How to Go to Confession

Child Goes to Confession Sitting with PriestWanting to go to confession is the first step in going to confession. Confessing your sins wipes the slate clean again with God and makes us stronger spiritually. Regularly going to confession is a way to grow in holiness. Knowing what to do in confession will make the process much easier.

Much of the work for a good celebration of a sacrament takes place prior to arriving at church. An honest, humble, and thorough examination of conscience helps you to prepare for the sacrament. Writing your sins on a piece of paper before you go can help you during your confession.

Once you arrive at church, take a few minutes to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help you make a good confession. When it is your turn, enter the reconciliation room. You can either kneel behind a screen or sit in a chair facing the priest.

In the Confessional

  1. The priest will welcome you.
  2. Begin by making the Sign of the Cross.
  3. A simple formula can get you going: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was ___ days/months/years ago and these are my sins.”
  4. You then list the kind and number of your sins (e.g. I missed Mass 3 times; I lied 20 times).
  5. The priest may ask you questions and/or offer you counsel.
  6. The priest will give you an appropriate penance (e.g. “For your penance, please pray 2 Hail Marys).
  7. The priest then invites you (the penitent) to make an Act of Contrition. There are no required words, although you need to include that you are sorry and that you will amend your life. A commonly used Act of Contrition is the following:

    My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to good, I have sinned against You, whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered and died for us. In His name, my

    God, have mercy.

  8. The priest then prays the prayer of absolution (forgiveness):

    God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace. I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

  9. You answer, “Amen.”
  10. The priest may then say, “God has forgiven your sins. Go in peace.”
  11. You respond, “Thanks be to God.”
  12. You then leave and as soon as possible complete the penance the priest has assigned to you.

Confession is one part of the sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation; completing your penance is the other part. Believe it or not, going to confession is the easy part. The hard part is actually amending our life so that we do not commit these sins again. For this, we need God’s abundant grace through the Eucharist, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Comments

  1. says

    I suggest that people should pray to Saint Padre Pio asking for his help and intercession. Some people named him “The Apostle of the Confessional” due to the huge amount of time that he spent there. After his Mass, the confessional came next. After all, the mass is number one sacrifice in the Catholic Church.

  2. Gerald says

    Heavenly father, I thank you for forgiven my transgressions, please help me to amend my life with you always and also learn to forgive one another. I thank you for granting my request. Amen

  3. christina says

    I tryed to do my first confession today and i got rejected. the priest said I need to do my Holy Communion first before I confess.I feel so stupid now

    • Becca Ross says

      I wanted to go do confessions as well, even though I am a new comer in the church and haven’t received my first Holy Communion but the my RCIA leader asked the priest if I could and he advised I should wait until I have done the Rite of Welcoming. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed or stupid for trying to go to confessions. It shows your dedication.

      • Leslie O'Shields says

        Im taking RCIA right now.. First Holy Communion is March 26… Confession scares me…… Then my Confirmation is Aptil 20

    • Rachel Siew Leng Chan says

      Go Back Christina My Cousin Conor is making his first holy commuion this year and he has to do his 1st penance which basicly means that he does his confession for the very 1st time he has to do this before his commuion takes place so i would go back.

    • OKORO Chi-MARIA says

      hello dearie Christina, please don’t be discouraged by not being able to make your confessions, nobody can refuse you of God perfect love. however, the essence of confessions is to be in the STATE of Grace to receive the Holy Eucharist and as well attend Holy Mass to receive the full indulgence. God Loves you!

    • Angela Rodriguez says

      TO CHRISTINA; YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FEEL STUPID ABOUT NOT GOING THROUGH FIRST COMMUNION. I AM A CHRISTIAN CHAPLAIN.YOU GO DIRECTLY TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.
      YOU TEL GOD YOU CONE BEFORE HIM IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON AND RIGHT THERE TELL GOD AND ONLY GOD YOUR SINS. THEN YOU SAY YOU WANT TO ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR PERSONAL SAVIOR AND ALSO TELL HIM THAT YOU DO BELIEVE IN JESUS AS GOD’S ONLY BEGOTTEN SON AND YOU ACCEPT HIM FOR YOUR SAVIOR.
      AT THIS POINT GOD HEARD YOU , HE LOVES YOU MORE THAN ANYONE AND THEN THE HOLY SPIRIT ENTERS AND GUIDES YOU IN YOUR WALK WITH JESUS IN A LIFE OF LOVE, TRUTH AND PEACE. THE YOU VISIT A CHRISTIAN CHURCH WHERE YOU TELL THE PASTOR YOU HAD ACCEPTED JESUS FOR YOUR SAVIOR AND HE CAN HELP YOU TO GET BAPTIZED WHICH IS SO AWESOME AND WONDEFUL.
      NO CATEQUISM, NO CONFIRMATION, CLASSES NO NONE OF THAT. THE CHURCH YOU CHOOSE WILL GIVE BAPTISMAL CLASSES AND WHEN FINISHED YOU GET BAPTISED IN WATER AND BELIEVE ME IT IS AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE.
      YOU SEE I ONCE WAS CATHOLIC AND SUFFERED CONFFESSIONALS, AND HAD TO GO THROUGH TO A LOT OF THINGS.
      AS A CHRISTIAN ACCEPTING JESUS FOR YOUR SAVIOR YOU GET BAPTIZED AND YOU WILL SEE WHY NO CATEQUISM NOR CONFIRMATION WILL COMPARE TO THE BAPTISM WE CELEBRATE. AND ANYTHING YOU GO IN PRAYER DIRECT TO GOD THROUGH JESUS HIS SON BECAUSE YOU ARE SET FREE AND BELIEVE AND HAVE FAITH IN HIM. BLESS YOU.

    • Kristin says

      Confession is required before Communion. So, if a priest will not hear a confession it is best to find a priest that will

    • Steven says

      You are not confessing yours sins to a priest or the Catholic church you are confessing your sins to God. The Priest who is just the go between. As you say the church is guilty as are many other institutions, However there are far more incidents of child molesters among the teaching profession so does this mean that you can no longer trust what a teacher tells you or for your child or a child to be left with one?

      • Nelle says

        That is crazy to compare how many teachers “molest” children to priest since you have to look at the amount of kids that have there are even in the us that are left with a teacher (which is super rare to be 1 on 1 and alone) to the amount of priests that are alone and trusted with a child, sadly the amount of incidence is higher with priest and children then teacher and children percentage wise but you also have to think about how priest are expected to be “holy” and they are trusted more by everyone where as at schools they teach the kids at a young age to speak up if ANYthing happens, even innocent high fives are watched under a microscope so people let their guard down with priest since they are taught that they will keep them safe and do what God wants and etc. so those are crazy comparisons, it would be like talking about comparing a lily flower to weeds in an overgrown never seen forest there is no comparison because one has to be taken care of with different factors and the forest is simply Mother Nature and it just is survival of the fittest

        • billy says

          So your saying it only happened in the catholic church, it also happens in the protestant church the jewish faith muslim faith none believers abuse children. ok lets compare priests to parents parents abuse their children more then what catholic priest done. in fact 2000 children were abused by parents last week alone in the uk. no children were abused by catholic priests last week or this year. but children around the world were abused by there own parents the same parents that should of protect them make sure they come to no harm. should we then ban parent hood should we make sure when woman falls pregnant we should get her to a abortion clinic because of other parents abusing there own children.in 2014 estimated that 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 by muslim men ,

    • billy says

      Not all priests were child abusers, 2 percent of priests out of 600.000 priests were abusers, the other evil priests are being punished by god.

  4. Dawnica Seay says

    What if I want to be Catholic and I do not know how to tell my mom. Also want to know how to become Catholic.

    • Janie says

      Contact your local Catholic church about signing up for their next RCIA Program. I just became a Catholic prior to Easter this year, and I am so glad I did!! May God Bless You Always.

  5. Marco says

    You guys can go to Divine Mercy Sunday, the Lord promised to forgive all sins and penance for purgatory if one goes to confession and takes communion that Sunday, May the Lord Bless You!!

  6. Maribel says

    I never had confess before in my life. But I’m plaining to go soon. But if I tell him something, can he go off and tell someone else or is it very priavte and it’s just one on one? just me and the priest know?

    • Alison says

      No, the priest can’t go around and tell others of your sins. Confession is very private. The priest will forget what your sins were after you left (since usually they’re are other people behind you waiting for confession). The priest listen to a lot of confessions so they don’t keep track of the sins that you have committed.

      • Depar says

        Go back to school and learn how to formulate a proper sentence. Learn the differences between “there” “their” and “they’re” . You dont use the word ARE after using the word THEY’RE .

        • Lily says

          Depar, I agree with you. Good remark.
          And to the next comment from Jason in regard to the remark from Depar, I would only say that on my opinion it wasn’t meant at all to hurt anyone. If it was taken personally and someone is hurt, then too bad. It is so common even someone with the best intentions to say something and the words to be taken as offensive from a person that just can not take a minor critic and learn from the mistakes.

    • Day says

      Correct me if im wrong, but i do not believe the priests can even reveal your confession in the court of law. Hypothetically speaking, if you confess that you had taken the life of someone, they can not reveal that in court. From what i heard, whatever you confess stays between you and God

      • Steven says

        I am sure the Priest would encourage the confessor to give him or her self up to the authorities to prove he or she was sorry for their crime if not then the Priest would not be able to give absolution,

      • Nelle says

        Priest and other religious leaders such as pastors and ministers NEVER have to say a word about what you tell them, my family has a lot of pastors in it and my uncle was in a church where a women got away with 3 major bank robberies and got caught for simply being sloppy and lazy on the last one and my uncle didn’t find out until she was arrested but he knows a ton more info that would help or hurt her in court but the police asked him but he refused and I don’t even think he told my aunt any details so legally they cannot be forced to go to court and be put on the stand but technically they could choose to tell people’s “secrets”, they are people just like everyone else and so I always have felt like remember they are human and you need to build some sort of trust and relationship with them and like anyone you can’t expect them to be perfect. No PERSON on earth is 100% perfect, babies are the most innocent and closest to perfect you will ever meet.

    • Kate S says

      I’m not sure on Venial sins, but I know that you must go to confession to be forgivin for mortal sin. You are required to go to confession yearly, regardless.

    • says

      EWTN Bible

      1 John 5:16

      16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.

  7. Mauricio cubas says

    Hey we are all sinners and only one Catholic priest is authorized to hear our sins only God is good and what little we have good belongs to God the rest is ours.
    That is why our Church has priests to mediate between God and sinners, our Church is white or black never in the middle

      • says

        EWTN Bible

        John 20:22-23

        22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
        23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

  8. Mauricio says

    Hey we are all sinners and only one Catholic priest is authorized to hear our sins only God is good and what little we have good belongs to God the rest is ours.
    That is why our Church has priests to mediate between God and sinners, our Church is white or black never in the middle God help you.

  9. Diana Strauss says

    Why do you need to say how long it’s been since you’ve been to confession? Why does that matter? I’m not a Catholic, just curious. Thank yu.

  10. Lola de silva says

    If my daughter misses church once does she have to go to confession before she can go for communion in church the next Sunday

    • John Donnelly says

      Lola it depends on why she missed mass. A deliberate act needs forgiveness and repentance. An accidental omission is not a sin. In most cases a simple act of contrition is adequate.

  11. lila says

    Ok now im feeling nervouswe were having a confession its for our communion then our priest is spanish wich i cant understand what he is saying i only understand the hail mary when he was done talking i just said yes because i was too shy if i will ask again after that when i was doing that thing the pray to God i just prayed to God”lord i didn’t understand what was the priest saying all i can do is ask forgiveness to you i’m really sorry imm sorry sorry sorry please forgive”i just did that is that ok?

  12. Someone says

    I don’t believe in God, and I have little need of forgiveness to one,
    but I do highly respect the concept and right of confessions.

    It’s a straight-forward method to look at the wrongs you have done, and the negatives of yourself, hopefully leading to a resolve or acceptance.
    A priest is more or less a counselor in the matter, with the obvious religious affiliation.

    I personally intend to go to a confession just to have a wiser individual give me some enlightenment on why and how I do/can fix how I act. I don’t care I lie, I don’t care I cheat. I do care about other things though, and I hope a priest may help me understand how to fix them.
    (In my experience, therapists have only shown a interest in my money then personality. I should HOPE the priest doesn’t ask for payment!)

  13. Rebecca says

    I was not raised in the Catholic Church. However, I grow up being told we were catholic. Now I want to know and follow or pratice. I am not sure how to term what I want. I know I feel the need to go to confession but yet having never done so before I feel lost as to what to do. Can I just go to church at anytime and ask to confess or is it just at certain times? Can the priest guide me though or do I need to go knowing what to say and when?

    Thank you.

    • friend says

      Yes.

      Best way;
      Ring a catholic priest, and arrange a private appointment at his house for a general confession.
      Write down your sins before you meet Him.
      Google ; catholic examination of consciconscience, and list of catholic mortal sins (serious sins). All serious sins ever committed in your life need to be mentioned, (hiding one makes the confession sacreligious and means nothing is forgiven).

      Also; some monasteries have confessions on weekly if you google,

  14. Miss JEM says

    I confess in my quiet place to God and after I feel cleansed of my wrongs and I know I better not repeat those wrongs.

  15. Faith says

    What if you don’t go for confession but you pray and ask for forgiveness does it mean your sins are not forgiven? Do u always have to go for confession so your sins can be forgiven?

    • shalini says

      One should feel like going to confession. Similar to people going to Counseling where they pour out their heart. Catholic community is a confessing community where we accept our fault when faulted as it is no defending we do it individually we do it as a community. Sacrament of confession stands for the same where we empty ourself. If we can empty ourself before man we can empty ourself before God.

        • John Smith says

          Under most circumstances yes, but mortal sin is a very touchy topic, and to say whether or not someone who is in a state of mortal sin goes to hell is no our decision, but God’s alone. But just because some one commits an act that would most of the time be mortal sin doesn’t always mean it’s one. For example watching pornography is one that is usually a mortal sin. “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.'” (CCC 1857)

          So the grave matter part with the porn example, one must know that it objectifies women, causes them to become neurologically dependent on it, along with all the other negative attributes that go with it.

          One has to have to have full knowledge of what they are doing. This would basically boil down to if one went to a pornographic website, but they didn’t know this was the type of website it was. This is not having full knowledge. Or if they google something , and it comes up with porn, not full knowledge.

          Full consent boils down to someone has porn up and they try to show someone. The person who didn’t know would not be in sin because they didn’t know. Or another one would be if someone was addicted to porn or masturbation since to two usually go hand-in-hand. If one has to watch porn because they are addicted or masturbate for the same reason, this is not having full concent due to an addiction. Since the full knowledge is there, it would be a venial sin. (For more info on this, check out CCC 2352. Pay close attention to the last part of the paragraph.)

          In all of these examples porn was viewed, but it wasn’t sinful because there was some variable of I-didn’t-know involved. So it is because of situations like these that mortal sin, and sin in general is a very touchy topic.

        • says

          We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons…By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.
          -CCC 2283

  16. George says

    In the past few years I have come back to church. For years I was out in the world living a life of partying and having fun living pay check to pay check having no cares in the world and doing things I know I shouldn’t have done. Then life hit me hard. One day life seemed fun, exciting and then I’m suddenly going to funerals of best friends of mine. Then my number came up and I thought for sure I’m next. Twenty-two years later I’m still here and wonder…why? Friends say I should write a book about my last 25 years or so, all the good, bad and the ugly. Anyway I don’t know why I’m even saying all this. I just want God to forgive me for not going to church for so long. I just recently started going to church; probably cause I feel that my life is short and I want God to know I love him and believe in our lord Jesus Christ. I never thought I would go to church by myself but I did and do. This past Sunday the priest was talking about being fisherman of Christ; if that sounds correct, and that God forgives us but then said that he won’t forgive us unless we go to confession once a month!, then we are real disciples of Christ. Well I feel God has forgiven me cause I feel it deep in my heart but still the part of me is questioning if he really has. The last time I went to confession was in 1978, so I have a huge amount of sins to confess. I’m scared of what to say and what the priest will think and say of me. That is the only reason I haven’t gone to confession. With what I got to say; he might just tell me I’m going to hell! I just want to know if I should, need, have to go? I’m always asking God to forgive me. I feel things and sense things like signs or something when I’m talking to God, and of course I start crying like a baby sometimes; I’ve been feeling very emotional or overwhelmed lately. I try to stay strong by praying and I encourage others to believe in the power of prayer! Thanks for listening.

    • Ashleigh says

      Yes my brother I encourage you to go for confession because its never too late to ask for God’s forgiveness.As to what you should say, u should talk to the priest and say everything you have just said as it is.pour out everything in your heart and you will feel much better.Remember the story of the prodigal son Luke 15.

    • says

      Hi George- thank you for sharing. I also have only gone to confession one time a year ago- it wasn’t the best of experiences but I went in not knowing the process so I wasn’t prepared. I just converted a few years ago and never did the confession- yes I was told to do it and did not! I am still very nervous about it but decided this year during lent I was going to give my sins up to God. Thinking about all my sins the last 53 years is very daunting and frankly I don’t want to be specific. I did have someone suggest to ask for forgiveness for my bad choices and how my sins have affected those I love. I liked that a lot. So I wish you luck and I am heading to church this Sunday evening for the penance service and confession! God will guide me and my heart. He loves us regardless and wants to give US peace by confession. He is our saving Grace.

    • Lita says

      God loves you. He loves you through and through. He respects you, and understands your confusion and your pain. Offer it all up to Him and He will guide you where you need to be. If you decide to go to confession, God will be with you. He is with you everywhere in this world that He created for His children.

    • says

      Several years ago I experienced the same anxiety it seems you have regarding confession. I too was separated from the church for many years and had quite a bit on my plate in need of forgiveness. I would ask you to review the following.

      22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
      23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

      The Lord freely gave this ability to forgive sins to men. Men, not being God, can not know the depths of the heart as Christ does. Therefore, it seems appropriate to tell your sins to the priest, (man).

      I believe the anxiety you feel is from the devil trying to keep you from the free gift offered by God through his holy church.

  17. James says

    “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Timothy 2:5
    Why catholics think it’s necessary to confess their sins to another sinner is beyond me.

    • Patti says

      We don’t confess our sins to “another sinner” we confess our sins to God. Normal people don’t just sit at home when they have hurt a good friend and think to themselves, “Gee, I really hurt my good friend when I did —, and I’m very sorry.” but then never tell them that we’re sorry. Of course not! We go to our friend and ask for their forgiveness. This is what happens in the sacrament of confession – we go to God (the priest acting in persona Christi) and ask for God to forgive us.

      Note that when Jesus healed the leper, Jesus told him to go to the priests and show himself to be clean to them. Jesus IS GOD, and yet, he told the leper to go to the priests so that they could be welcomed back into the community. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if everyone was clean and welcomed back into the community of God?

    • jai says

      The Bible says to confess your sins to men, To bring it out so it can be known. I know it isn’t stated like this but u get what I’m trying to say. So what is wrong with telling your Prist or your Preacher? You are confessing ur sins.

    • shalini says

      Confession is a Sacrament. Its our choice to use this tool. If going is counseller is fine, confession has been accomplishing same, where man can speak out his inner burdens, general rule, if u can speak out “what is” you are psychological relieved and can start anew. It is a choice a invitation. You may be practicing the same without any name or a institution attached to it. But all humans do confess given a space to do so.

    • CJ says

      Scripture says ‘confess your sins, one to another’ James 5:16. You ARE confessing to God, for only God can absolve sin. The person/priest is there to help.

    • says

      God sent the Apostles into the world, saying,

      John 20:22-23

      22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
      23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

      How could the Apostles know of ones sin having not been told?

      – God bless

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