The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a great gift to Catholics. But sometimes we don’t avail ourselves of this grace as much as we should. Sometimes fear or uncertainty keep us from His Divine Mercy. But, sisters, there is so much hope and healing in this Sacrament. Maybe we just need to be more comfortable with the process in order to be more confident in going to Confession.
Why Should I Go to Confession?
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1446:
Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification.
We go to Confession in order to restore our relationship with Christ and our relationship with the Church. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Sacrament of Healing because we are cleansed, restored, and strengthened.
In the life of a Catholic, frequent Confession should be a high priority. It is in this Sacrament that we weed out anything that keeps us from Christ and are given the graces to resist temptation and to grow closer to Him going forward.
How to Go to Confession
Maybe it’s been a while since your last Confession. Maybe you’re a little intimidated by the process and the fear is keeping you from this moment of mercy. We’ve all been nervous to go to Confession before, so you’re not alone. But let’s not let fear prevent us from running to the loving arms of our Father.
Sometimes, fear can be eradicated simply by being prepared. Many of us worry that we will forget the “right words” or that we won’t remember how to participate in the Sacrament. Together, let’s walk through the process of going to Confession so that we can be confident in approaching the throne of grace.
1. Examine Your Conscience
The first step in the Sacrament of Reconciliation comes before our confession begins. It’s important to take the time to examine our conscience. We pause and reflect on our life and look for the ways we have done wrong or failed to do good. The important part of this process is to reflect on our sorrow over our sins and how they have hurt Christ or others in our life.
There are many wonderful Examinations of Conscience that can walk you through this process step-by-step. Blessed is She has created one for you, and you can download it at the bottom of this post.
If it helps, print off your Examination of Conscience and bring it with you. Make marks by the sins you’ve committed, or make notes in the margins. I’ve done this before and it helps me to relax and not worry so much about remembering everything.
Once you’ve examined your conscience, you’re ready to celebrate the Sacrament!
2. Pick Your Preference
Depending on where you go to Confession, you might have the option to either sit with Father face-to-face or to kneel or sit behind a screen, keeping your identity anonymous. Either way is acceptable and no one way is better than the other.
Of course, the beautiful thing about Confession is that it can be celebrated anywhere. That means you might not have this option if you’re going to Confession in an airport or outside or in a restaurant.
3. Greeting and Blessing
Father will usually greet you with a smile and will open by blessing you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
At this point, it is common to let the priest know how long it has been since your last Confession. If you can’t remember exactly, an estimate is fine.
4. Confession of Sins
Here’s where you list your sins. If you can recall, let the priest know how many times you’ve committed each sin. It helps him understand what you struggle with most.
It can be difficult and, frankly, embarrassing to admit our sins. But let me offer some comfort. There is no sin that a priest has not heard confessed. I promise that nothing we say will shock the priest, and he will not judge us. Most priests forget our specific sins (think of all the Confessions they hear!), so we don’t need to worry about him thinking horrible things about us the next time we see him at the fish fry.
5. Acceptance of Penance
After you’ve listed your sins, the priest will take a few minutes to offer guidance or reflection. Then, he will give you a penance to be performed in reparation for your sins.
Sometimes our penance is a list of prayers offered for specific intentions. Sometimes it’s an act of love to be completed. Ideally, our penances will correspond with our sins, offering us another opportunity to choose Jesus over sin.
6. Act of Contrition
Once the priest has given you your penance, he will ask you to make an Act of Contrition. There are so many beautiful Acts of Contrition available to us, and we can even make one up on the spot. Here’s a lovely one to keep on hand:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.
7. Prayer of Absolution
After you pray your Act of Contrition, Father will pray the Prayer of Absolution over you:
God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
This prayer holds such beauty, freedom, and healing. It’s my favorite part of the Sacrament.
The priest might close with the words:
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
And you respond:
His mercy endures forever.
Not all priests say this, though, so don’t sweat it if it doesn’t come up.
That’s it! See? Not so scary.
9. Perform Your Penance
The final part of Confession is fulfilling our penance. Sometimes this can be done rather quickly in church after the Sacrament, and sometimes it takes more intention and time.
An Examination of Conscience for Women
We at Blessed is She are happy to offer you an Examination of Conscience for Women. We use the Seven Deadly Sins as a framework to examine all the aspects of our lives. At the end, we reflect on what Heavenly Virtues we can seek to live out in place of the sins that keep us from Christ.
What’s your favorite grace of Confession?
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Olivia Spears lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She works from home as an editor and social media manager while raising her children and laughing with her husband. Although she now spends most of her free time away from the internet, past adventures are still on her blog. You can find out more about her here.