How to give a good Confession
I wish I could hear other people’s confessions.
Don’t worry, I’m not bugging the confessionals in the convent. I just think I would learn something from hearing how others go about it.
I’ve been partaking of the Sacrament of Penance for several years now but I still don’t feel like I know what I am doing. Sometimes I leave the confessional wondering, “Did I do that right? Should I have been more specific? Was I honest enough?”
The other day as I left confession, I thought, “I know, I will ask for some advice from the men who do hear other people’s confessions for a living!”
Here is what they said:
1. Fr. Bryan Brooks, Tulsa, OK
By doing an examination of conscience we are confronted with our sins, but when we go to confession we are confronted with God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.
2. Fr. Sean Donovan, Pawhuska, OK:
After saying about how long it’s been since your last Confession, briefly tell the priest about yourself. (Are you single, dating, remarried, a religious sister?) If we know your situation, it helps us to counsel you.
3. Fr. Gabriel Mosher, OP, Portland, OR:
Sins are bad choices, not unpleasant emotions; so, confess your sins, not your emotional states.
4. Fr. Damian Ference, Wickliffe, Ohio
Sins committed are an offense to God, but sins confessed are a Canticle to God. So, when you confess your sins to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation, know that you are also singing praise to God for his great mercy.
5. Fr. Matthew Gossett, Steubenville, OH
Frequent confession is edifying for your priest and good for your soul! Sins, especially deep-seated or habitual sins, require patience and persistence. Never give up, no matter how many times you’ve committed the same sin… confession is a sacrament of healing, and just like physical wounds, spiritual wounds can take some time to fully heal.
6. Father James Martin, SJ, New York, NY
Confession is not so much about how bad you are but about how good God is.
7. Fr. Anthony Gerber, Cottleville, Missouri
The priest is like a physician: when you go to the doctor, you tell him what has been hurting you and with more or less detail so that he knows how best to heal you. And remember: he has seen many patients with the same symptoms. Trust him, listen to his counsel, and you’ll get better soon!
8. Fr. Joshua Whitfield, Dallas, TX
God works best with a simple, humble confession of sins. God doesn’t need a novel. He’s read it already. Pride and impenitence sometimes hide beneath our many words. Speaking simply and plainly, naming our sins: it’s like being stripped for the Cross, for the death of our sins and the resurrection of forgiveness.
9. Fr. Jeffrey Mickler, SSP, Youngstown, OH
Just go, no matter what. God’s love is stronger than our sins.
10. Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC, Washington DC
For many people, the biggest improvement in confession would be switching from viewing it as an obligatory, abstract listing of sins to the renewal of a relationship with God.
And a bonus!
Fr. Mark Menegatti, O.S.A.
Confession is not just a removal of sin, it’s an encounter with Christ.
Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She blogs at Pursued by Truth.
Confession Guide for Adults
10 Tips from priests for a better Confession
Have you ever left the confessional wondering, "Did I do that right?"
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
-Do I give God time every day in prayer?
-Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart?
-Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult?
-Do I seek to surrender myself to God´s word as taught by the Church?
-Have I ever received communion in the state of mortal sin?
-Have I ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?
-Are there other "gods" in my life? Money, Security, Power, People, etc.?
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
-Have I used God´s name in vain: lightly or carelessly?
-Have I been angry with God?
-Have I wished evil upon any other person?
-Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day.
-Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
-Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?
-Do I do needless work on Sunday?
4. Honor your father and your mother.
-Do I honor and obey my parents?
-Have I neglected my duties to my spouse and children?
-Have I given my family good religious example?
-Do I try to bring peace into my home life?
-Do I care for my aged and infirm relatives?
5. You shall not kill.
-Have I had an abortion or encouraged or helped anyone to have an abortion?
-Have I physically harmed anyone?
-Have I abused alcohol or drugs?
-Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading him or her into sin?
-Have I been angry or resentful?
-Have I harbored hatred in my heart?
-Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization?
-Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization?
-Have I engaged, in any way, in sins against humanlife such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization?
-Have I participated in or approved of euthanasia?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
-Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
-Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?
-Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?
-Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life?
-Have I been guilty of masturbation?
-Do I seek to control my thoughts and imaginations?
-Have I respected all members of the opposite sex, or have I thought of other people as mere objects?
-Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?
-Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words,actions?
-Am I careful to dress modestly?
7. You shall not steal.
-Have I stolen what is not mine?
-Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?
-Do I waste time at work, school, and home?
-Do I gamble excessively, thereby denying my family of their needs?
-Do I pay my debts promptly?
-Do I seek to share what I have with the poor?
-Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, big corporations?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
-Have I lied? Have I gossiped?
-Do I speak badly of others behind their back?
-Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
-Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?
-Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
-Have I injured the reputation of others by slanders?
9. You shall not desire your neighbor´s wife.
-Have I consented to impure thoughts?
-Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, television, conversation or curiosity?
-Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?
-Have I behaved in an inappropriate way with members of the opposite sex: flirting, being superficial, etc.?
10. You shall not desire your neighbor´s goods.
-Am I jealous of what other people have?
-Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
-Am I greedy or selfish?
-Are material possessions the purpose of my life?
A GUIDE TO CONFESSION
How to go to Confession
1. You always have the option to go to confession anonymously, that is, behind a screen or face to face, if you so desire.
2. After the priest greets you in the name of Christ, make the sign of the cross. He may choose to recite a reading from Scripture, after which you say: "Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been (state how long) since my last confession. These are my sins."
3. Tell your sins simply and honestly to the priest. You might even want to discuss the circumstances and the root causes of your sins and ask the priest for advice or direction.
4. Listen to the advice the priest gives you and accept the penance from him. Then make an Act of Contrition for your sins.
5. The priest will then dismiss you with the words of praise: "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. You respond: "For His mercy endures forever." The priest will then conclude with:"The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace." And you respond by saying: "Thanks be to God."
6. Spend some time with Our Lord thanking and praising Him for the gift of His mercy. Try to perform your penance as soon as possible.
PRAYER BEFORE CONFESSION
O most merciful God! Prostrate at your feet, I implore your forgiveness. I sincerely desire to leave all my evil ways and to confess my sins with all sincerity to you and to your priest. I am a sinner, have mercy on me, O Lord. Give me a lively faith and a firm hope in the Passion of my Redeemer. Give me, for your mercy´s sake a sorrow for having offended so good a God. Mary, my mother, refuge of sinners, pray for me that I may make a good confession. Amen.