A Guide for Confession
Returning to the Sacrament of Confession after being away for awhile can cause us to be anxious. However, you need not be afraid. It is our hope that this guide will help remove some of that fear and give you encouragement to receive Jesus’ forgiveness in this great sacrament. Keep in mind that during your confession, if you need help – especially if you have been away for some time – simply ask the priest and he will help you by "walking" you through the confession.
The basic requirement for a good confession is to have the intention of returning to God like the "prodigal son" and to acknowledge our sins with true sorrow before the priest.
Sin in my Life
In some ways, modern society has lost a sense of sin. As a Catholic follower of Christ, I must make an effort to recognize sin in my daily thoughts, actions, words and omissions. We are all sinners, but Jesusloves sinners. As He said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” So, we need not be afraid to recognize and admit our sin.
The Gospels show how deeply Jesus wishes to forgive us and how important is the forgiveness of our sins. Lives of saints prove that the person who grows in holiness has a stronger sense of sin, sorrow for sins, and a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.
The Differences in Sins
As a result of Original Sin, human nature is weakened. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, takes away Original Sin, and turns us back toward God. The consequences of this weakness and the inclination to evil persist, and we often commit personal or actual sin.
Actual sin is sin which people commit. There are two kinds of actual sin, mortal and venial.
Mortal sin is a deadly offense against God, so serious that it destroys the life of grace in the soul. Three simultaneous conditions must be fulfilled for a mortal sin: 1) the act must be something very serious; 2) the person must have sufficient understanding of what is being done; 3) the person must have sufficient freedom of the will.
Be truly sorry for your sins. The essential act of Penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love one has for God. The resolution to avoid committing these sins in the future (amendment) is a sure sign that your sorrow is genuine and authentic. This does not mean that a promise never to fall again into sin is necessary. A resolution to try to avoid the near occasions of sin suffices for true repentance. God's grace in cooperation with the intention to rectify your life will give you the strength to make progress in resisting and overcoming temptation in the future.
Examination of Conscience
Before going to Confession you should make a review of mortal and venial sins since your last sacramental confession, and should express sorrow for sins and a firm resolution not to sin again. Here is an examination of conscience to help you review your life. It is based is on the Commandments of God:
I am Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.
Have I loved God with my whole heart and soul? Do I pray to God daily? Have God and the pursuit of sanctity in Christ been the goal of my life? Have I denied my faith? Have I lost trust in God’s forgiveness and goodness to me?Did I despair of God’s mercy? Have I placed my trust in false teachings or substitutes for God? Have I rejected any teaching of the Catholic Church?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Have I used God's name profanely in my speech? Is my speech unbecoming of a Christian person?
You shall keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Have I honored every Sunday by avoiding unnecessary work and going to Mass, including Holy Days of Obligation? Do I observe the one-hour fast before Holy Communion? Have I received Jesus in the Eucharist with serious sin on my soul?