A GUIDE TO CONFESSION
It’s a sacrament of God’s mercy…don’t be afraid!
Jesus came as the “Divine Physician” and wants us to trust Him especially in the face of our sins. What follows is a brief explanation of the sacrament of Reconciliation and an Examination of Conscience.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also officially called Penance but more commonly people just say they’re going to “Confession”.
There are four principle “parts” to the sacrament:
1. Contrition: The most important part of the sacrament of Reconciliation is contrition, which is “heartfelt sorrow for sin committed along with the intention of sinning no more.” This is a profound change of the whole person by which one begins to consider, judge, and arrange one’s life according to the holiness and love of God, made manifest in his Son. The genuineness of the confession depends on this heartfelt contrition.
2. Confession: The sacrament includes telling or confessing our sins before the priest. Confession requires in the penitent the will to open his heart to the minister of God. Acting in the person of Christ, the priest offers the Lord’s mercy and also helps the person to see the evil of sin.
3. Penance: True conversion is completed by acts of penance for the sins committed, by amendment of conduct and also by the reparation of injury (like returning stolen goods). The penance should be related to the sin and to some extent counteract it. Zacheus’s conversion serves as a dramatic example of someone who does real acts of reparation to make up for his sins. You might receive a penance that is prayer, fasting or some good work.
4. Absolution: Through the prayer of absolution Jesus Christ himself reconciles the penitent to God, the Church and others. Jesus does this through the ministry of the priest. This is Jesus’ guarantee to us that when we hear the words “I absolve you from your sins…” we truly are forgiven!
How to go to Confession
1. You always have the option to go to confession anonymously, that is, behind a screen or face to face, if you so desire.
2. You can begin with the sign of the cross and say “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been (state how long) since my last confession. These are my sins.”
3. Tell your sins simply and honestly to the priest. You might even want to discuss the circumstances and the root causes of your sins and ask the priest for advice or direction.
4. Listen to the advice the priest gives you and accept the penance from him. Then make an Act of Contrition (see below for an example) for your sins.
5. Try to perform your penance as soon as possible. Spend some time with the Lord thanking Him for the gift of His mercy.
AN ACT OF CONTRITION
Oh my God,
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
And failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy. Amen.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
– Do I give God time every day in prayer?
– Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart?
– Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult?
– Do I seek to surrender myself to God´s word as taught by the Church?
– Have I ever received communion in the state of serious sin?
– Have I ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a serious sin from the priest in Confession?
– Are there other “gods” in my life? Money, Security, Power, People, etc.?
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
– Have I used God´s name in vain: lightly or carelessly?
– Have I wished evil upon any other person?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day.
– Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
– Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?
– Do I do needless work on Sunday?
4. Honor your father and your mother.
– Do I honor and obey my parents?
– Have I neglected my duties to my spouse and children?
– Have I given my family good religious example?
– Do I try to bring peace into my home life?
– Do I care for my aged and infirm relatives?
5. You shall not kill.
– Have I physically harmed anyone?
– Have I abused alcohol or drugs?
– Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading him or her into sin?
– Have I harbored hatred in my heart?
– Have I engaged, in any way, in sins against human life such as abortion, euthanasia or sterilization?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
– Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
– Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?
– Am I open to the transmission of new life in my marriage?
– Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words, actions?
– Am I careful to dress modestly?
7. You shall not steal.
– Have I stolen what is not mine?
– Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?
– Do I waste time at work, school, and home?
– Do I gamble excessively, thereby denying my family of their needs?
– Do I pay my debts promptly?
– Do I seek to share what I have with the poor?
– Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, big corporations?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
– Have I lied? Have I gossiped?
– Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
– Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
– Have I injured the reputation of others by slander?
9. You shall not desire your neighbor´s wife.
– Have I consented to impure thoughts?
– Have I caused them by impure reading, images, pornography, conversation or curiosity?
– Do I pray to remove impure thoughts and temptations?
– Have I thought of other people as mere objects of lust?
10. You shall not desire your neighbor´s goods.
– Am I jealous of what other people have?
– Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
– Am I greedy or selfish?
-Are material possessions the purpose of my life?