How to go to Confession
Before going to confession, take some time to prepare. Begin with prayer, and reflect on your life since your last confession. How have you—in your thoughts, words, and actions— neglected to live Christ’s commands to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39)? As a help with this “examination of conscience,” you might review the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes (Ex 20:2-17; Dt 5:6-21; Mt 5:3-10; or Lk 6:20-26).
Find more examinations of conscience from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops here.
Traditional confessionals may have the opportunity to choose between sitting face to face or behind a screen. The priest will welcome you; he may say a short blessing or read a Scripture passage.
If you have not been to confession in a long time and do not know what to do, you may tell the priest this and he will walk you through how to go to confession. You may also choose to reference this web page during your confession.
Together, you and the priest will make the Sign of the Cross. You may then begin your confession with these or similar words: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been [give days, months, or years] since my last confession.”
Confess all your sins to the priest. If you are unsure what to say, ask the priest for help. When you are finished, conclude with these or similar words: “I am sorry for these and all my sins.”
The priest will propose an act of penance. The penance might be prayer, a work of mercy, or an act of charity. He might also counsel you on how to better live a Christian life.
After the priest has conferred your penance, pray an Act of Contrition, expressing sorrow for your sins and resolving to sin no more. A suggested Act of Contrition is:
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.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.
(Rite of Penance, no. 45)
Parishes nearly always have Act of Contrition prayer cards in the confessional.
The priest will extend his hands over your head and pronounce the words of absolution. You respond, “Amen.”
The priest will usually praise the mercy of God and will invite you to do the same. For example, the priest may say, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.” And your response would be, “His mercy endures forever” (Rite of Penance, no. 47).
The priest will conclude the sacrament, often saying, “Go in peace.”
Rejoice! You have received the forgiveness of Christ! What should you do when you leave? Remember the words you recited in the Act of Contrition: “I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.”
Your penance helps to join us with Christ, who alone died for us. The goal of our life’s journey is to grow closer to God. We can do this through prayer, spiritual reading, fasting and the reception of the Sacraments.