Why Do We Go To Confession?
"Catholics who started going to confession as children may recall that the major concern during preparation was not how you sinned - disobedience was a given - but how often you had sinned since your last confession. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Penance as it was once called, was never intended to be a numbers game. It is now and always has been a means to seek receive God's forgiveness and to renew our resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to follow Jesus' commands to love God and to love one another as ourselves.
"The practice of confessing one's sins has been around since the early days of Christianity. At that time, it was generally reserved for those who had denied their faith in the face of persecution or committed other grave sins, such as adultery or murder. Sins were confessed and forgiven in public. This early rite of reconciliation, however, could be received only once in a lifetime and involved a process that could take years. Severe penances were also given. As a result, Christians generally postponed reception of the sacrament until they were on their deathbeds.
"The private form of confession can be traced to Celtic monks and nuns, who individually and frequently discussed their sinfulness and need for reform with their abbot or abbess. In the late sixth century, they brought this practice to Europe, where it quickly became popular among Christians. It was not until 1215, however, that church leadership, at the Fourth Lateran Council, officially adopted the private form of confession as the norm. The Council also decreed that baptized Christians were to confess their sins and receive the Eucharist once each year.
"By the end of the 13th century, theologians had developed a process for the private reception of the sacrament. It involved four steps: confession, contrition, absolution, and satisfaction or penance. It was not until 1973 that a revised ritual, mandated by Vatican II, was introduced.
"The private form of confession, with its four steps, was retained. In addition, two communal forms, which incorporate a liturgical service, were introduced. Of these, the one including individual confession and absolution is commonly used in parishes today. The other, which includes general absolution, is reserved for times of grave necessity and is rarely used. There is also an abbreviated fourth form for use when a person faces imminent death.
"Both the private and communal forms of confession used today emphasize the belief, held since the early days of Christianity, that sin is an offense not only against God but also against the community. Within the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest represents both God and the community and the penitent seeks forgiveness from both.
"Reconciliation is the sacrament that addresses our imperfections and our humanness. Yet it also goes beyond them to offer us an opportunity for healing and hope within ourselves and, through the acts of reparation, within the whole community.
"Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are drawn to Jesus. We are drawn first as the sinners He continually calls to repentance, forgiveness, conversion, and new life. Then, freed from our burdens, we are drawn as the disciples He calls to deliver His message of love and hope to the world.
"These are really wonderful reasons to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently. How fortunate we are that God loves us so much."
Source: Oblates, July-August 2003 (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate)
Five Steps for A Good Confession
Examination of Conscience
The means by which God forgives sins after baptism is confession: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Minor or venial sins can be confessed directly to God, but for grave or mortal sins, which crush the spiritual life out of the soul, God has instituted a different means for obtaining forgivenessthe sacrament known popularly as confession, penance, or reconciliation.
This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in his capacity as the Son of man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6). Thus, the crowds who witnessed this new power "glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (Matt. 9:8; note the plural "men"). After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:2123).
Since it is not possible to confess all of our many daily faults, we know that sacramental reconciliation is required only for grave or mortal sinsbut it is required, or Christ would not have commanded it. (Catholic Answers http://www.catholic.com)
Below are questions to ask yourself. Many of these are mortal sins and Eucharist is forbidden until a good confession is made to a priest. If in doubt whether a sin is mortal or venial, consult a good catechism or priest very loyal to the Holy Father and Rome's teachings.
Note: A mortal sin involves:
- a serious matter,
- that there is sufficient reflection,
- and it is committed with full consent of the will.
- Did I deny or doubt God's existence? Did I refuse to believe God's revelation?
- Did I believe in horoscopes, fortune telling, dreams, good luck charms or reincarnation?
- Did I deny that I was a Catholic? Did I leave the Catholic faith?
- Did I despair of or presume on God's mercy?
- Did I neglect prayer for a long time? Did I fail to pray daily?
- Did I blaspheme God or take God's name in vain, curse or break an oath or vow?
- Did I miss Mass on Sunday or Holyday of Obligation through my own fault?
- Am I always reverent in the presence of the most Blessed Sacrament?
- Was I inattentive at Mass? did I come to Mass late? How late? Did I leave Mass early?
- Did I do unnecessary physical work on Sunday?
- Did I disobey or disrespect my parents or legitimate superiors?
- Did I neglect my duties to my husband, wife, children, or parents?
- Did I fail to actively take an interest in the religious education and formation of my children?
- Have I failed to educate myself on the true teachings of the Church?
- Did I give a full day's work in return for my full day's pay?
- Did I give scandal by what I said or did, especially to the young? Was I the cause of anyone leaving the faith?
- Did I give a fair wage to my employee?
- Was I impatient, angry, envious, unkind, proud, jealous, revengeful, hateful toward others, lazy?
- Did I give bad example, abuse drugs, drink alcohol to excess, fight or quarrel?
- Did I physically injure or kill anyone? Have or advise an abortion?
- Did I participate in or approve of the grave evil known as "mercy killing?" Did I attempt suicide?
- Did I willfully entertain impure thoughts and desires? Did I dress immodestly?
- Did I use impure or suggestive words? Tell impure stories? Or listen to them?
- Did I perform impure acts by myself or with others? Which ones?
- Did I marry or advise another to marry outside the Church?
- Did I abuse my marriage rights? Was I unfaithful to my marriage vows?
- Have I kept company with someone else's spouse?
- Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse sterilized?
- Did I steal, cheat, help or encourage others to steal, or keep stolen goods? Have I made restitution for stolen goods?
- Did I fulfill my contracts; give or accept bribes; pay my bills; rashly gamble or speculate; deprive my family of necessities of life?
- Did I tell lies, deliberately to deceive, or injure others by lies? Did I commit perjury? Was I uncharitable in word or deed, gossip or reveal others faults and sins? Fail to keep secrets I should have?
- Did I eat meat on the Fridays of Lent or Ash Wednesday?
- Did I fast as required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?
- Did I fail to receive Holy Communion during the Easter time? Fail to confess at least once a year?
- Did I go to Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin? Without fasting (water and medicine permitted) for one hour or more from food and drink?
- Did I make a bad confession?
- Did I fail to contribute to the support of the Church?
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen