Whether you are new to the faith (A Convert) or an existing member who is about to receive Communion, this Catholic Confession guide is for you! Here, we will discuss how to go to confession for the first time. This will walk you through the step-by-step process of undergoing this powerful Sacrament.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
Before we start the whole process, let’s first have a recap on what this Sacrament is all about.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation also known as Sacrament of Confession or Sacrament of Penance is one of the Holy Sacraments instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Catholic Church. Together with the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Order, Matrimony, and Anointing of the Sick, Confession allows us to grow closer to God and deepen our faith in the Church.
In this Sacrament, an individual goes to a priest to confess all the sins committed. The priest will then offer counsel, ask for penance, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, absolve the sins.
Step-by-Step Guide to Confession
In order to have a much more comprehensive idea of what to do in confession, we divide it into three (3) periods, before, during, and after the Confession.
Before Going to Confession
Step 1: Pray. Ask God for courage and guidance. Courage to confess all your sins. And guidance for you to be able to make a good confession.
Step 2: Examination of Conscience. Take time to reflect on your life. Look back on your sins. To have a good examen, you can visit this guide.
If you have little or no idea of what sins must be confessed, you can check this comprehensive list of sins to confess.
During the Confession
Step 3: When you are to confess, you may choose to be behind the screen or face-to-face, whichever is available at that moment. Depending on the confessional, you may either sit or kneel.
Step 4: Greet the priest. Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening will do.
Step 5: Make the sign of the cross and say, “Bless me Father for I have sinned, this is my first Confession.
These are my sins…”. Here you will tell the priest your sins, clearly, openly, honestly, and completely.
If you can recall, you can also mention the times you committed the sins.
For example, “I cursed twice, I lied to my friends five times, I disrespected my parents thrice…”.
Remember that all mortal sins should be confessed. Therefore, it is advisable to reveal the sins that are most difficult to say first. If you are not sure whether a sin is mortal or venial, you can ask your priest for guidance.
If you don’t know what to say, do not be ashamed to ask him for assistance. He will help you.
In the end, say, “For these and all the sins of my life, I am truly sorry.”
Step 6: The priest will then talk about your sins and give you advice. He will eventually ask you for penance, which you will perform after your confession. It could be prayers or acts of charity.
Step 7: After giving you penance, he will request you to recite the Act of Contrition. There are many versions of it, but you could use this simple one by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.
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 not sin again.
For the Spanish version, you can check this out.
Step 8: The priest will say the Prayer of Absolution. He will make the sign of the cross over you, and you should too. Respond, “Amen”.
Step 9: After the absolution, the priest will say, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.” at which you will reply, “His mercy endures forever.”
Step 10: The priest then will conclude by saying, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.” and
you will respond, “Thanks be to God.”
Step 11: Pray to God for thanksgiving. Sacrament of Reconciliation is His gift, through it, you received forgiveness and mercy. Give thanks to Him.
Step 12: Do your penance. It is highly recommended to do your penance as soon as possible so you won’t forget it.
That’s it! That’s the whole process of confession. If in case you have questions, feel free to ask your confessor, he will surely help you.
Here are the common questions about the Sacrament of Confession.
Do you need to confess venial sins?
Although it is not necessary to confess venial sins, it is highly encouraged by the Church to confess all sins.
Why do we Confess our sins?
According to the Catechism of the Church,
CCC 1440 Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
By confessing our sins, we repair our relationship with God so that we may be able to commune with Him.
Why do we need to confess to a priest? Why not directly to God?
Biblically, you can find the institution of this Sacrament as follows.
Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
In the last paragraph, it is clear that Christ ordered His disciples to absolve sins.
The thought of confession might probably scare you and cause you uneasiness. It is normal and understandable. But know that God gives us the Sacrament of Confession to reconnect with Him. After the sins we committed, He is waiting for us to repent. And He is merciful. He will forgive us.
The fear it could cause you at first is all worth it because of the peace it brings. Take heart.
May you have a good confession.
St. Gerard Majella, pray for us.