Robert Nugent has an interesting article in U.S. Catholic discussing the reasons teens gave for not going to private confession while at reconciliation services. He argues that for teens to appreciate the value of sacramental confession, we need to clearly ritualize its connection to the larger community and engage their sense of sin as injuring relationships, rather than disobeying individual (often half-understood) laws. He speaks eloquently of his own experience as confessor to these youth:
For all of them, at least for a few minutes, it is dialogue with a concerned adult who seems to understand and empathize. For this alone, the time, the energy, the prayer, and the occasional heartache involved on the part of the minister in sharing their pain, confusion, and fears is what the sacramentality is all about.
It seems to me that not only Catholic teens but also Catholic adults often struggle in the ways described in this article. What is your experience in ministry?