The Liturgy of Confession
What to do:
• Examine your conscience, asking the help of the Holy Spirit to know your sins.
• Begin “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Bless me Father, it has been [how long] since my last confession. I am [married/single/etc.] These are my sins….”
• Name your sins in kind (what type of sin) and number (about how many times a sin was committed). When finished, say “I am sorry for these and any other sins I may have forgotten.”
• Be brief and direct when naming sins. All mortal sins must be confessed. It helps to list the most difficult one first.
• Pay attention to your penance and be prepared to do it as soon as possible.
• Have your “Act of Contrition” memorized and pray it deliberately.
• Wait for the absolution.
• Pray your penance immediately if possible, and give thanks to God for the sacrament.
• Going to confession about once a month is a good plan.
What not to do:
• Rush into the confessional without examining your conscience. We must prepare for every time we receive a sacrament, otherwise we disrespect the sacrament.
• Arrive at the very end of the time of confessions. Come early instead.
• Forget to tell the priest how long it has been since you last confessed. This is important for the priest to know.
• Be too general (“I have sinned so much” with no detail) or beat around the bush. Be direct and deliberate instead.
• Be too detailed, giving stories for every sin (“Then on Tuesday morning after breakfast….”).
• Confess other people’s sins (“My spouse keeps doing this and that….”), or laud your own virtues (“I’ve been good in this or that”). The sacrament of confession is only to confess your sins.
• Be deceptive. This can invalidate the sacrament.
• Rush, ramble, or mumble.
• Confess temptations and emotions. A temptation is not a sin, and emotions are part of human personality. Reactions to these can be sinful, but not temptations and emotions themselves.
• Seek counseling in the sacrament. Brief questions are okay but longer ones should take place outside of the sacrament.
• Ignore your penance or put it off until you don’t do it. The longer one waits, the less likely the penance will be done.
• Not know the “Act of Contrition.” This is an essential prayer for every Catholic, even at the end of every day. Not to memorize this is not to be prepared for this sacrament.
• Rush through your “Act of Contrition.”
• Rush out of the church after the sacrament without thanking God.
• Wait very long periods between confessions. Frequent confession makes confession easier, and the grace of the sacrament helps us to avoid sin.