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Faith/Spirituality Forum: First Confession

by Catherine Frakas 06 Feb 2001

First Confession QUESTION from Deshea on February 12, 2003 I am teaching a CCD class of students about to make there first Communion. We are in a chapter of our book that prepares the students for Reconciliation. Because I converted to Catholism I was Baptisted & took my First Communion at the same time that was 2 years ago.
I have never been to confession & I do not know how to do it that is the only reason I haven't been. I was never taught and I am afraid I will do something wrong. I do not feel that it is right to be teaching the children about something I know nothing about & I also think I should go before teaching them.
Could u go through the steps of confession for me so i know what to do? Also do you think i am correct in beleiving it is wrong for me to teach about reconciliation when i haven't been to confession myself?
Thank You & God Bless
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on February 16, 2003 Dear Mrs. Deshea:
Thank you for your question and your honesty about your situation.
It is true that if you have never been to confession that you should not be teaching children about confession. Actually, you should not really be teaching CCD at all. CCD Teachers need to be knowledgable about the faith, loyal and obedient to the Church AND in good standing with the Church.
If you have never been to confession, it is unlikely you are in good standing technically.
I find it odd that you have never been to confession. When you converted going to confession should have happened before you were confirmed. But such things seem to happy in this day and age. Some parishes are rather loose with the rules.
I would also advise that you not receive the Eucharist until you have gone to Confession. Although it is possible you are a perfect saint, I doubt it, and thus sometime in the past two years, or really since you were batpized, it is likely that you have committed a mortal sin.
Mortal sins MUST be taken to Confession and all mortal sins must be confessed BEFORE receiving the Eucharist.
BE NOT AFRAID to go to confession.
Once you have gone, you will likely wonder why you ever hestitated. It is like taking a shower. The Sacrament of Confession washes away all the dirt of sin. It is wonderful.
When I converted to the Catholic Church I actually went to confession TWICE before confirmation. The second time was on the Saturday of the Easter Vigil. I pulled aside my pastor and asked to confession again (all the converts had already confessed the previous week). I told him, Father, do you actually expect me to last an entire week without sinning? He laughed and we went ahead with the Confession.
The process is very simple, but do not worry if you don't get it right. The main thing is to mention your sins to the priest. Do not leave any serious sin out. Tell all. It is also good, but not necessary, to confess venial sins too. The Sacrament of Confession is a Sacrament of HEALING. You will not regret going and you MUST go to live the good Catholic life.
Although the Church requires confession only once per year if Mortal sin is on your soul, that is like living on the minimum amount of air you can breath and stay alive. To be truly spiritually healthy and alive frequent confession is needed -- at least once per month even if there are no serious sins to confess. In that case, confess the venial sins. The Church encourages that.
Here is the normal and usual process of Confession:
First, before going into Confession, pray and examine yourself. There are many guide to an Examination of Conscience. Here is one written by Fr. Hal Stockert
Once you have prayed and examined yourself, gather your thoughts and bring to mind all your sins. If you need to, you can write these sins on a piece of paper to remember them, but make sure you burn that paper afterwards so no one else will see it to protect your privacy.
Then go into the confessional. You have a choice of kneeling behind a screen to maintain some anonymity or sitting face to face with the priest.
Know that God loves you and is happy to see you coming to be reconciled to Him. The priest stands in for Christ to receive your confession and to grant you absolution for your sins. You are confessing to Christ by confessing to the priest.
When you come in an kneel behind the screen or sit in the chair facing the priest, the priest will greet you.
The Rite of Reconciliation begins with the sign of the Cross. The priest may encourage you to have confidence in God.
Don't worry if you don't remember to do things perfectly. The priest is there to help you.
Then the priest may read from Scripture, maybe not.
Now comes the main event.....
* Confess your sins. The common practice is to say something like: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been ____ weeks/months/years since my last confession.
In your case explain to the priest that you converted 2 years ago and have never come to confession. Explain that you were nervous because you did not know what to expect. This will let the priest know that you are a novice at this and he will happily help you.
Some people then begin with: I accuse myself of..... then give the list, but this is optional. You can just start listing your sins.
List your sins in kind and number. That means to give a list of the sins you have committed, that is, the category of sin, and the approximate number of times you committed that sin.
For example, if you shoplifted from Sears, Pennys, Walmart, and K-Mart, you do not need to list each store unless the priest ask you for that. You merely state: I shoplifted 4 times.
If you do not know how many times, make an educated guess. It is okay to say that you do not remember how many times, but that is was several or numerous times.
When you finish listing all your sins, you may if you want conclude with something like this: ...for these and for all the sins of my past life and for all the sins I do not now remember I am sorry for and ask forgiveness
*The priest will listen to all your sins and when you are finished he may offer you some advice or counsel to help you and then assign to you a penance. If the penance is too difficult for you to do, let the priest know.
* The priest may (should)invite you to say a prayer of contrition. If you do not remember the Act of Contrition you can ad lib essentially telling God that you are sorry for your sins, asking God to help you to avoid the near occassion of sin and to live a better life.
There are many versions of the Prayer for Contrition. Below are three examples. You can copy one of these and take with you to the confessional, or copy some other prayer. If you forget any prayer, ask the priest to lead you in a prayer of contrition.

Example 1: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, 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 sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen. Example 2:
O my God, I believe in You. I hope in You. I love You above all things with all my soul, with all my heart, and with all my strength. I love You because You are infinitely good and worthy of being loved. Because I love You I am sorry with all my heart for having offended You. Have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.
Example 3: (this is the one I use)
My 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. I firmly intend, with Your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Amen.

If the priest does not ask you to pray a prayer of contrition, which he should do, then you might say the prayer after confession in the Church before you leave.
*Next, the priest will give you absolution for your sins. This is when your sins are forgiven and your soul made clean.
* The priest may conclude with something like, Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. If he does, then your answer is, His mercy endures forever.
Or the priest may close informally. You can say something like, Thank you Father.
*At this, you leave the confessional and perform your penenace as soon as possible.
Do not fear. The priest will help you through this. Do not worry about making a mistake. Just bring your heart to God in sorrow for your sins, tell your sins, and be forgiven.
God Bless.
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