Confession in Layman’s Terms

I often find in conversations that people aren’t regularly attending confession. They have a lot of reasons. Sometimes its fear, sometimes they don’t think it’s necessary, sometimes they are scared they will look foolish because they can’t remember the steps, and sometimes they just know the same sins will keep coming up. I think a large problem is that people don’t actually realize how important it is and also because people are hung up on a big sin from long ago.

I was once away from confession for several years, so I understand and have so much compassion for this. I also know the joy of making my way back and the grace that comes from regular confession.

So with a loud voice I say, “Please go to confession!” Also, it is a precept of the church, so it is a requirement for a practicing Catholic. At minimum, it is required once a year.  

The worst sinner deserves the most grace! If that comes as a surprise, please look up St. Faustina. Her words have encouraged me over and over to keep coming back to the sacrament.

I have always tried very hard to encourage my children to go to confession. I think there is much hope in getting them comfortable before the sins get too heavy. That being said if it hasn’t been a regular routine in your life it can seem scary.

Don’t worry yourself of what the priest might think. A faithful priest will only be happy to help you get to Heaven. We can be tempted to judge our sins as being bigger than what they deserve, and to be honest that is very prideful. I know this sin well, so no judgment from me. To be very clear the blood of Jesus can demolish all these nasty sins.

Recognizing that this can be scary I have broken this down into steps. The first couple things are preparation before actually going to confession. Proper preparation in the key to a successful confession.

Locate a place for confession. provides a full list of priests and confession times. If you would prefer to go to confession to another priest, go for it! Most parishes have a website with confession times on it. It seems regular practice to offer confession before mass in most places. I have been to so many different priests and I have always had a good experience.

Make sure to get a good examination of conscience. There are many on the web, apps, and generally pamphlets at church. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and make a list of all your sins. Focus on the mortal sins. Start with the worst ones and try to remember how many times the sin was committed. It is not necessary to tell a big story, simply state your sin. Priests have heard everything there is to hear and they are bound to never repeat what you say. Don’t be scared to tell the open truth.

Take with you your list of sins and an Act of Contrition (this is in many prayer books and often posted inside the confessional as well). I like having my sins written so I can just read the list. This helps in remembering things and also helps me to keep my emotions calm.

I’ve also found it helpful to arrive a little early and give yourself a minute to prepare yourself in front of Jesus.

After a good preparation, the process is pretty simple. Don’t worry, because the priest will always help you if you need guidance. They are more interested in you getting to Heaven than anything else, so don’t feel self conscience. I have provided a list of what the actual process looks like.

  1. First things first, enter the confessional. It’s ok to go behind the curtain, if that makes you feel more comfortable. Sometimes that is the only option. Most generally there is a green/red light or some sort of system to acknowledge when the confessional is open or in use.
  2. Second, make the sign of the cross and say the words, “Father forgive me, for I have sinned, it has been XX weeks/months/years since my last confession.” The priest will greet you.
  3. Next, list your sins. Just say them. Emotion may come, but focus on clearly reading your list. Make sure the mortal sins are listed. These are the ones that keep us from Heaven.
  4. Fourth, the priest will speak with you and give you a penance. I’ve had everything from recite a rosary to sit in front of the cross and remember Jesus loves you. It will vary but generally it’s a very basic and easy thing to complete. Examples (1 Hail Mary, 2 Our Fathers).
  5. Fifth, the priest will absolve you from your sins. Simply say Amen.
  6. Finally, the priest will guide you to say the Act of Contrition. You’ll simply say this beautiful prayer and exit the confessional.

I’ve found it very beneficial to complete the penance right then and there. That way it’s done and you don’t have to try to remember later. It’s also very important to let the grace pour in. Remember when you have been absolved from your sins, you are forgiven. You must forgive yourself and allow God to pour his grace in you.

I believe a very strong hold of the devil is to keep people out of confession. There is nothing more beautiful than going. So please, go. Encourage others to go.

Satan can’t keep you bound, unless you let him.  So don’t let him.

Do you have any pointers for confession?

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