The basic requirement for a good confession is to have the intention of returning to God like the “prodigal son” and to acknowledge our sins with true sorrow before the priest.
Sin in my Life
Modern society has lost a sense of sin. As a Catholic follower of Christ, I must make an effort to recognize sin in my daily actions, words and omissions.
The Gospels show how important is the forgiveness of our sins. Lives of saints prove that the person who grows in holiness has a stronger sense of sin, sorrow for sins, and a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.
The Differences in Sins
As a result of Original Sin, human nature is weakened. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, takes away Original Sin, and turns us back toward God. The consequences of this weakness and the inclination to evil persist, and we often commit personal or actual sin.
Actual sin is sin which people commit. There are two kinds of actual sin, mortal and venial.
Mortal sin is a deadly offense against God, so horrible that it destroys the life of grace in the soul. Three simultaneous conditions must be fulfilled for a mortal sin: 1) the act must be something very serious; 2) the person must have sufficient understanding of what is being done; 3) the person must have sufficient freedom of the will.
If you need help-especially if you have been away for some time-simply ask the priest and he will help you by “walking” you through the steps to make a good confession.
Be truly sorry for your sins. The essential act of Penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love one has for God and which is reborn with repentance. The resolution to avoid committing these sins in the future (amendment) is a sure sign that your sorrow is genuine and authentic. This does not mean that a promise never to fall again into sin is necessary. A resolution to try to avoid the near occasions of sin suffices for true repentance. God’s grace in cooperation with the intention to rectify your life will give you the strength to resist and overcome temptation in the future.
Examination of Conscience
Before going to Confession you should make a review of mortal and venial sins since your last sacramental confession, and should express sorrow for sins, hatred for sins and a firm resolution not to sin again.
A helpful pattern for examination of conscience is to review the Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church:
- Have God and the pursuit of sanctity in Christ been the goal of my life? Have I denied my faith? Have I placed my trust in false teachings or substitutes for God? Did I despair of God’s mercy?
- Have I avoided the profane use of God’s name in my speech? Have I broken a solemn vow or promise?
- Have I honored every Sunday by avoiding unnecessary work, celebrating the Mass (also holydays)? Was I inattentive at, or unnecessarily late for Mass, or did I leave early? Have I neglected prayer for a long time?
- Have I shown Christlike respect to parents, spouse, and family members, legitimate authorities? Have I been attentive to the religious education and formation of my children?
- Have I cared for the bodily health and safety of myself and all others? Did I abuse drugs or alcohol? Have I supported in any way abortion, “mercy killing,” or suicide?
- Was I impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, revengeful, lazy? Have I forgiven others?
- Have I been just in my responsibilities to employer and employees? Have I discriminated against others because of race or other reasons?
- Have I been chaste in thought and word? Have I used sex only within marriage and while open to procreating life? Have I given myself sexual gratification? Did I deliberately look at impure TV, pictures, reading?
- Have I stolen anything from another, from my employer, from government? If so, am I ready to repay it? Did I fulfill my contracts? Did I rashly gamble, depriving my family of necessities?
- Have I spoken ill of any other person? Have I always told the truth? Have I kept secrets and confidences?
- Have I permitted sexual thoughts about someone to whom I am not married?
- Have I desired what belongs to other people? Have I wished ill on another?
- Have I been faithful to sacramental living (Holy Communion and Penance)?
- Have I helped make my parish community stronger and holier? Have I contributed to the support of the Church?
- Have I done penance by abstaining and fasting on obligatory days? Have I fasted before receiving communion?
- Have I been mindful of the poor? Do I accept God’s will for me?
After examining your conscience and telling God of your sorrow, go into the confessional. You may kneel at the screen or sit to talk face-to-face with the priest.
Begin your confession with the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was _______ weeks (months, years) ago.”
The priest may read a passage from holy Scripture.
Say the sins that you remember. Start with the one(s) that is most difficult to say. (In order to make a good confession the faithful must confess all mortal sins, according to kind and number.) After confessing all the sins you remember since your last good confession, you may conclude by saying, “I am sorry for these and all the sins of my past life.”
Listen to the words of the priest. He will assign you some penance. Doing the penance will diminish the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. When invited, express some prayer of sorrow or Act of Contrition such as:
An Act of Contrition
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 I have offended 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.
At the End of Confession
Listen to the words of absolution, the sacramental forgiveness of the Church through the ordained priest.
As you listen to the words of forgiveness you may make the sign of the cross with the priest. If he closes by saying, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good,” answer, “For His mercy endures forever.”
Give thanks to God for forgiving you again. If you recall some serious sin you forgot to tell, rest assured that it has been forgiven with the others, but be sure to confess it in your next Confession.
Do your assigned Penance.
Resolve to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation often. We Catholics are fortunate to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is the ordinary way for us to have our sins forgiven. This sacrament is a powerful help to get rid of our weaknesses, grow in holiness, and lead a balanced and virtuous life.
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Here are 5 prayers for reconciliation in relationships between spouses.
Prayer of Forgiveness
I know that You seek to have us always be in a right relationship with You and sometimes I do things that grieve You. I know that I do and say things that grieve my spouse too so I am asking You to give me the right words to say to be reconciled to my spouse. I know I have made many mistakes and have asked for forgiveness from them but it seems that it hasn’t restored our marriage to where we’re both in a right relationship with one another and I know You desire us to be in one. I need Your help. Please send me Your Spirit to show me what I might have done wrong that I was not even aware of and soften my spouse’s heart to accept my faults and extend forgiveness to me so that we can worship You together in the way that is pleasing to You and in the way You intended a husband and a wife to be joined together in offering You thanksgiving, praise, and honor. I know that in my own inadequacies I cannot fully understand how to always say the right words or do the right things but it is my desire to be reconciled with my beloved mate and it is in the strong name of and for the glory of the name above all names, Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
Prayer of Blessing
Great God in heaven,
I am asking You for Your forgiveness for things that I have done to You that are clearly sinful for I am surely not sinless (1 John 1:8-10) and forgive me for those things that I have obviously done wrong to my spouse to hurt them and cause them pain. I am asking You to bless my spouse and help them to understand how far I fall short of the perfect spouse and I pray for Your help in knowing how I can help to restore this relationship and make it more of the way You originally intended for us to have a right relationship with one another and with You. I know that my prayers have sometimes been hindered because of my own stubborn heart and unwillingness to be a greater servant of my spouse and to love them in the way that You have loved me, even dying for me while I was Your enemy (Rom 5:10) and a sinner (Rom 5:9). Please extend to me Your mercy and grace and allow me to treat my spouse in the way that You love me unconditionally and not treat them the way that I often do. I need Your help in doing these things and again, bless my spouse and I thank You for my spouse and for Your forgiveness, love, and grace and in the precious name of the Savior, Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.
Prayer of Reconciliation
Father in heaven,
You have reconciled me to Yourself through Your Son’s precious blood and so I am begging You to help me be reconciled to my beloved spouse. Only You can change the human heart (Prov 21:1) so I ask You to change my heart to be one that seeks to humble myself and seek reconciliation in my relationship with my mate. Too often I speak without thinking and I know my words hurt my spouse but this is no excuse for the things that I speak to them. I ask for Your Spirit to be sent to help us be reconciled with one another as Your Son’s precious blood was shed for our being reconciled to You (2 Cor 5:18; Col 1:20). This I pray for Your Son’s most holy name and for His glory, Amen.
Prayer of Restoration
You are in the restoration business; restoring me by giving me Your Spirit. You have made me into a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) and I am pleading with You to help me restore this marital relationship with my beloved spouse. How often have I done things out of pure selfish ambition and gain? I cannot count the times where I was only looking out for my own interests and not that of my spouse. Please forgive me for my selfishness and help our relationship be restored to the way it previously was. I need Your help in doing this because I don’t always know the right thing to say or do and I lack Your wisdom in acting out of a sincere and genuine heart that is motivated only by serving my spouse and loving them in the way that You love me. What more can I do to help in restoring this relationship to where You would have it be? Help me to think, act, and speak in ways that would reflect Your own love and for this I pray in the precious name of the Great Son of God, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Prayer of Repentance
I repent of my sins and my sins against my spouse. I am so sorry and I need to tell You and my spouse that I have sinned. Let me be humble in approaching them by telling them that I have sinned against them by the way that I have acted or by the words that I have used. I know that I don’t always treat my spouse in the way that I am supposed to because there are many times that I am still more concerned about myself more than I am my spouse. I need to esteem my spouse, to cherish my spouse, and to extend to them the same grace and mercy that You extended to me, even though I didn’t deserve it. Help me to understand that I cannot fix relationships on my own. Only Your Spirit can give me a tenderer heart and please soften my spouses heart too so that they can accept my apologies and to let them know that I often act out of impulse and pride. Help me to know the right words to say to them so that I can show them that I have a repentant heart and seek to be reconciled to them in our relationship because the relationship between a husband and wife is supposed to reflect that of the relationship that Jesus Christ has with me and with the church. For this I pray for the Son of God’s glory and in His name, Amen.
Maybe you’ve prayed such a prayer before. I know I have and I also know that I’ll need to again being I am a fallen creature. I need God’s help in knowing how to pray and how to seek forgiveness and to love my spouse in a way that shows her that I do and not just depend on words alone. Can you comment by giving us your own prayer so that we might know what to pray and how to pray it?
Take a look at some Bible verses about marriage: Bible Verses About Marriage
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by T. Cook (South Holland)
I just ask that you come into both mine and Kenny’s heart and that you cause us to both be able to forgive one another as well as ourselves and that we chose to continue our relationship, but Father God in marriage as you would have.
Father God I ask that you would have both Kenny and I to see what you would have us to see, hear what you would have us to hear and speak only your words that we may uplift one another.
I ask that we begin to pray to you and with one another and as we get closer to you that our lives would be transformed and that your will would be done in our lives. Amen
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech
and the inability to listen to others,
I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening
in order to bring joy and happiness to others
and relieve others of their suffering.
Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering,
I vow to learn to speak truthfully,
with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope.
I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain
and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.
I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord,
or that can cause the family or the community to break.
I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.