy of the Lord.)

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 40 Hopewell St. Albany, N.Y. 12208.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015