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How To Make a Good Confession (especially if you haven't gone in years)
OSV ^ | Mike Aquilina and Fr. Kris D. Stubna

Posted on 12/20/2005 11:38:54 AM PST by NYer


“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” - Matthew 16:19

What Is Confession?

Confession is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in His love and mercy to offer sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God. At the same time, sinners reconcile with the Church, because it also is wounded by our sins. We know this sacrament by various names: the Sacrament of Penance, Confession, or Reconciliation.

Many Catholics avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation simply because we don't remember how to confess our sins. We simply don't know what to say, and are too embarrassed to ask.

Confession is not a difficult matter, but it does require some preparation. As with all things, we should begin with prayer, placing ourselves in the presence of God. Then we should try to review our lives since our last confession, searching out our thoughts, words, and actions that did not conform to God’s love, to His law, or to the laws of the Church. Reviewing our life this way is called an "examination of conscience," and it is a good practice for every day of our lives (see page 103).

We should not let too much time pass between our visits to the sacrament of reconciliation. The Church asks us to go at least once a year, but suggests that we go regularly, perhaps once a month. If we go more often, we can more often receive the graces to improve our lives.

Once you are there for the sacrament, follow these four steps to a good confession:

1. Tell all. Try not to leave any serious sins out. Start with the one that is toughest to say.

2. Be clear. Try not to be subtle or euphemistic.

3. Be sorry. Remember, it is God you have offended, and His forgiveness you seek.

4. Be brief. No need to go into detail. Often when we do, we are just trying to excuse ourselves.

If you have not been to confession in a while, this is not a reason to worry. The Church loves to welcome prodigal children home. But please do not delay any longer — just go. You might even want to make an appointment with your parish priest so you can spend a little more time without worrying about delaying others who might be waiting in line. Let the priest know at the start that it has been a while since your last confession, and that you are not sure how to proceed. And if you are nervous, say so. The point of the sacrament is repentance and mercy; so the more mercy the priest can dispense in the name of God, the more joyous the occasion should be.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Current Events; General Discusssion; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Prayer; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; confession; goandsinnomore; reconciliation; sacrament
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To: netmilsmom; Pyro7480; Kolokotronis
But I went in with some of these from a really good examination of conscience and was told by the (wonderful, btw) priest that I was too hard on myself and they are not mortal sins.

He's right! These are not mortal but venial sins. We are obliged to confess mortal sins but an examination of conscience should take place on a daily basis and those sins purged as well. This is not intended to be scrupulosity!

Now if you think the above list is daunting, consider the following from a Russian Orthodox web site. (They didn't earn the name 'orthodox' from being lax :-).

* * * * *


During Great Lent, and the other fasts of the Church Year, it is customary for all Orthodox Christians to go to confession to their priest. Properly this should be done several times a year, the exact frequency depending upon how often one is blessed to receive the Holy Mysteries and on the counsel and blessing of one's spiritual father. As a preparation for this sacramental confession and to help one examine one's conscience before coming to confession, the following questions are sometimes distributed in parishes and, although of course the list is not exhaustive, it may be a help to those of our readers who are Orthodox Christians.

Sins Against God

Do you pray to God in the morning and evening, before and after meals?

During prayer have you allowed your thoughts to wander?

Have you rushed or gabbled your prayers? or when reading in church?

Do you read the Scriptures daily? Do you read other spiritual writings regularly?

Have you read books whose content is not Orthodox or even anti-Orthodox, or is spiritually damaging?

Have you pronounced the name of God without reverence, joking? Have you asked God's help before starting every activity?

Have you made the sign of the Cross carelessly, thoughtlessly? Have you sworn? Have you murmured against God?

Have you sinned by forgetting God?

Have you been slack in attending church?

Have you consecrated even part of the feast days, particularly Sundays and the Twelve Great Feasts, to God?

Have you tried your best to attend church on these days? or have you spent them more sinfully than ordinary days?

If unable to attend church for some reason, have you nonetheless tried to devote some part of these days to prayer and spiritual reading?

Have you joined with people not of the Faith in prayer, or attended their worship services?

Have you kept the fasts?

Have you behaved irreverently in church, or before the clergy and monastics?

Have you laughed or talked in church, or moved about unnecessarily, thus also distracting other people from prayer?

Have dressed modestly and in a becoming manner when in church?

Have you tried to pay reverent attention to the readings, hymns, and prayers in church?

Have you striven to pray with the service, crossing yourself, etc., or have you rather simply stood and day-dreamed?

Have you prepared for the services beforehand, looking up the Scriptural readings, making sure you have the texts to follow the service etc., especially if the service will be in a language you do not readily understand?

Have you ever left church after the Divine Services, and particularly after receiving the Holy Mysteries and immediately engaged in light talk and thus forgotten the blessings and graces you have received?

Have you been ashamed of your Faith or the sign of the Cross in the presence of others?

Have you made a show of your piety?

Have you used your Orthodox Faith or its teachings merely to browbeat others or belittle them?

Have you used it as a shield or excuse for your own inadequacies rather than humbling yourself?

Have you believed in dreams, fortune telling, astrology, signs and other superstitions?

Do you give thanks to the Lord for all things?

Have you ever doubted God's providence concerning yourself?

Do you at least try to perceive His purpose in all the things that come upon you?

Sins Against Your Neighbours

Do you respect and obey your parents?

Have you offended them by rudeness or contradiction?

(These two apply also to priests, superiors, teachers and elders.)

Have you insulted anyone?

Have you quarreled or fought with anyone? Have you hit anyone?

Are you always respectful to old people?

Are you ever angry, bad tempered or irritable?

Have you called anyone names? Do you use foul language?

Have you derided any that are disabled, poor, old or in some way disadvantaged?

Have you entertained bad feelings, ill will or hatred against anyone?

Have you forgiven those who have offended you?

Have you asked forgiveness from those whom you have offended?

Are you at peace with everyone?

Have you left the needy without help when you could have helped?

Have you attended the sick or elderly when they have asked you to do so?

Have you shown kindness and attention to all, remembering that God is expecting just such an attitude from you?

Have you hit animals without a cause or been cruel to them, or neglectful of those in your care?

Have you stolen anything?

Have you taken or used other people's things without asking?

Have you kept money or things that were lent you without returning them?

Have you wasted your employers' time or resources? Have you taken things from work for your own use, used the firm's phone or other facilities for your own purposes without permission or repayment?

Are you obstinate, and do you always try to have your own way?

Have you been inconsiderate of other people's feelings?

Have you tried to have your revenge against those who have offended you?

Have you harboured resentment? Have you deceived people?

Have you gossiped?

Have you told untruths?

Have you judged and condemned others?

Have you taken pains before approaching for confession to be reconciled with all?

Sins Against Yourself

Have you been proud? Do you boast of your abilities, achievements, family, connections or riches?

Do you consider yourself worthy before God?

Are you vain, ambitious? Do you try to win praise and glory?

Do you bear it easily when you are blamed, scolded or treated unjustly? Do you think too much about your looks, outward appearance and the impression you make?

Have you sinned in thought, word or deed, by a look or glance, or in any other way against the seventh commandment? (Adultery, fornication, all extra-marital sexual relationships with others, masturbation, engaging in unnatural sexual acts, fantasizing, pornography, etc.)

Have you envied anyone anything? Have you been over-sensitive?

Have you been lazy? Have you done your duties heartily?

Have you wasted your time, energy or abilities in things that do not profit the soul?

Have you become obsessive about anything? Have you been despondent or listless?

Have you had thoughts of committing suicide?

Have you brought a curse on yourself or others or ill-wished them, being impatient?

Have you a weakness for alcohol? Have you drunk too much, or become dependent on drink?

Have you taken drugs, other than necessary medicines? Have you smoked?

Have you watched television too much or indiscriminately? Have you given yourself up to any other similar pastime which wastes your time and energy and might have harmed you?

Have you been greedy, either with regard to food or to possessions?

Have you indulged in comfort-eating? Have you become accustomed to eating between meals?

Have you been picky about your food, or wasteful of foods, forgetting that so many people are without proper nourishment? Have you been extravagant? Have you been wasteful?

Do you care for and seek first the salvation of your soul, the spiritual life and the kingdom of God, or have you put earthly considerations in the first place?

Is there any other sin, which burdens your conscience, or which you are ashamed to tell?

Anyone preparing for confession must ask God to help him resolve to tell all his sins. A penitent should prepare for confession and collect his thoughts regarding his sins at least a day before confession. The most valuable thing in the eyes of God is the confession of the sin which weighs most on the conscience.

The questions listed are intended to help the Orthodox Christian examine himself and identify the symptoms of his spiritual ills; they should not be taken as some kind of test to ascertain how well we are doing as if there was a certain "pass-mark." Before God's perfections, we shall always fail. It is for that reason that, as believing Christians, we throw ourselves on the mercy of the Lord and do not trust in our own righteousness.

Remember that our sins can never outweigh God's love towards us. Even if we should seem to have failed with regard to all the points mentioned above and more, we should not lose heart but confess our sins unshamefacedly, we should regret the wrongs we have done, be resolved to make amends, and receive whatever remedy our confessor should be guided to lay upon us. Most of all, one should be assured of the blessing of God which these endeavours will bring upon you.

21 posted on 12/20/2005 1:43:45 PM PST by NYer ("Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion")
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To: NYer

Thanks for this list of venial sins/imperfections, it is probably the most comprehensive I've ever seen.

22 posted on 12/20/2005 1:44:06 PM PST by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: NYer

Whoa, Lady!
I'd have to go to confession everyday, twice a day!

23 posted on 12/20/2005 1:47:18 PM PST by netmilsmom (God blessed me with a wonderful husband.)
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To: P-Marlowe
Is that a pamphlet that you can just hand to the Priest?

No. The pamphlet is a step by step guide to Confession, including the Act of Contrition. The Act of Contrition is a very important prayer. It asks God to forgive us and bring us closer to Him. Catholics should pray it on a daily basis.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell;
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.


24 posted on 12/20/2005 1:54:01 PM PST by NYer ("Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion")
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To: NYer

Another great post.

Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been _____ since my last confession.

Tell all your sins no matter how small even imperfections.

Confess what you have done and what you have failed to do.

Think of the following:

The Corporal Works of Mercy
Feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless.
Give drink to the thirsty. Visit the sick.
Clothe the naked. Visit the imprisoned.
Bury the dead.

The Spirtual Works of Mercy
Help the Sinner. Bear wrongs patiently.
Teach the ignorant. Forgive injuries.
Counsel the doubtful. Comfort the sorrowful.
Pray for the living and the dead.

25 posted on 12/20/2005 1:54:21 PM PST by franky (Pray for the souls of the faithful departed.)
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To: feinswinesuksass

If I start now, I'll be done by mid 2006.

Dang, that's a lot to confess. I'll need a young preist with a good heart and stamina.

26 posted on 12/20/2005 2:06:02 PM PST by Dashing Dasher (Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.)
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To: Dashing Dasher

and a good sense of humor....

27 posted on 12/20/2005 2:10:00 PM PST by Feiny (Every Time Someone Says HAPPY HOLIDAYS an Elf Dies.)
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To: feinswinesuksass

So, I just came home from the mall. Let me say, don't go there if you don't absolutely have to!!!

One guy said (and he was lying!!!), "I have the body of a 18 year old!"

And I replied, "Stuffed in the trunk of your car?"

He didn't laugh.

I don't know why!?

28 posted on 12/20/2005 2:14:41 PM PST by Dashing Dasher (Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.)
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To: NYer
The Second Commandment is also broken by a person acting in a God fearing manner, but doing the opposite.

Additionally, the Hebrew translation of the Fifth Commandment is, "You shall not murder." A huge distinction from kill.

29 posted on 12/20/2005 2:25:58 PM PST by onedoug
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To: P-Marlowe
You could.

However, if you are a registered Democrat, you will be refused absolution

30 posted on 12/20/2005 2:36:32 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: Nihil Obstat; netmilsmom
I think you are right to confess them. St John Vianney and St Padre Pio certainly would tell you to confess them. Maybe your wonderful priest was just a little tired that day.

This is a good point! Consider that the pope goes to confession on a very regular basis, as did the saints. Have you ever pondered what type of sins they confessed?

It's so easy to lull ourselves into a false sense of 'clear conscience' because we didn't murder someone, profane a Church or steal money from our employer. And that is what keeps so many catholics away from confession. Think of it this way. If you were to be die tonight, wouldn't you want your soul to be as clean as possible? Reconciliation is a Sacrament that imparts graces.

It took me a long time to return to confession because I sold myself on the notion that I was a "good" person. Now, when I look at Fr. Altier's list of mortal sins, I can see just how delusional I had been. It's an easy trap into which one can fall. After all, our 'pride' is at stake; it's embarrasing to confess our failings. Then again, 'pride' is itself, a sin.

Merry Christmas

31 posted on 12/20/2005 3:08:05 PM PST by NYer ("Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion")
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To: redgolum
So smoking is a mortal sin? I had better tell my mother in laws priest. He likes his pipe.

The list posted above are 'venial' sins. Let your priest enjoy his pipe.

32 posted on 12/20/2005 3:12:02 PM PST by NYer ("Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion")
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To: NYer

That is very well stated and encouraging. I think your attitude is the best one for a Christian to take. Thanks!

33 posted on 12/20/2005 3:26:13 PM PST by baa39
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To: NYer
Thanks for that list on venial sins. It should prove helpful.

Someone made the point that it would take a long time after going through this list. The confession of venial sins in the Confessional is not necessary. HOWEVER, if we desire to grow spiritually, we grow in steps. Early in our walk, we will figure out where we fall often.

By figuring out our "core" sin, the one we return to often, we can eliminate it. This is the purpose of confessing venial sins in Confession - to help eliminate their re-commission.


34 posted on 12/20/2005 3:32:51 PM PST by jo kus
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To: netmilsmom

Wanna really great tape on Confession? Fr. Larry Richards has one on for nothing! He does a great explanation of sin, explains what the sacrament is for and then goes through his unbelieveable "checklist" in rapid fire for those who haven't been in a while. His talk is geared towards teens, it's true, but he packs them in after they hear his talk (sometimes hours at a time).

I listen to this tape once in a while just to keep current. And, yes, not praying daily IS a mortal sin! Would you treat your spouse or anyone else that way? I doubt that you would.

"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole mind and your whole soul."


35 posted on 12/20/2005 4:04:42 PM PST by Frank Sheed ("Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions." ~GK Chesterton.)
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To: NYer

Ummmm, I think if I used this examination of conscience I'd be in trouble with my Spiritual Father! :)

36 posted on 12/20/2005 4:41:36 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: NYer

"Now if you think the above list is daunting, consider the following from a Russian Orthodox web site. (They didn't earn the name 'orthodox' from being lax :-)."

I should have read this examination before the Roman Catholic one. Its virtually identical to the one my SF has given me to use. I won't get into trouble with him for this one! :)

37 posted on 12/20/2005 4:45:07 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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Comment #38 Removed by Moderator

To: NYer
Examination of Conscience
39 posted on 12/20/2005 5:47:37 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: sandyeggo; jo kus; Kolokotronis; Frank Sheed; netmilsmom
An important point to remember is that multitudes of venial sins, unrecognized and unrepented, harden the heart.

Yes! Absolutely! They are like small embers smouldering away just waiting for a dose of fuel that will make them flare up. Confession douses even the smallest ember.

Every evening we ought review our day and say a sincere act of contrition. Sometimes a list such NYer's, read on occasion, can help us recognize failings we didn't even realize we had.

Only recently, I began praying the Maronite Divine Office, divided into evening and morning prayers. The Evening Prayers (Ramsho) include an Examination of Conscience followed by an Act of Contrition. As Sandyeggo pointed out, a daily reflection of conscience is a tremendous aid in recognizing our shortcomings and streamlining the list for our next Confession.

Having just returned from Reconciliation, followed by the Christmas Novena, I can attest to the awesome sense of joy that comes from this Sacrament. It is especially comforting to have a pastor who can zoom in like a laser beam on any one trouble spot and serve as a Spiritual Director. Like the Good Shepherd, he knows his flock and guides each and every one of them to Jesus Christ. Some, unfortunately, choose to go it alone. On them, he keeps a keen eye and reins them in through his homilies and prayers. After so many years wandering through the desert, our Lord has led me to a truly holy man. What a blessing!

40 posted on 12/20/2005 6:21:10 PM PST by NYer ("Socialism is the religion people get when they lose their religion")
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