I'm also reminded today of the story of Queen Elizabeth I. It was said that she always insisted on having a bath once a month, "whether she needed it or not".
The reason I thought of these two stories today is that this evening I went to the parish penitential service. Now, I admit that I don't go to Confession as often as I should. As I waited to go into the confessional today, I went through the usual examination of conscience and thought, "But however hard I try, it's always the same sins, and I just don't know whether I would do any better at resisting them if I went to Confession more often."
Then I came home and read the following words of Pope Benedict XVI (quoted here, in an article on promoting confession):
"It is true: Our sins are always the same, but we clean our homes, our rooms, at least once a week, even if the dirt is always the same; in order to live in cleanliness, in order to start again. Otherwise, the dirt might not be seen, but it builds up.I love the feeling of having been to Confession - in my mind's eye, my soul is washed clean again, whiter than white. But for me, it's usually a major spring clean - getting rid of a build-up of cobwebs and dust that have built up over the months. Apart from the spring clean, I would only think of going to Confession if there'd been a major spillage which immediately needed to be mopped up - and I like to think I don't have too many of those.
Something similar can be said about the soul, for me myself: If I never go to confession, my soul is neglected and in the end I am always pleased with myself and no longer understand that I must always work hard to improve, that I must make progress. And this cleansing of the soul that Jesus gives us in the sacrament of confession helps us to make our consciences more alert, more open, and hence, it also helps us to mature spiritually and as human persons. Therefore, two things: Confession is only necessary in the case of a serious sin, but it is very helpful to confess regularly in order to foster the cleanliness and beauty of the soul and to mature day by day in life.”
But now that I've cleaned out the dust bunnies of my soul, I've resolved to make a real effort to keep it tidy with a bit of regular housekeeping rather than wait for the next major blitz. You never know, it might even help me to conquer some of those recurring stains that I just can't seem to get rid of...