Remember that the sacrament is above all an act of God’s love. It is a personal moment to be lived in a relationship of love with God. It is not routine, nor an ordeal to be gone through, but is very much part of the personal renewal which takes place in each person. You are invited, in the light of God’s love, to recognise the sinfulness of your life, to have true sorrow for your sins, and a firm intention to avoid them in future.
Essential elements of a good confession
To make a good confession, we should:
1. Pray first, asking God to help us.
2. Make a sincere examination of conscience to see how we have sinned since our last confession. (You might find it helpful to write down any sins you discover on a piece of paper or on your phone, so that you have it all in front of you in the confessional.)
3. Confess our sins simply, with humility and honesty.
4. Make our act of contrition with heartfelt sorrow and a “firm purpose of amendment”, being determined that we will avoid the occasions of sin.
5. Devoutly carry out the penance prescribed and pray in thanksgiving for God’s overflowing love and mercy.
Going to Confession
If it’s been a long time since you’ve been to confession or if you haven’t been before, here is a brief summary of what you need to do. If you’re feeling nervous or unsure, ask the priest to help you, explaining that it’s been a while since your last confession.
1: Say to the priest: ‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned’. Then tell him roughly how long it is since your last confession.
2: Say: ‘These are my sins’ and explain simply the sins you are aware of from your examination of conscience.
3: Once you have said all the sins you are aware if, say: ‘For these and all the sins I cannot remember I am very sorry.’
4: Listen as the priest gives advice and a penance (to be carried out soon after the confession).
5: When prompted by the priest, say an act of contrition, for example: O My God I am sorry that I have sinned against you and with the help of your grace I will not sin again.
6: Listen as he says the words of absolution and the dismissal.
7: Leave the confessional space, carry out your penance, and rejoice!
Take some time in the quiet of the Church to reflect on the grace of the sacrament and to thank God for his mercy and forgiveness. Here is a prayer of thanksgiving:
Father, in your love you have brought me from evil to good and from misery to happiness. Through your blessings give me the courage of perseverance. Amen.