Why confess to a priest? ·
Our Lord gave the power to forgive sins to
His priests (Jn 20:22-23); ·
in order to re-submit to the authority of
God and the Church which we have betrayed by
our sins, and to be re-admitted to that
community (that oneness of Faith symbolized
by the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of
Unity) from which we have cut ourselves off
by mortal sin; ·
because Confession is not purely about the
individual and God but about our
relationship with others also, and about
re-establishing the harmony of a created
order shattered by sin; ·
because the priest is the representive of
the Christian community, the Church; ·
in Confession it is harder to sweep things
under the carpet, or to justify and excuse
our faults; ·
to benefit from the psychological release of
naming our sins; ·
to benefit from spiritual direction or
What is conscience?
Blessed John Henry Newman described it as a
law of the mind; a messenger of Him who...
speaks to us behind a veil; the aboriginal
Vicar of Christ. To examine our
conscience is to identify ways in which we
have been unfaithful to God’s grace, to His
law, to His Word.
examination In a general examination of
conscience we examine ourselves with regard
to all aspects of our lives making use, for
example, of the Ten Commandments.
Particular examen A particular examen is
a useful tool for tackling a particular,
persistent fault. Each evening, instead of
making a general examination of conscience
(which you would still need to do
immediately before going to Confession), try
- give thanks for all the graces of the day;
examine in what ways and how many times you
have been unfaithful to that grace with
regard to a particular fault; ·
make an Act of Contrition; ·
make a resolution for the next day
concerning that particular fault, and ask
for God’s help. Take as long as necessary
to root out that particular fault: days,
weeks, months, perhaps longer.
examination of conscience Wisdom may be
defined as seeing as God sees. When we
examine our conscience we begin to see
ourselves as God sees us. When we die and
meet our Maker we shall certainly see
ourselves as God sees us. Making a daily
examination of conscience – continually
refining our self-awareness – may help reduce
the shock a little!
confession Perhaps once in a lifetime we
might make a general confession, revisiting
our entire life, renewing our sorrow for
past sins, and making a fresh start. We
might do this shortly before getting
married, being ordained priest, or taking
religious vows. Seek advice from a priest
before making such a confession.
Different types of sin The definition of
a sin is an offence against God. A sin is
that which offends or displeases God, and
which is contrary to divine law or precept.
Original Sin is that sin of pride and
disobedience committed by Adam.
Actual sins are so called because they
result from our actions, our acts of the
will. All of our actual sins – whatever
other name we give them – are in reality
sins of pride and disobedience. Formal
and material sins: We commit a formal sin
when we choose to transgress God’s Law. We
commit a material sin when what we have done
is wrong but we did not know at the time
that it was wrong; harm has still been done
but we may not know it (in this last regard, at least,
it’s a little bit like a hit-and-run driver
who genuinely doesn’t know he’s hurt
Mortal sin: cuts us off
from the charity of God. When we are in a
state of mortal sin we have lost the life of
God within us (sanctifying grace). Just as a
dead body cannot resurrect itself, so a soul
which is dead to the life of God cannot
revivify itself. We need the Sacrament of
Confession. Three conditions must be present
for a sin to be mortal: ·
we must have full knowledge of what we are
doing and that it is wrong; ·
we must give the act our full consent; ·
the act itself must involve grave matter.
Venial Sin: is a lesser sin and does
not cut us off from the charity of God but
it damages our friendship with Him and
weakens our love for Him and for others:
deliberate venial sins weaken the soul and
need to be rooted out; ·
semi-deliberate venial sins are those
committed with less deliberation and which
may involve an element of surprise or
impulse, but complacency about them would
increase guilt and hinder our progress
towards perfection; ·
sins of fraility are committed
inadvertently, there is wrong-doing but
little guilt because they involve no
deliberate act of the will to offend God and
are promptly disavowed. Even so, we need to
purify ourselves of these. Lots of venial
sins do not add up to a mortal sin, but
being attached to venial sins or allowing
venial sins to become habitual could indeed
lead to us to commit a mortal sin.
Imperfections are not in fact sins. They
result from our fraility and weakness, as do
sins of course, but they are minor slip-ups
to which we do not give our full consent, or
they are attachments to things which are
morally neutral but which prevent us from
becoming perfect. Imperfections are acts of
lesser generosity in the service of God. An
imperfection is something that is less good
rather than actually evil.
Occasions of sin are not in themselves
sins but are, rather, circumstances which
are likely to lead sin. To place oneself
deliberately into such a circumstance would
be a sin.
Three conditions for a
good Confession 1. Contrition
Being sorry for our sins, and making a firm
purpose of amendment (involving hatred for
sin and turning from sin, and the promise at
least to try – to intend – not to commit
them again). ·
perfect contrition, or simply contrition,
means to be sorry because we have offended
God; it means desiring God for His own sake,
desiring to be reunited with Him and His
family in love; ·
imperfect contrition, or attrition, means
being sorry because of the harm we have
done, or because of the harm we fear will
accrue to us, because of our sins.
Perfect contrition leads to the forgiveness
of sin even without the Sacrament of
Confession because the desire for
forgiveness brings about forgiveness, for
example in the case of someone on the point
of death. Nevertheless, going to the
Sacrament is the fruit, the outcome, of that
desire for forgiveness, not an optional
extra. It is also the case that this desire
does not restore us to our place in the
community of believers. In other words, we
cannot go to Communion. To do this we must
re-submit ourselves to the community – the
Church – from which we have separated
ourselves. So we must always go to
Confession before we can go to Holy
Communion if we have committed a mortal sin.
One of the effects of the Sacrament of
Confession is to turn attrition (or
imperfect contrition) into contrition (or
2. Confession We
must confess our sins, that is, we must
accuse ourselves of our sins and, in the
process, confess – or proclaim – our need
for God’s mercy and grace. Our confession
should be: ·
clear – no waffle; ·
sincere – no hiding or excusing; ·
humble – an accusation of guilt against
prudent – not confessing others’ sins; ·
entire – mention all mortal sins, how many
times they were committed, and all (and
only) those circumstances which might affect
the level of guilt. A good Confession will
also include venial sins and, perhaps,
3. Satisfaction We
must make satisfaction for our sins by doing
penance, and “in my flesh I complete what is
lacking in Christ’s affliction” (Col 1:24).
A good Confession always remits
(cancels) the eternal punishment due to sin
(in other words, hell) but not always all of
the temporal punishment (the punishment that
only lasts for a while). If there is
punishment still due to us when we die – if
we have not carried our share of the weight
of the Cross like Simon of Cyrene – then we
will spend time in purgatory. The penance
helps to expiate (make amends for) our sins
and remit some or all of the temporal
The penance is also
intended to excite our desire for God and to
heal our broken friendship with Him; to
assure Him, as it were, that we desire to
If we fail to do our
penance, our sins would still have been
forgiven (the Sacrament would still be
valid), but deliberately to neglect the
penance would be a sin and should be
confessed next time.
of virtue A habit is a disposition of the
soul or mind. If some-one is disposed
towards patience, he has the habit of
patience; if towards laziness, he has the
habit of laziness. Good habits are called
virtues; bad habits, vices.
A virtue is something that makes it easier
to do the things we should do. ·
A vice is something that makes it harder not
to do the things we shouldn’t do.
Confession is one of the best means
available of turning a bad habit into a good
habit. Repeatedly... ·
confessing the same sins, ·
opening the heart to God’s forgiveness and
receiving the strength to resist temptation,
seeking God’s guidance and illumination,
and persevering in good resolutions, all
help to reduce the hold a vice may have over
us and turn our hearts towards God instead.
Confessing a new sin before it has time
to become a habit is a powerful corrective. Grace and good resolutions Grace
does not work in a vacuum; it elevates and
perfects nature. In other words, God takes
what we give Him, and He uses His grace to
build on our good resolutions, our
intentions and our efforts, in order to
purify and sanctify them.
Detachment Bit by bit we need to become
detached from anything and everything
(including stubbornly held opinions) that
keeps us at arm’s length from God so that,
eventually, everything we do is motivated by
our love for Him and by our willingness to
do His will. In other words we need to free
our hearts from creatures (the things and
even the people that God has created) in
order to become attached solely to the
Creator. “For where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).
* “The great thing is to become saints,”
said St Philip, but he also said, “You
cannot become a saint in four days”.
Before going to
Preparatory prayers - Even before
examining your conscience spend some time in prayer
to excite sorrow, to seek guidance from the Holy
Spirit, to ask for help from Our Lady the Refuge of
Conscience - In what ways
have I been unfaithful to God’s grace, His love or
1. Have I loved God with all my
heart? - Have I without sufficient reason missed
Mass on any Sunday or Holy Day of
Obligation? - Have I undertaken some small
penance each Friday throughout the year,
such as abstaining from meat? - Have I used the
name of God in vain, in anger, or
carelessly? Have I used swear words? - Have I
shown disrespect for holy things, places, or
people? - Have I experimented with the occult, or
trusted in fortune tellers of horoscopes?
- Have I neglected my daily prayers, or said them
badly? Have I been inattentive at Mass?
- Have I been careless in my preparation for, or
thanksgiving after, receiving the Sacraments? -
Have I received Holy Communion in a state of
mortal sin? - Have I given thanks to God for what
He has given me? - Have I placed my
trust in Him? Have I resigned myself to
2. Have I loved my neighbour as
myself? - Have I taken part in, or encouraged,
abortion, the destruction of human
embryos, euthanasia, or any other means
of taking human life? - Have I been violent
towards, or abused, anyone verbally or
physically? - Have I been dishonest by stealing
or cheating, or not paying proper wages,
or bills, or debts, or not doing the work
well for which I am paid or which it is my
duty to do?
- Have I been uncharitable by thought, word, or
deed, or omission? - Have I revealed
the faults of others in idle gossip? - Have I
told lies, to injure anyone or to excuse
myself? - Have I revealed secrets I was bound to
keep, or read other people’s letters?
- Have I contributed to the support of the Church
according to my means? - Have I been
disobedient, rude, or sulky to those in
authority over me? - Have I been harsh,
overbearing, or sarcastic to those under
my authority? - Have I brooded over injuries,
been resentful, or refused to forgive?
- Have I been angry, envious, or jealous? Have I set
my heart greedily on possessing things?
- Have I despised others, or given scandal, or bad
example? - Have I been vain, proud,
selfish, or self-seeking? - Have I been immodest
or impure in thought, word, or deed with
myself or with others? Have I made use of
impure images on the computer, by watching
films, or reading books/magazines? - Have I been
greedy or intemperate in eating or
drinking? Have I taken illegal drugs? - Have I
given way to self-pity? - Have I driven a vehicle
without due regard to the safety of
others or of myself? - Have I been lazy at work,
study, or domestic duties? - Have I
encouraged others to do wrong?
people and for parents: - Have I failed to foster
warmth of love and affection in my
marriage? - Have I prolonged disagreements or
harboured resentments? Have I failed to
apologize when I have been wrong? -
Have I mistreated my spouse verbally, emotionally,
physically? - Have I used artificial
forms of birth control? - Have I been unfaithful
to my marriage vows in any way? - Have
I failed to teach my children to pray, and to
love God, Our Lady, the angels and the saints? -
Have I failed to bring my children to Mass on any
Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation? -
Have I neglected my duty to my children in regard
to the practice of the Catholic Faith? Or
with regard to their moral or general
education? - Have I been harsh or unjust to my
children? - Have I monitored my children’s
well-being, for example by keeping an eye
on what they watch on the TV or computer,
what they read, or who they mix with?
- Have I sinned against the duties of married life?
Some Formulas of Catholic Doctrine to help you
The Two Commandments of Love (or Precepts
of Charity) 1. You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind. 2.
You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
The Ten Commandments 1. You shall not
have strange gods before me. You
shall not make to yourself any graven thing, nor
the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above,
or in the earth
beneath, nor of those things that
are in the waters under the earth. You shall not
adore them nor serve them. 2. You
shall not take the name of the Lord Your
God in vain. 3. Remember to keep holy
the Sabbath day. 4. Honour your
father and your mother. 5. You shall
not kill. 6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal. 8.
You shall not bear false witness against your
neighbour. 9. You shall not covet
your neighbour’s wife. 10. You shall not covet
your neighbour’s goods.
The Eight Beatitudes
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
is the Kingdom of
Heaven 2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they
shall be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall
inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they
shall be satisfied. 5. Blessed are the
merciful, for they shall obtain
mercy. 6. Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall
be called the children
of God. 8. Blessed are they that suffer
justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Seven Sacraments 1. Baptism
5. Matrimony 2. Confession
6. Holy Order 3. Holy Communion
7. Anointing of the Sick 4. Confirmation
The Three Theological Virtues 1. Faith
2. Hope 3.
The Four Cardinal Virtues 1.
3. Fortitude 2. Justice
The Seven Gifts of the
Holy Spirit 1. Wisdom
5. Knowledge. 2. Understanding.
6. Godliness. 3. Counsel.
7. Fear of the Lord. 4. Fortitude.
The Three Eminent Good Works
2. Fasting. 3.
The Three Evangelical Counsels
1. Poverty. 2.
Chastity. 3. Obedience
The Six Precepts of the Church 1. To
assist at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of
Obligation and remain free from work or activity
that could impede the sanctification of such days.
2. To confess your sins at least once a year.
3. To receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion
at least once during
the Easter season. 4. To observe the days
of fasting and abstinence
established by the Church. 5. To contribute
to the support of the Church. 6. To observe
the laws of the Church concerning
The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
1. Feed the hungry. 2. Give drink to
3. Clothe naked. 4. Shelter the
homeless. 5. Visit the sick. 6.
Visit the imprisoned. 7. Bury the dead.
The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy 1.
Counsel the doubtful. 2. Instruct the
ignorant. 3. Admonish sinners. 4.
Comfort the afflicted. 5. Forgive offences.
6. Bear wrongs patiently. 7. Pray for
the living and the dead.
The Seven Capital
Sins 1. Pride.
5. Gluttony. 2. Covetousness.
6. Envy. 3. Lust.
7. Sloth. 4. Anger.
Last Things. 1. Death.
3. Hell. 2. Judgement.
Going to Confession in 8 easy steps
1. Go into the confessional and shut the
door and kneel down.
2. Make the Sign of the Cross. 3.
Say, “Bless me Father, for I have
sinned. It is…. since
my last confession.” 4. Tell the
priest your sins. Be as clear as you can.
When you have finished say, “For these and all
my sins I am truly sorry and beg pardon and
forgiveness”. 5. Listen to what the priest
says and remember the
penance he gives you. 6. When he asks you
to say the Act of Contrition
Short 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 try not to sin again. Amen.
of Contrition: O my God, I am sorry and beg
pardon for all my sins, and detest them above all
things, because they deserve Your dreadful
punishments, because they have crucified my loving
Saviour Jesus Christ, and, most of all, because they
have offended Your infinite goodness; and I firmly
resolve, by the help of Your grace, never to offend
You again, and carefully to avoid the occasions of
7. Make the sign of the
Cross when the priest
absolves you. 8. Go out of the
Confessional, leaving the door open.
Say your penance. ·
Make a thanksgiving. ·
Ask for God’s help to persevere in your new
resolutions, your firm purpose of amendment. ·
Say a prayer for the priest.