What is Confession?
“Confession is the Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism”.
There are two types of sins; Minor sin or venial sin and Major sin or mortal sins. Most people commit minor sins on a daily basis and these are difficult to confess all of. Nonetheless it is important to mention most or some of these in confession. Major sins are more serious sins. We are bound to mention all mortal sins in confession including how many times as we cannot receive Holy Communion until we have sought such forgiveness.
There are many reasons to go to confession, none greater than the fact that after receiving absolution, all our sins are wiped away.
How to Prepare for Confession
Preparing for confession is perhaps one of the areas where people struggle. Some people who have not been to confession for a number or months or years especially struggle to prepare themselves for confession. Instead of going to confession, you might make up excuses to not go but there are many consequences for avoiding confession. If however, you feel that you are leading a good life and still do not go to confession, you are in effect seeking to help others without being sufficiently humble to allow God to help you. A good way to overcome any reluctance you feel in going to confession is to reflect on the Rite of the Sacrament.
To prepare for confession it is a good idea to spend time in the church beforehand and think about your sins. Thank God for bringing you here and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you about your sins. Think about your sins both minor and major and then examine our conscience.
How to Examine your Conscience
Look honestly at your sins and what sins you have committed since you last went to confession. Use your conscience to judge your behaviour, attitudes, character and future intentions. It is good to think about the different areas in your life, i.e., family, work, friends and prayer and think about the Ten Commandments. Do you follow these commandments in the different areas of your life? If not think of other ways you can respond better to stressful situations in your life.
Are you sorry for your sins? Perfect contrition is a sorrow for our sins that springs from our love of God. Imperfect contrition is a sorrow for our sins coming from another motive such as the fear of going to purgatory or hell which is sufficient for our sins to be forgiven. It is important that you are sorry for your sins and that you will make a conscious decision not to repeat these sins again.
There is no such thing as a good confession or a bad confession. If you are sorry for your sins and you have made the decision to confess them then pray first and ask for God’s help. Make a sincere examination of conscience and confess your sins simply with honesty.
Begin by saying ‘Bless me father for I have sinned’ and give the priest a rough idea of how long it was since your last confession. Then tell him your sins, simply and honestly. You then finish by saying ‘I am sorry for these, and all my sins’. The priest may then give you some advice and penance and you will then recite the Act of Contrition “O my God, because you are so good, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, and by the help of your grace I will not sin again”.
Listen as he gives you absolution and ponder on this. Find a quiet place to pray the penance the priest has given you. If he has given you advice reflect on this and make a decision to use this advice.