How to Make a Good Confession
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the normative means by which a Christian avails themselves of the mercy and grace of God for the forgiveness of sins. The two effects of confession are the sacramental forgiveness of sin through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and an increase in grace that helps renew a Christians soul and increase their ability to resist temptation. In an earlier article, I dealt with answering the question of why Catholics practice confession of sins to a priest. If you need an answer to this question, click here for an answer. In this article I will help instruct the reader on how to make a good confession.
Requirements for Confession
What to do in the Confessional
1) Wait for your turn at
the Confessional, and if you have not done so examine your conscience
1) Wait for your turn at the Confessional, and if you have not done so examine your conscience
Whether you examine your conscience at home or in the church, it is important that you honestly examine your actions since the last confession. All mortal sins and the approximate number of times they were committed must be confessed for a valid confession. Venial sins do not have to be confessed, but if you desire to do so you may. If you believe your confession will last a great deal of time (in excess of fifteen minutes) it is advisable to schedule a private confession with the priest. A private confession is a good idea for those who have either left the Church, committed a sin which requires possible counseling, or have not confessed in a long time. If you want to know what a mortal sin is and need help examining your conscience, click here.
2) Enter the Confessional and choose either a face-to-face confession or anonymous confession
Since Vatican II, most parish churches allow the confessor to choose between a face-to-face or anonymous confession. Usually, this is done by dividing the confessional room into two halves separated by a grill or curtain. If you desire an anonymous confession simply kneel down in front of the curtain (the curtain will separate you from the priest) and the priest will begin the confession. If you desire a face-to-face confession, simply walk around the curtain and sit in the chair opposite the priest. Remember that you are about to confess your sins to Jesus Christs representative on earth. You confess to Christ and the Church. Your humility, honesty, and penitence should be tempered by this fact. Also remember that confessions are absolutely confidential. The priest will never share your sins with anyone else. He is instructed to keep the seal of the confessional even under pain of death; so do not let your worries affect your confession.
3) The priest will begin the Confession with the prayer of the Sign of the Cross
Make the sign of the cross and say, Forgive me Father for I have sinned it has been [blank] days since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following sins.
Then tell the priest the mortal sins you have committed since your last confession. You do not have to go into any explicit detail of your sins unless the priest feels it is necessary. Simply tell him the sin and the number of times you did it. If you feel it is necessary you can tell him the circumstances. You may also ask him for advice regarding the sin. When you are finished, tell the priest you are sorry for your sins and ask Jesus to forgive those sins as well as any you may have forgotten to confess.
4) The priest will briefly discuss the effects of your sins and will offer advice and encouragement on leading a better Christian life. He will give you a penance to perform (usually a prayer or good deed) and may ask you to say the Act of Contrition. Finally, he will absolve you of your sins through a prayer. At the end of his absolution he will say, I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Make the sign of the cross as he does this. He will then dismiss you by saying some variation of go in peace. Reply, Thanks be to God and exit the confessional.
5) As soon as possible, complete your penance and rejoice in the fact that your sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. Rejoice and resolve to sin no more!
Indulgences are a wonderful sacramental that we should avail ourselves of at all opportunities. If we have not paid for the punishments of our sins by the end of our lifetime or have a lingering attachment to sin, we must expiate ourselves of attachment to sin in Purgatory (provided we die in the state of grace). That is why a wise Christian will avail himself of every source of grace in this lifetime.
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