How to Make a Good Confession
Confession is the method given by Christ to the Church by which individual men and women may be freed from sins. The absolution is granted through a priest those individuals who with true remorse confess their sins and promise to try not to ever repeat that sin.
There are five steps to a good confession:
1. Examine your conscience.
2. Be sincerely sorry for your sins.
3. Confess your sins to a priest.
4. Resolve to amend your life.
5. After your confession, do the penance the priest assigns.
The easiest way to examine your conscience is to go down the Ten Commandments and reflect if you have committed an act against the Commandments.
Below are the Ten Commandments and questions to reflect upon:
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 (horoscopes or ouija boards) 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 mortal sin? Have I ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?
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 been angry with God? Have I wished evil upon any other person? Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation? Have I not kept Sunday as a family day and a day of rest? Do I do needless work on Sunday? Do I make others 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? Do I respect my elders? Do I respect my pastor, bishop, and the Pope?
5. You shall not kill.
Have I had an abortion or encouraged anyone to have an abortion? Have I physically harmed anyone? Have I abused alcohol or drugs? Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading them into sin? Have I been angry or resentful? Have I harbored hatred in my heart? Have I been sterilized for reasons of birth control? Have I encouraged or condoned 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 before marriage or outside of marriage? Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control? Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life? Have I respected all members of the opposite sex, or have I thought of other people as objects? Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity? Do I seek to be pure in my thoughts, words and actions? Am I careful to dress modestly, so as not to tempt others? Have I been guilty of masturbation with myself.
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 or at 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?
8. You shall not bear false witness.
Have I lied? Have I gossiped? Have I harmed someone’s reputation? Have I spoken behind someone else’s back? Am I critical, negative, or uncharitable in my thoughts of others? Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
9. You shall not desire your neighbor’s wife.
Have I consented to impure thoughts? Have I caused them by impure television, movies, books, magazines or internet? Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations? Do I listen to, or engage in, impure conversations or jokes?
10. You shall not desire your neighbor’s goods.
Am I jealous of what other people have? Do I envy other people’s families or possessions? Am I greedy or selfish? Are material possessions the purpose of my life? Do I trust that God will care for all of my material and spiritual needs?
Make the sign of the cross and say: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been ___ Months/weeks/years since my last confession”
Allow the priest to give you his blessing and to add whatever exhortation he may be inspired to offer. Listen prayerfully and with an open heart, then say: “I have committed the following sins.” Then begin your confession.
Confess your sins clearly and sincerely, starting with the most difficult or embarrassing ones. Should you feel nervous, or uncertain about some sins, ask the priest to help you.
When you have finished confessing all the sins that you remember, say: “For these sins all the sins of my past life, I ask absolution and penance from you, Father.”
The priest will give you some advice. He will also give you an appropriate penance to be performed after the sacrament of confession. At his invitation, recite and Act of Contrition.
You can say the Act of Contrition either in your own words, or by reciting the following or a similar one:
O my God, I am heartily sorry
for having offended you.
I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because they offend you,
my God, who are all good
and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace,
to sin no more, to do penance,
and to amend my life. Amen.
After having recited the Act of Contrition, bow your head and receive the priest’s absolution with humility and gratitude. Follow his words attentively and join him in saying the closing “Amen!”
Kneel down in front of the altar or of an image of Our Lord, and thank him for the gift of this confession. Renew your resolution and ask His help to overcome future temptations. If the penance given by the confessor consists in some prayers to be recited, say them quietly and devoutly.
Then smile at Jesus with gratitude. Rise joyful and confident for the Lord has been merciful to you. Live for Him every minute of your life, and let everybody see how wonderful it is to serve the Lord.