Why Go To Confession? Why Confess To A Priest?
How To Make A Good Confession
How To Confess To A Priest
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is available:
- Saturdays, 3:00pm to 4:00pm and after the 5:00pm Mass
- 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month after the 5:00 pm Mass (Español)
Anyone wishing to receive this sacrament at other times may make an appointment
with one of the priests. Twice a year, during Advent and Lent, communal parish
penance services are held for adults, and the children of our parish school, and
religious education program.
Why Go To
Confession? Why Confess To A Priest?
Q: Why confess our sins to a priest? Why don't we
just confess directly to Jesus and ask Him to
forgive our sins?
A: Right before Catholics confess their sins to a
priest, they do pray directly to Jesus and ask His
forgiveness. They do so in preparation for
Confession as they examine their consciences, make
an act of contrition and promise to avoid their sins
in the future. After doing these three
salutary things, the Catholic penitent then takes
advantage of the Sacrament of Forgiveness which
Jesus instituted precisely for the forgiveness of
our sins. On Easter Sunday night, Jesus told
the Apostles, His first priests: "Receive the Holy
Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are
forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held
bound." (John 20: 22-23)
Since "hold them bound" means not to forgive them,
priests could not know what sins to forgive and not
to forgive unless they were first told the sins by
the penitent. On the cross, Jesus forgave all
sins, then, in the Sacrament of Penance described on
Easter Night, Jesus personalized that forgiveness,
giving us the assurance that His forgiveness was not
just a general absolution. Sigmund Freud and
the 5th Steps of the AA Twelve Step Program advocate
some kind of individual confession of our wrongs to
another human being. Freud felt that we are as
sick as our secrets and AA’s 12 Step Program asserts
that struggling members won’t get well unless they
take the 5th step and fess up to God, to themselves
and to another human being the exact nature of their
("Peace of Soul", F. J. Sheen) (Alcoholics
Anonymous, "How It Works")
Q: Why is Sacramental Confession necessary for
Catholics but not for other Christians?
A: Catholics believe that Confession is necessary
for the forgiveness of post-baptismal sins because
Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for this
purpose (John 20: 22-23). Church Canon Law states:
"All the faithful who have reached the age of
discretion are bound faithfully to confess their
grave sins at lease once a year." (CIC, 989).
Catholics who confess their sins have the assurance
of Christ Himself that their sins are forgiven (Matt
18:18; John 20:23). Other Christians who do not
believe in this Sacrament of Forgiveness must
confess in their own way to God and hope that their
sins will be forgiven. On their own, they do
the best they can. God bless them!
Q: How often should one go to Sacramental
A: "All the faithful who have reached the age of
discretion are bound faithfully to confess their
grave sins at least once a year." (CIC, 989).
"The faithful are recommended to confess also venial
sins." (CIC, 987-2). "Anyone who is conscious of
grave sin may not receive the Body of the Lord
without previously having been to Sacramental
Confession; unless there is a grave reason and
there is no opportunity to confess." (CIC, 915)
As a matter of devotion, monthly Confession or
Seasonal Confession (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost)
is recommended. Children and RCIA Candidates
are to go to Confession prior to their receiving
First Holy Communion. (CIC, 914), (RCIA, 482).
Pastoral Counsel: "If you commit a mortal sin,
go to Confession as soon as you can and certainly
before your next Holy Communion. For spiritual
growth, go to Confession regularly or seasonally."
Q: "I understand that it is not necessary to go
to Confession before we go to Holy Communion unless
we have committed a mortal sin. If we are not
guilty of mortal sins, do we still have to go to
Confession during the Easter Season?
A: You are correct in stating that if we have
committed a mortal sin it is necessary to go to
Confession before receiving Holy Communion.
However, if we have not committed a mortal sin it is
not necessary to go the Confession during the Easter
Season. A worthy Holy Communion is the
requirement at Easter Time. If, during the
Easter Season, a person is in the state of grace,
not in mortal sin, no Confession is necessary.
(CIC, 920-1-2; 989). The main event of going
to confession is the reception of God’s forgiveness.
Don’t let the mechanics of making a confession
Q: What is the Easter Duty?
A: The Easter Duty is the obligation to receive a
worthy Holy Communion during the Easter Time, i.e.,
the time between the first Sunday of Lent and
Trinity Sunday, a period of about a hundred days.
If we are not in the state of grace, then we must go
to Sacramental Confession before receiving our
Easter Duty Communion.
Q: Is it a sin if Catholics never go to
A: "Never say never." The Catechism of the
Catholic Church states: "Children must go to
the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy
Communion for the first time." (CCC, #1457), (CIC,
Can. 914) Also: "Anyone conscious of a grave sin
must receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before
coming to Communion." (CCC, # 1385 and 1457), (CIC,
Can. 989), (1 Cor II: 27-29) And: "…after having
attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful
is bound by an obligation fatithfully to confess
serious sins at least once a year." (CCC, #
1457), (CIC, Can. 989).
The Sacrament of Penance is part of the "Catholic
Sick Call" that prepares the sick person for death.
Holy Communion (Viaticum), Anointing of the Sick
(Extreme Unction) and the Apostolic Blessing (Papal
Blessing) are also parts of the sick call (CCC, #
1525). So, apart from these times of necessary
Confession, a person without mortal sin need not go
to Confession. "Without being strictly necessary,
confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is,
nevertheless, strongly recommended by the Church."
(CCC, #1458), (CIC, Can. 988 #2). Jesus and Sigmund
might well say together: "Keep in touch; Confession
is good for peace of soul and peace of mind."
How to Make a Good Confession
- Examine our Conscience.
- Have Sorrow for our Sins (Act of Contrition).
- Make a firm resolution not to sin again.
- Confess our sins to the priest.
- Accept the penance which the priest gives us.
How to Confess to the Priest
(Prayer cards on how to make a good confession will be available in the Church)
The Priest will often begin with the Sign of the Cross or a greeting and blessing.
Respond by saying “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been ____ (number of days,
weeks, months, etc.) since my last confession. These are my sins”.
Confess all mortal sins committed since your last confession by kind and number (this
is important). Hold NOTHING back. You may also confess any venial sins.
At the end of your confession say these or similar words: “For these and all the sins
of my life I am sorry.” By this you tell the priest that you are finished. Otherwise,
he might think you are still thinking or even trying to summon the courage to tell him
"the big one".
The Priest may ask questions for clarification or give you some counsel on a point
from your confession. Answer briefly.
The Priest will give you a penance. Listen to it carefully and remember it. You can
refuse a penance if it is too vague or impossible to do in a reasonable time.
Next, say, out loud, the Act of Contrition in these or similar words:
O my God! I am
heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and 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 art
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.(Act of Contrition cards will
be available in the Church/Confessional)
The Priest will give you absolution. The words necessary in English for forgiveness
are “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit”). Do not leave until the priest has given you absolution. He will not refuse
you absolution unless it is clear that you are not sorry for your sins or you have no
intention of amending your life.