How to Make a Good Confession
Before going to confession, one should examine their conscience to call to mind what sins they have committed since their last confession. Here are two samples that can be used.
Adult Examination of Conscience (coming soon) Children’s Examination of Conscience
A sin is a voluntary transgression against God’s commands by thought, word or deed. Accidents, temptations, feelings and emotions are typically not voluntary, and therefore not sinful. However, temptations and strong emotions of anger, sadness and fear can be occasions of sin, and therefore, should be avoided. To place ourselves in an occasion of sin willingly is itself a sin.
All mortal sins remembered since one’s last confession must be confessed. A hidden mortal sin invalidates the sacrament, but a forgotten one does not. A mortal sin has all 3 of these characteristics: It must be grave matter; one must know it is grave matter at the time committed; one must commit the sin willingly (not being forced or pressured). All acts involving grave matter since one’s last confession should be mentioned to the priest by name.
Confession is primarily for confessing mortal sins. However, because we receive unique sacramental graces that help us to avoid the sins we confess, it is good to include our more persistent venial sins also. We should not become pre-occupied or scrupulous about listing every single venial sin we have committed, since God will forgive these smaller sins through our performing good works, acts of penance or simply by praying for forgiveness, especially after receiving Holy Communion.
In general, one should give only the name of the sin and the number of times committed. Try not to give any other details unless they change the nature of the sin. For instance, “I missed Sunday Mass twice because I was sick.” (A priest will excuse us from Mass attendance if our sicknesses warrants it).
Do not tell other people’s sins, name others, or identify anyone in the confessional. Often, trying to help the priest “understand one’s situation” is an unconscious attempt to justify oneself to the priest, and therefore, decreases the sacramental graces we receive. The more humbling our confession, the more healing we receive in addition to the forgiveness.
Short questions or advice can be asked after absolution is given. Longer questions should be addressed to the priest outside the confessional by phone or appointment.