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Making a good confession?
Question from Anthony on 5/12/2006:

I am a 27 year old male, and it has been 20 years since I made a good confession. Due to this lapse in time, I do not recall the proper procedure of the sacrament of penance(e.g. like what to say upon entering the confessional, as well as what to say after I make my confession) My questions are: what constitutes a good confession? In addition, are there specific prayers to say in the confessional?Since it has been such a long time, should I limit the number of sins I tell? My parish has reconciliation times from 4:00-4:30, so I do not want to inundate the priest with all my sins. I would appreciate any suggestions about this matter/topic. Thanks!

Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 5/13/2006:

I would suggest making an appointment with the priest for your confession, then you won't have to worry about the time, especially if you want to have an opportunity to talk. Still, even a confession that covers such a long time period should be able to be done in a few minutes and it shouldn't be a problem for you to go at the time when confessions are regularly scheduled. Most of the time when I have confessions that take a long time, it is because the person wants to talk, not because I drag it out.

You are required to confess in kind and in number all serious sins committed that you can think of after carefully examining your conscience. When thinking of venial sins, focus more on those that are current problems or consistent patterns. I would definitely suggest that you get a copy of an "examination of conscience," a list of questions or a check list of possible sins to help you in examing your conscience in preparation. This will make your experience more fruitful. Such phamphlets are often available in the church or in Catholic book or religious articles stores. I am sure also that if you did a search on the internet you would also find one.

The only prayer that I would suggest learning in an act of contrition. There are several different versions, some long and some short. Again, the same sources for the examinations of conscience should be helpful in providing you with such a prayer.

The format for confession is simple, and I wouldn't worry about remembering it. Priests are used to helping people with what comes next who haven't gone to confession in a long time. If you just have an idea how long it has been (which you already know), and have in mind the sins to confess, then it should be a fairly easy process.

Then after this next confession, just remember to go on a regular basis after that. It's a lot easier when you go more often. Confession can then be a powerful tool for growing in holiness and purifying ones life from sin.


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