Catholic Confession: A Short but Thorough Guide

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Monday, July 5, 2021 - 7:36am

Catholic Confession: A Short but Thorough Guide

 

Trying to rid yourself of sin or has it been a while?  Check out this short but concise guide to Catholic Confession!

 

It was so embarrassing, but I didn’t care.  It wasn’t the first time, and I had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last.

 

But, I hated saying it.  I dreaded it. 

 

I was next in line and I walked into the dark little room, knelt down, and said those dreaded words: “Bless me father for I have sinned, it’s been only one day since my last confession.”

 

“One day?” the priest asked.  “Yes Father.”

 

“Praise God you are back and are not giving up.”

 

Then I confessed.

 

One of the greatest gifts our Lord gave us was the sacrament of Penance.

 

“Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for the remission of sins committed after Baptism.” [1]

 

Related: Guide to Catholic Confession {Free Printable}

Background on the Sacrament of Penance

 

“Christ promised the power to forgive sins to the Apostles.  To Peter He said: ‘I will give to thee the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven’ (Matt. 16:19). Heaven was closed through sin; Peter is to open it by forgiving sins.  Later Christ promised the same power to all of the Apostles: ‘Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in Heaven.’ (Matt. 18:18) [2]

 

After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to the Apostles and gave them this power that He had promised them.  “Appearing in the Upper Chamber in Jerusalem, He said: ‘As the Father hath sent Me I also send you’ He then breathed on them and continued: ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them’ (John 20:21-23) [3]

 

Why Not Just Confess Your Sins to God Directly?

 

When a person commits a mortal sin after they are baptized, they have cut themselves off from God and His grace.  If that person dies in a state of mortal sin, they will not spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus Christ.

 

You must confess to a priest because Christ gave the power to forgive sins to His apostles as mentioned above. James 5:16 says, Confess, therefore, your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be saved.”  Jesus did not give the power to forgive sins to the apostles, as mentioned in Matthew 18, for them not to use this power.

 

Additionally, there are some practical applications:
 

  1. Telling someone your faults holds you accountable.
  2. Sin metastasizes in secret and in darkness. Confession exposes the sin to light, and light is the ultimate purifier.
  3. Odds are, you have confessed your faults to a close friend or family member anyway. Why not tell them to a person who can actually do something about it?

 

The Sacrament of Penance produces an incredible amount of grace: [4]
 

  1. It remits the sins committed after Baptism;
  2. It remits eternal punishment, and at least a part of the temporal punishment due to sin;
  3. It restores or increases supernatural life of the soul;
  4. It gives strength not to fall back into sin.
     

Related: Guide to Catholic Confession {Free Printable}

What is Needed for a Good Penance? 

 

To receive the Sacrament of Penance worthily you simply must do what the Prodigal Son did in the Parable: [5]
 

  1. Examination of Conscience
  2. Contrition or be truly sorry
  3. Firm purpose of amendment or be ready to change your life
  4. Confession and absolution
  5. Penance or acts of reparation

 

What Have I Done? - Examination of Conscience
 

Free: Orthodox Catholic Examination of Conscience


It usually takes a second to realize when you did something wrong or maybe you knew that you were doing something evil while you were doing it.  Either way, you must examine yourself and account for the things that you have done.

 

We use the PDF provided here.  It’s one of the best ones we have seen, written by Fr. John De Celles.  While not always recommended, I personally write down every single sin I can remember and the number of times I committed them.  I bring the written sins to confession with me and then rip up and discard the paper in a garbage can where no one I know would find it. 

 

Are You Sorry? - Contrition

 

This means that you need to be sorry for your sins. There are two forms of contrition. Perfect contrition and imperfect contrition.

 

Some people become anxious because they would wonder if they are truly sorry.  If you are sorry, you are sorry, whether it’s because of fear or love.  It is fine if you have imperfect contrition.  We are all growing and if we are taking our relationship with God seriously, then His grace moves us towards the more perfect form of contrition.  To be clear, the definitions are as follows: [6]

 

Imperfect Contrition: You are sorry for your sins because you fear that God will punish you for them

Perfect Contrition: You are sorry for your sins because you have offended God, who is infinitely good and who loves you beyond all measure.

 

Make a Game Plan: Firm Purpose of Amendment

 

If someone jabs at you or purposely makes your life more difficult and always says they are sorry, but keeps doing it, you begin to wonder if they are really sorry.  People who are sorry for an offense try very hard not to hurt the person again. Sometimes it happens again, but you can tell who is trying and who is not.

 

You need to avoid the temptation all together and make a game plan. 

 

If you struggle with drunkenness, don’t keep alcohol in the house.  Don’t visit the bar.  Avoid friends who drink a lot.

 

If you struggle with pornography, have your wife or friend password protect your computer, install Covenant Eyes software. Get a dumb phone.  Do whatever it takes.

 

You know yourself and you know when and how you get into trouble.  Think about your habits and create a plan that prevents you from falling into the traps that you know are already set.

 

To be sorry you must be:

 

  1. Resolute not to commit any sin again
  2. Avoid the near occasion of sin
  3. Make amends as best as you can

 

Related: Guide to Catholic Confession {Free Printable}

Confession

 

The actual confessing of sins is the part that most people are afraid of.  You do not need to fear.  There is nothing you are going to confess that the priest has not already heard.  He has listened to confessions of lying, cheating, gossiping, violence, pornography use, fornication, homosexual behavior, abortion, sterilization, IVF use, etc.  He has heard it all.  Don’t be afraid to bring darkness into the light so the priest can exercise his power and remit these sins from your life. 

 

Confession is one of the biggest reliefs and the greatest gift God extends to us.  Don’t be afraid to go anytime you need it.

 

Penance

 

After you are absolved of your sins, the priest will give you a penance that you should do as soon as possible.  This is usually a saying a few prayers but sometimes the priest gets creative.  If you are given a penance that you cannot do, like a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, wearing a hair shirt, or 10 years of hard labor, (joking of course!) then ask the priest for a different penance.

 

Related: If you are really struggling, consider finding a Spiritual Director.

Pervasive Mortal Sin and Addiction

 

If you are struggling with recurring mortal sin and are getting frustrated and discouraged, don’t.  Our Lord knows you. He knows you are trying.  He loves you profoundly, but it does not mean that you should forget about this important battle though.

 

I have personally battled pervasive mortal sin in my life that held over for a while because of a time in my life when I was undisciplined, far from Jesus, and careless with my decisions. 

 

I want to share the secret on how I overcame this sin in my life. 

 

I secret is that…I didn’t. 

 

Jesus Christ overcame it for me, through the sacrament of confession and fought alongside me.  I remember one particular sin that took years to root out.  But I never gave up.  I would slip up, realize where I went wrong, tweak my game plan, and I would immediately go to confession. 

 

There was a period when I knew where and what time every confession schedule was in a 10-mile radius.

 

Even if it had only been 1 day, I would even take off work in the mornings to drive an hour away when I would slip up to make sure I cleaned up my soul.

 

It would have been more convenient to wait, but I always wanted to be close to the Lord as soon as I could after I messed up.

 

After a while, the sin would get less and less frequent, until eventually, God’s grace completely overcame the sin and it is no longer an issue or addiction.

 

Never get discouraged or give up.  Even if you have been fighting for years to rid yourself of sin.  It won’t ever come easily.   God knows your heart, loves you, and He never gives up on you, so do not give up on yourself.  Use the sacrament He gave us and keep fighting and keep praying!

 

Confessions Changes Lives and Mine is One of Them!

Free: Orthodox Catholic Examination of Conscience

Confessions Tips:

 

How Often to go to Confession

 

You should make it a habit to go to confession at least once a month, even if you have not committed a mortal sin.  It’s just a good rule of thumb and you want to be in the habit of going.

 

How to Prepare:

  1. You really need a good Examination of Conscience.  Free Download Here.
  2. You can also download our free Going to Confession Guide and Shred Booklet that you should immediately discard after your confession.
  3. Figure out what you can do now to avoid your worst sins. If it is drinking too much alcohol, get it out of the house. If its pornography, download Covenant Eyes.  Make the plan now on how to avoid the mortal sins.
  4. Find a confession time and arrive 15-20 minutes early.  In our experience, the line is always pretty long if you arrive right when confession starts.
  5. Confess your sins to the priest
  6. Do your penance immediately so you don’t forget.
  7. Consider finding a spiritual director for extra help
  8. Go home and realize that now that you have a nice polished soul, the demons will come at you extra hard.  Pray a little extra to keep them at bay and follow your plan.
     

Related: Guide to Catholic Confession {Free Printable}

 

References:

[1] Laux, J. (1990). Mass and the Sacraments: The Mass, Seven Sacraments, Indulgences, Sacramentals. TAN Books. [P. 95]

[2] Ibid. [P. 95-96]

[3] Ibid. [P. 96]

[4] Ibid. [P. 98]

[5] Ibid. [P. 98-99]

[6] Ibid. [P. 101]

 

 

 

The Beads: Rosary Meditations Guided by the Saints

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This Rosary Meditation Guide will help you meditate on the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ by taking you bead-by-bead on a journey using reflections from the Douay-Rheims Bible, St. Alphonsus De Liguori, and St. Bonaventure.

If you're looking for new resources to help you pray the Rosary during this month of the Holy Rosary, definitely check out "The Beads."

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