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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Confession Guidelines

by Catherine Frakas 16 Apr 2001

Confession Guidelines QUESTION from Haroon September 19, 2001
What is tha general formulae for going to confession? The last time I went to one and I fumbled through as I was searching through my mind what prayers are to be said and acts to be done during the sacrament.
I must admit, I do rarely go for confession and I strive to make my future ones correct(and God willing; more frequent, of course!) as penance.
I can't remember the guidelines and I do not possess in paper, the instruction of what to do or what to say while before, during,& after the sacrament of confession. The only thing I know is the Act of Contrition.
Could you help me out and give me some pointers? I hope this posting will help others to get to know what to do when they realise confession is important like I do.
Thanks and God bless!
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on September 28, 2001 Dear Mr. Haroon:
Thanks for your question. Yes, especially those who have not been to confession in a long time may feel a little nervous because they don't remember exactly how it goes. And new converts may also be a little nervous before their first confession.
It should be remembered that confession is like taking a bath after working in the sun all day -- refreshing. We bring our sins before God and ask not only for forgiveness but for healing. The Sacrament of Confession is a Sacrament of forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. It is a beautiful Sacrament and so refreshing that it is hard for me to understand why people avoid it.
Think of it this way, if we do not frequently go to Confession, we accumulate grime and dirt and stink like working in the sun mowing the lawn. How would you like to sit next to a person who has been mowing the lawn in the hot sun for 6 months without a bath? Well the fragrance of our sins rise up to God too. Confession cleans us so that God can sit next to us without a nose clip :-)
Also remember that the Sacrament is good for venial sins too. Mortal sins MUST be brought to the Sacrament, venial sins do not, but it is good to bring venial sins too since the Sacrament is a healing Sacrament and can help of overcome small sins too.
Here is a simple outline based upon the one used by my parish:
After examining your conscience and telling God of your sorrow, and asking God to help you remember any sins that you have forgotten, go into the Reconciliation Room. You may kneel at the screen or sit so as to talk face-to-face with the priest (if the priest allows the face-to-face option). EXCHANGE OF GREETING AND SIGN OF THE CROSS
The priest will say these or similar words:
May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in his mercy. The priest may add scripture verses.
When you speak, use words such as these:
I confess to Almighty God and to you, Father, that I have sinned. It has been _____weeks(months, years) since my last Confession. I accuse myself of ........ Mention all the types of sins you have committed since your last confession that you can remember. If the sin is serious, then you need to mention how often you did it. After you finish confessing all the sins you can remember, say the following:

Finally, I am sorry for these and all of my sins that I may not now remember. Then listen to the priest. Tell him that you can do the penance that he gives you. If you cannot do the penance, tell him and he will give you another penance.
When the priest invites you to make an Act of Contrition say these or similar words. If the priest does not ask you to pray an Act of Contrition during the Confession, then make this Act of Contrition after you leave the Confessional and before you say your penance:
May God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Or you can say this prayer:
O my god, I am heartily sorry for having offended you 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 you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen. ABSOLUTION
Listen to the priest's prayer of absolution for you and make the sign of the cross with the priest when he says:

I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And you say with the priest: Amen.
PRAISE OF GOD AND DISMISSAL Priest: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.
You Answer: For his mercy endures forever.
Please wait for the priest to dismiss you in these or similar words:
The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace. You Answer: Thank you Jesus and thank you Father.
Go and do the penance assigned to you as soon as possible and live the Christ-Life refreshed and cleaned from sin.
Keep in mind that various priests may say words a little different or some priest may leave out portions, such as the Act of Contrition which they aren't suppose to do, but this outline will give you the overall feel and procedure.
God Bless, and try to be like the cowboys in the Old West -- go take a bath (go to confession) once a month whether you need to or not :-)
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