by Mrs. Don-O
[Editors Note and Introduction:
For many people (including me), going to the first confession is very terrifying. Not sure what to say to the priest. I have read the "Pampakkuda Namaskarakramam", read through all the prayers, and list of sins and made a note about them to tell the priest. Actually, it turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. It is almost like having an intimate talk with God with the priest between us. In a true confession, the priest will spend some time with you going over the process. I am not sure in most of our churches, they have the time to do it as many people are waiting for the confession. In places where I was, only very few people were there; so we all got 30 minutes each. Of course, if you can schedule a time to go for confession other than the Passion Week, that will give you more time.
Here is a document prepared by a Catholic Lay member about preparing for the Confession. She was a member of her parish RCIA team. She wrote this guide for first/confession for adults who will be receiving the Sacraments at the Paschal Vigil.
It is an excellent article to prepare for a Lifetime Confession and as a guide for the Examination of Conscience.]
Regular Confession is an excellent habit to get into.
Baptism, by God’s grace, makes you clean. Confession, by God’s grace, helps you stay that way.
1. Absolutely commit to doing it. Set a date.
Put it on your calendar (in ink!) and in your 'Daytimer' (Planning Book) and on your computer notepad/calendar. Make sure you’ve got the time right.
2. Here are the absolute requirements for confession:
•Every Mortal Sin you can remember must be confessed.
•Deliberately keeping back/concealing a Mortal Sin in Confession renders the whole Confession null and a sacrilege.
•If you receive Communion after a knowingly sacrilegious Confession, it’s another sacrilege. In short: don’t do that.
3. Realize a First Adult Confession is going to take some work.
Space your own preparatory examination of conscience over a series of days because more things will come back into your memory over a period of time. Say (for example) you’ll give it 20 minutes a night, three times this week. Cut something else out to make time for this.
4. Prepare well beforehand, even write notes if you’re a note-writing kind of person.
For instance, write a quick outline of “stages in my life” and then write the main things that spiritually bother you, sin-wise. It might look something like this:
• When I was a kid I had a problem with…
• As a teenager I got into…
• On my first job, the one thing I’m ashamed of is…
• My first year in college, seems like every weekend I….
• Back when I was in the military, I got in the habit of…
• When I lived in Timbuktu, I hit a low point when I…
• Before I became a Christian, one temptation that knocked me down every time was….
• The first couple years of marriage, I really messed up because…
5. When you talk to the priest, start with the worst things first
You can’t possibly confess every little weakness, fault and failing. You really can’t. But if you say the worst things first, it’ll be a huge relief. And you won’t have to get all neurotic about the small stuff.
6. Frequently Asked Questions about Confession:
What if I get there and I’m at a loss about what to say?
• Start out by telling the priest, “This is my first Confession as an adult, and I’m preparing to receive my Communion. This is a lifetime Confession, Father. Please help me.”
He’ll guide you along. He won’t leave you hanging.
How specific do I have to get about some sins (e.g. sexual ones)? It bothers me to talk about them.
• You don’t have to go into graphic detail. Briefly addressing what you did, and about how often you did it, and any special circumstances (e.g. your age), should cover it. One wise priest said, “Be specific enough so you can honestly say you named it and nailed it to the cross.”
What if after Confession I remember a Mortal sin I inadvertently forgot to mention?
• Don’t worry about it; if it unintentionally slipped your mind, it’s not a sacrilege. The next time you go to Confession --- and make it soon --- explain to the priest you failed to mention a serious sin, but it was not deliberate. He’ll give you absolution.
What if there’s a sin I’m not really sure I regret or repent? (e.g., I only really feel sorry I was caught!)
• You should still confess it. Ask the priest to help you understand why it was wrong, and in a spirit of obedience trust that what Christ teaches us through the Church is true.
God is pleased that we “want to repent” and “will to understand God’s law and keep it”.
Feelings of remorse are good --- you can even ask God to give you feelings of remorse --- and yet remember, repentance is not essentially a feeling, but a decision.
I feel plenty of remorse! What if I’m a weepy type and I’m afraid I’ll start crying my eyes out?
• Happens all the time. Bring a box of Kleenex. Leave it there for the next one!
7. Make a list of the Ten Commandments and see in what ways you have stretched, bent, or broken them.
Each of the “Big Ten” is not just an “item”; each Commandment is more like a chapter heading.
For instance “Thou shalt not steal” is not just “Did I rob a bank?” But also
Good websites that illustrate this approach:
8. Make a list of the Seven Deadly Sins and see which shoe fits.
(Memory trick: the words PALE GAS: Pride - Anger –– Lust – Envy – Gluttony – Avarice - Sloth)
Antidote: Pride is conquered by attitudes and acts of humility.
Do I have a “better-than-you” attitude in thinking, or speaking or acting?
Group arrogance can be a problem, too.
Do you have an offensive “We’re marvelous, They’re morons” group attitude based on your school? Profession? Nationality? Political party or faction?
Am I offensive to others, OR too easily take offense, myself?
Do I demand recognition? Do I desire to be always first?
Do I scorn advice? Think very little of others’ point of view?
Am I in any sense a "bully"? Do I intimidate people verbally, or physically?
Am I prone to belittle --- or to be too critical of ---persons, or places, or things?
Do I seek to place the blame on others, excusing myself?
Do I ridicule others?
Is there anyone to whom I refuse to speak?
Am I prone to argue? Do I have a superior, "know-it-all" attitude in arguments?
Or a “holier-than-thou” attitude in religious observance?
Am I always serving myself? Advertising myself? Promoting myself?
Do I crave the attention of rich, popular, or successful people?
Do I avoid contact with poorer, less-attractive, less-popular people?
Do I think myself “too good” to participate in a Church with sinful human members?
Am I super-sensitive? Am I easily wounded?
Antidote: Anger is conquered by the cultivation of a habit of loving patience.
“Anger is an emotion of the soul, which leads us violently to repel whatever hurts or
displeases us…This emotion, my children, comes from the Devil: it shows that we are in
his hands: that he is the master of our heart: that he holds all the strings of it, and
makes us dance as he pleases.”
Saint John Vianney
Does practically any little thing arouse my temper?
Am I "a sore-head"? Do I have “a short fuse”?
Do I have a long memory of insult or injury, refusing to let it go?
Do I strive to get along well with difficult people?
Do I fume over slights/ insult and even presume them when possibly none was intended?
Do I rejoice at the misfortunes of others?
Do I think of "getting even"?
Am I of an argumentative disposition?
Am I given to ridicule of persons, places, or things?
Am I hard to get along with? Do I get sarcastic when I’m annoyed?
Do I blow up at my spouse? Parents? Children? Subordinates?
Does my language or behavior tend to get way out of line when I’m mad?
Do I carry grudges, remain "on the outs" with anyone?
Do I talk about the faults or defects of others?
Have I failed to help my spouse or children curb their anger?
Do I associate with people, movements (including political), or media which arouse or
magnify anger or resentment of others?
Antidote: Lust is conquered by pure love, pure friendship, and a desire always to honor God with our bodies.
“Lust is the love of the pleasures that are contrary to purity.”
Saint John Vianney.
Have I engaged in any act --- outside of marriage --- intended to cause sexual
sexual gratification? By myself, or with somebody else?
Have I deliberately--- outside of marriage --- entertained thoughts and fantasies, intended to excite my sexual appetite?
Have I used any form of pornography?
Have I engaged in any act (including within marriage) which was deliberately degrading, un-loving, perverted, or intentionally closed-off to the transmission of life?
Have I failed to teach my children the importance of chastity?
Have I neglected to seek out, learn more about, and value, the Catholic Church’s teachings on the Sacramentality and Sanctity of marital sexual union?
Antidote: Envy is conquered by thoughts, words, and acts of brotherly love, and a deliberate cultivation of contentment with one’s life, however modest.
“Envy is a sadness which we feel, on account of the good that happens to our neighbor.”
Saint John Vianney.
Do I feel sad at the prosperity of others? Irritated at their success? In games?
athletics? In income? In popularity? In reputation?
Do I rejoice at their failures?
Do I envy the riches of others? Their home or property? Their vacations? Their ease?
Am I jealous of other people’s relationships: their popularity with the opposite sex?
Their marital success? Their family and friends? Their professional advancement?
Am I secretly --- or openly --- pleased when somebody else “gets taken down a peg”?
Am I a good example to others (especially my children, students, subordinates, co- workers) in showing pleasure at others’ success and advancement?
Do I express resentment for whole classes of people? Women? Men? “The shiftless poor” or “the rotten rich”?
Antidote: Gluttony is conquered by pursuit of a healthy relationship with food and drink; by moderation, and, in some cases, by abstinence.
“Gluttony is a disordered love of eating and drinking.”
Saint John Vianney.
“By excess many have perished: but he that is temperate shall prolong life.”
Do I eat to live or live to eat? Do I eat unhealthy things, or to an unhealthy
Am I overly demanding and “particular” about food, accepting only the finest, or most exacting ingredients or preparation?
Am I ill-tempered if I miss a meal, or rude if the food I am given does not please me?
Do I drink to excess? Do I get drunk? Do I commit other sins while drunk?
Do I drink and drive?
Do I misuse prescription drugs? Do I use illegal drugs?
Have I become addicted to or dependent on any mood-altering substance?
Have I endangered my health, my job, my marriage or my family with bad eating or drinking habits?
Do I neglect religious fasts because of my lack of control over my appetite?
Antidote: Avarice is conquered by generous, cheerful giving.
“Covetousness is an disordered love of the goods of this world.” Saint John Vianney.
“Remove far from me vanity, and lying words. Give me neither beggary nor riches: give me only the necessaries of life: Lest perhaps being filled, I should be tempted to deny, and say: Who is the Lord? Or lest being compelled by poverty, I should steal, and foreswear the name of my God.”
Do I regard money and the things of this world as resources which I use to the
God? Or do I think exclusively of my own advantage?
Do I acquire money and property reasonably or inordinately?
Do I do questionable things (things I wouldn’t want people to know about) for money?
Do I pursue luxuries while others (especially those for whom I am responsible) lack necessities?
Do I discharge my duties in justice to my fellow man?
Am I charitable toward the less fortunate? Especially those struggling with calamities, disasters, disabilities and hardships?
Do I discharge my duties in justice to the Church? Do I give to my parish and my diocese,
and to concerns recommended by my Faith?
Antidote: Sloth is conquered by diligence and fervor in the ordinary duties of our state in life, and in the challenges to which God calls us.
Have I an inordinate love of rest or entertainment, neglecting my duties?
Do I act lazily? Am I too fond of laying about? Do I waste a lot of time on TV or the Internet?
Do I feel the ordinary duties of life are not worth my best time and effort?
Do I delay chores repeatedly, or do them in a sloppy, slack, or minimal way?
Do I gripe about my work, complain about things that cost me real effort and exertion?
Do I make poor use of the time God has given me? Wasting hours, weeks, years?
Do I slack off in idle conversation? Worthless reading material? Stupid amusements?
Do I neglect tasks I should do for my husband, wife, or children?
Do I fail to direct, correct, or discipline people under my authority (children, students, subordinates) because it’s too much of a hassle?
Do I let things deteriorate around me, because reversing the trend would be difficult?
Do I neglect the needs of my aged, sick or disabled parents?
Do I tend to avoid needy friends?
Do I fail to carry out tasks I have promised to do for my parish or for charitable groups?
Am I fervent in the service of God?
My friends, God is delighted by your intention to confess your sins! He is so eager to get you back!
My final piece of advice, from Philippians 4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I say rejoice!
Examination of Conscience
Here is a helpful examination of conscience, based on the Ten Commandments.
Sin and its Confession
Holy Confession - Spiritual Therapy for the Soul
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