What do I do when I go to confession?
Below is the short version
(What is on this page is all you need to go to confession, however if you are searching for more, Click here for the long version which answers how and why; knowing why and how to make a good confession will make your experience much better!)
Going to Confession
Many people have avoided celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, sometimes for years at a time, because they “don’t know what to do.” The following brief explanation is intended for a person who has not been to confession in some time. It explains how the first form of the Sacrament of Penance may be celebrated. The person who is going to confession is called a “penitent” because he or she wishes to do penance and to turn away from sin.
Before You Go…
Examine your conscience, that is, reflect on what sins you have
committed. To guide you, just Google “examination of
conscience” and you’ll find many resources to help you. It’s even
alright to make a list to bring with you to confession if that helps.
We have provided an examination of conscience for you click here.
1. Introduction. When you come before the priest, begin by
making the Sign of the Cross (praying the words out loud), and
continue by saying,
“Bless me, Father, I have sinned. It has been (how long)
since my last confession. These are my sins…”
2. Confession. List the sins you have committed that came to
mind when doing your examination of conscience. Don’t be too
general (like, “I haven’t been a good person”), but a lot of detail
is not necessary either (you don’t need to tell the whole story of
how a sin came about). If you’re not sure if something is a sin is,
just ask the priest. This isn’t counseling, so unless you ask, the
priest likely won’t give you advice. He’ll just move on to…
3. Penance. The priest will suggest something for you to do or
pray as a response to God’s mercy. You’ll have to remember
what this is and do it after the confession is over, so pay attention.
4. Contrition. The priest will then ask you to pray your “Act
of Contrition,” demonstrating your sorrow for your sins. This
needs to be prayed out loud for the priest to hear, but need not
adhere exactly to one formula. Here are two examples (choose the
one that suits you best) :
ACT OF CONTRITION
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against You whom I should love
above all things. I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance, to sin no more, and
to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
O my God, I am heartily sorry
for having offended you and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell;
but most of all because they offend you, my God,
who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve with the help of your grace,
to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
5. Absolution. Don’t get up to leave after that prayer, because the
best part is yet to come: the priest will extend his hands in your
direction and he will pray the Prayer of Absolution: “God, the
Father of Mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has
reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for
the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God
grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
You respond: Amen.
6. Conclusion. The priest will then likely say something like, “God
has freed you from your sin. Go in Peace.” To which you can
respond: “Thanks be to God.”
After You Leave…
Don’t forget to do your penance. If it is saying certain prayers, it’s
best to do it right away in the church before you forget.