The Practice of Confession

A young man at Confession (Photo: WYM)
A young man at Confession (Photo: WYM)

The practice of Confession is the means by which we receive absolution of our sins; the sacrament also helps us to avoid sin and grow in virtue.

When should we go to Confession?

We should go to Confession at least once a year, most fittingly in preparation for Easter. More regular Confession, such as once a month, is a great help towards spiritual growth. We should also go to Confession when aware of serious sin.

How should we prepare for Confession?

We should prepare by an examination of conscience, being sorry for our sins, resolving not to commit them again and being ready to do penance. It is important to pray before Confession and to ask the help of Mary and the saints.

What should we be ready to confess?

We should be ready to confess all mortal sins and it is good, though not strictly necessary, to confess any venial sins. For each kind of sin we need to confess the number of times, as well as we can remember (for example, “I lied three times” or “several times” or “many times”). The only other details we need to add are those that change the seriousness of the sin.

Difficulties about Confession

Fear. Both God and the priest welcome us with joy. The priest is bound by a seal of absolute secrecy. He will not be shocked by sins, and, as a sinner, goes to Confession himself.

No sense of sin. Even the saints practised Confession regularly. A properly formed and examined conscience will give a true understanding of our sins.

Unfamiliar. The basic formula is very simple and is good to learn. The priest will also guide those out of practice.

A simple form of Confession


Make the Sign of the Cross and say: “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It is (state how long) since my last Confession. These are my sins (state the kinds of sins and the number of times). For these and all my sins, I am very sorry”.

Priestly advice and penance

The priest gives advice and a penance for after Confession.

Act of contrition

“O my God because you are so good I am very sorry that I have sinned against you. With the help of your grace I shall not sin again.”


The priest will then give absolution, by which sins are forgiven.

After Confession I should thank God and fulfil the penance the priest has given me. If I have accidentally forgotten to confess a mortal sin, I can be sure that the sin has been forgiven, but I must include it in my next Confession.

An example ‘Examination of Conscience’

1. Have I neglected to pray? Have I made any created things more important than God in my life? Have I engaged in superstitious practices such as astrology, fortune-telling, charms, spells, magic or the occult?

2. Have I given in to distractions in prayer? Have I abused or shown disrespect for holy places, objects or persons? Have I blasphemed by using holy names, such as swearwords? Have I broken a solemn oath or vow?

3. Have I missed Mass on Sunday or on a holy day of obligation without a serious reason? Have I engaged in activities on Sundays or holy days which have hindered the worship of God, works of charity or proper recreation?

4. Have I refused respect or care for my parents or religious superiors? Have I disobeyed lawful authority? Have I disobeyed my parents? Have I neglected my parents? Have I treated my children badly?

5. Have I murdered or co-operated in murder? Have I assisted suicide (euthanasia)? Have I committed or co-operated in abortion or IVF? Have I neglected the poor? Have I quarrelled, fought, hated or been angry?

6 Have I committed adultery? Have I committed fornication? Have I engaged in masturbation or homosexual acts? Have I used artificial contraception? Have I lived with someone outside of Marriage?

7. Have I stolen anything, including goods, information, money or software? Have I paid my taxes and debts to others? Have I paid unjust wages or misled my employer? Have I failed to return borrowed property?

8. Have I lied about another under oath? Have I lied about or exaggerated the fault of another? Have I lied in any other way? Have I damaged the good name of another? Have I made rash judgements about another?

9. Have I desired someone else’s spouse? Have I looked at or thought of others as sexual objects? Have I engaged in impure fantasies? Have I used pornographic material of any kind? Have I engaged in impure jokes?

10. Have I been jealous of another’s possessions, talents or looks? Have I disliked another because of their achievements? Have I failed to thank God for his gifts to me?

This article is originally from ‘CREDO: The Catholic Faith explained’ by CTS.

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