Confession is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in His love and mercy to offer sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God. At the same time, sinners reconcile with the Church, because it also is wounded by our sins. We know this sacrament by various names: the Sacrament of Penance, Confession, or Reconciliation.
Many Catholics avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation simply because we don't remember how to confess our sins. We simply don't know what to say, and are too embarrassed to ask. Perhaps we wonder why we have to confess to a priest at all?
The resources below will help you understand the actions and responses for each step of the sacrament. Even those familiar with the steps of the sacrament will benefit from a more thoughtful confession.
Parents have the major responsibility for immediate preparation for this sacrament. In accord with Church guidelines, children must celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Eucharist. Parent sessions are held in the fall of each year, as announced in the parish bulletin.
What to do in the Confessional: Five Steps
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 ten 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.
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 Christ’s 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] since my last confession. These are my 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 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. Then 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.
First Reconciliation Preparation for Children in 2nd Grade
The Religious Education program prepares children in the 2nd grade to receive their first Reconciliation during late January of each year. For more information about this program contact our Religious Education Director.
First Reconciliation Preparation for Children in Grades 3 through 12
The Religious Education program coordinates the "Older Student Sacrament Program" each year. For more information about the "Older Student" program contact our Religious Education Director.
First Reconciliation Preparation for Adults
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) ministry prepares adults to receive their initiation sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Check out our "Becoming Catholic" page, and for more information about the RCIA process do not hesitate to contact our RCIA Coordinator.