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How To Make a Good Confession

Updated on October 17, 2012

How to Prepare for and Make a Great Confession

Perhaps it has been awhile since your last confession or you are unsure you are correctly preparing for the sacrament. Below is an outline of what every Catholic seeking reconciliation should do to prepare before making this sacrament.

The Difference Between a Mortal and Venial Sin

For a sin to be mortal sin three conditions must exist at the same time:

  1. The sin must be of a grave matter.

  2. It must be committed with full knowledge that it is a mortal sin.

  3. It must be committed with full consent (voluntarily).

Venial sins are those which:

  1. Are slight in nature and do not break our friendship with God, but they do injure the friendship.
  2. Could be a serious sin, but if the person was unaware of the seriousness it is considered venial.

i.e. Gossiping with the intent to destroy another person’s reputation would be considered a mortal sin vs. gossiping carelessly about someone would be considered venial

1st Step to Making a Good Confession

Examine Your Conscience:

Depending how long it has been since one's last confession this may take more than a few minutes. The best and most complete way is to start by actually making a list of your sins and determine which are mortal and which are venial sins. For the sacrament to be valid you must confess all mortal sins. Some examples of mortal sins are:

  • Did I doubt or deny that God exists?
  • Did I believe in fortune telling, horoscopes, dreams, the occult, good-luck charms, tarot cards, palmistry, Ouija boards, seances, reincarnation?
  • Did I deny that I was Catholic?
  • Did I take God's name carelessly or uselessly?
  • Did I curse, or break an oath or vow?
  • Did I miss Mass Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation through my own fault?
  • Did I do work on Sunday that was not necessary?

  • Did I disobey or disrespect my parents or legitimate superiors?
  • Did I neglect my duties to my husband, wife, children or parents?
  • Did I kill or physically injure anyone?
  • Did I have an abortion, or advise someone else to have an abortion? (One who procures an abortion is automatically excommunicated, as is anyone who is involved in an abortion, Canon 1398. The excommunication will be lifted in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.)
  • Did I use or cause my spouse to use birth control pills (whether or not realizing that birth control pills do abort the fetus if and when conceived)?
  • Did I abuse my children?
  • Did I deliberately look at impure TV, videos, plays, pictures or movies? Or deliberately read impure materials?
  • Did I commit impure acts by myself
  • Did I commit impure acts with another - fornication (premarital sex), adultery (sex with a married person)?
  • Did I practice artificial birth control (by pills, device, withdrawal)?

For a more detailed list please visit

2nd Step to Making a Good Confession

Be Truly Sorry For Your Sins:

Being truly sorry for your sins requires reflection. You must know your sins and what commandment you are breaking. Ask yourself, who has been impacted by my lies, my actions ... remember there is no such thing as a victimless sin. The sinner is always injured from committing the sin for it causes the sinner failure to grow and respond to our Father's love.

5 Steps To Making a Good Confession

  1. Examine your conscience
  2. Be truly sorry for the sins you have committed.
  3. Confess those sins to your priest.
  4. Say the Act of Contrition.
  5. Perform the penance that the priest assigned.

Third Step to Making a Good Confession

Confess those sins to your priest:

Bring your list and the number of times you committed each sin to confession. Begin by reflecting in front of the Altar at church. When it is time go into see the priest and relax. Begin by saying, "Bless me father for I have sinned. My last confession was..." The priest will signal you to begin with your sins. At the end of telling the priest your sins, conclude with, "For these and all my sins I am truly sorry."

The 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

Four Step to Making a Good Confession

Say an Act of Contrition:

The art of making a good confession requires ending with an Act of Contrition. Sometimes the Church will have a printout placed inside the confessional for you to reference in case you forgot the words. If you are unsure of the wording of the prayer see the column next to the right.

Fifth Step to Making a Good Confession

Perform the Penance Assigned By The Priest:

The priest will asign penance for you to perform. It is best to complete your penance immediately. Their is such great happiness out of having your sins forgiven.

The Sacrament of Reconcilliation Is More Than Just Confessing Your Sins

When a Catholic goes to confession he or she is not merely confessing their sins to another man. Confession is more complex than that. First of all, the Priest is not just another man, he is acting as the agent of God. Many critics of the Catholic Church believe that this is a conspiracy by the Bishops to spy on their parishioners and to use the information gained in confession for other purposes. Or some are so prideful that they think they're sins are only between God and them why should I tell another person my sins.

  • Jesus said to his apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.” That’s why we go to the priest to have our sins forgiven.

The sacrament of reconciliation is just that. We are reconciling our sins with God to confess, ask for mercy, and be granted forgiveness. Our sins are the barriers we put between us and our Father. He has given us this wonderful gift to "lift" these barriers and all we have to do is ask.


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  • LA Elsen profile image

    LA Elsen 4 years ago from Chicago, IL

    Thank you James. And God bless you too.

  • James A Watkins profile image

    James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

    Thank you for publishing this excellent Hub. I think you are right on the money. I enjoyed your article.

    God Bless You!

    James :)

  • LA Elsen profile image

    LA Elsen 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

    ElleBee, The list helps me too. It's kind of like a conversation starter or talking points in a meeting. And thanks for catching that usage error. I missed that, obviously!

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • profile image

    ElleBee 5 years ago

    Great post. The questions you gave for an examination of conscience are great! I might have to use these to make a list for myself, having a list definitely helps with a very thorough examination. (Although you did use conscious once and conscience the other time.)