Local Confession Times / Confession: Why and How?
Why do Catholics say their sins out loud to another person? How does God forgive our sins through a priest, who is himself a sinner?
If we haven't gone to confession since we were kids, is it possible to start over? Learn the answers to these questions and more below!
Why Go to Confession?
In confession we bring everything we wish we had never done, and Christ's merciful love wipes these things from our soul as if we had never done them: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us" (Psalm 103:12).
We all know that there are things we have done that we are ashamed of, whether it is easy to admit to ourselves or not. It may be that these are the very things which keep us from going to confession, because it seems impossible to say them out loud to another person. Yet this shame that we feel is the very reason Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as Confession or Penance). He knew that no matter how "spiritual" of a person we are, we are still human, and it makes all the difference in the world to us to hear another human voice say to us, "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace." If I say these things out loud, and the priest does not reject me, I know in a concrete way that God does not reject me, that I truly am forgiven. This is why the early Christians encouraged, "Confess your sins to one another, so that you may be healed" (James 5:16).
Yet when we say our sins to the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are not merely saying them to another human being. In the Gospel, Jesus gives his apostles the power to forgive sins in his name (Matthew 9:6, John 20:21-23). This power is passed on to priests through the grace of their ordination; it is as though the apostles were ministering to us today, offering us forgiveness promised by Jesus! When you say your sins to the priest, he stands in the place of Christ. This is why he says, "I absolve you from all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." It is Christ absolving sins through the priest as his instrument. Jesus uses the priest's voice to speak his forgiveness because he wants you to be absolutely confident that your sins are wiped away by his merciful love.
What if I haven't been to confession in years?
Nothing you do could make God happier than to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially if you have been away from the sacrament for a long time. God is like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The son has rejected his father's love and wasted his life. Deciding to return home, he hopes his father will accept him as a servant. But the father is overcome with joy at his beloved son's return: "While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him" (15:20). If you have been away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God is not looking on you with judgment or criticism. Rather, he is waiting and watching for your return so that he can embrace you with his merciful love.
If you haven't been to confession in a long time, it is good to tell the priest this as you begin your confession. It is also important to do a good Examination of Conscience before you enter the confessional, so that you can be sure to name all the serious sins that are weighing on your soul. If you need courage, pray to Mary, Mother of Mercy, and ask her to walk you through this experience.
How Do I go to confession?
- Examine your conscience (you can use the Examination of Conscience below) before you enter the confessional.
- Once you go in, the priest may start with a prayer.
- Begin by saying, “Father forgive me, it has been _______ weeks/months/years since my last confession.”
- Confess your sins to the priest. Make certain that you confess all your mortal (serious) sins and the number of them. It is good to begin with your most serious sins.
- You may close your confession by saying something like, “For these and all my sins I am sorry.”
- The priest may give you some counsel. Then he will give you your penance (usually a prayer or an act of charity) and ask you to pray an act of contrition.
- Pray the Act of Contrition:
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 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.
8. The priest will give you absolution.
9. Leave the confessional and do your penance.
Examination of Conscience
I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
- Do I speak with God every day in prayer?
- Have I received communion in the state of mortal sin?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Have I used God´s name carelessly?
- Have I been angry with God?
Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day.
- Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
- Have I tried to observe Sunday as a day of rest?
Honor your father and your mother.
- Do I honor my parents?
- Have I neglected my duties to my family?
- Do I care for my aged and infirm relatives?
You shall not kill.
- Have I been angry or resentful?
- Have I abused alcohol or drugs?
- Have I physically harmed anyone?
- Have I had an abortion or encouraged or helped anyone to have an abortion?
- Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization, for myself or others?
- Have I engaged in sins against human life such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization?
- Have I participated in or approved of euthanasia?
You shall not commit adultery.
- Have I been faithful to my marriage vows?
- Have I engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage?
- Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?
- Have I been guilty of masturbation?
- Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words, and actions?
- Have I engaged in homosexual activity?
You shall not steal.
- Have I stolen what is not mine?
- Do I waste time at work, school, or home?
- Do I gamble excessively?
- Do I seek to share what I have with the poor?
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- Have I lied? Have I gossiped, or spoken badly of others behind their back?
- Have I cheated or plagiarized in a class?
- Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?
- Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
You shall not desire your neighbor´s wife.
- Have I consented to impure thoughts?
- Have I caused them by reading impure books or using pornography?
You shall not desire your neighbor´s goods.
- Am I jealous of what other people have?
- Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
- Am I greedy or selfish?
Fatherofmercy.org / promo Materials
The following resources were created by the Office of Worship of the Diocese of New Ulm to promote the "Father of Mercy" Confession Campaign. Please download and print for use in your parish and in your community at large. If you do not have printing capabilities, feel free to contact the Office of Worship (email@example.com) to have them printed at cost (offer available for Diocese of New Ulm parishes and schools only).
"Door of Mercy" And InDulgence of the Jubilee Year
During the Year of Mercy, a special "plenary indulgence" is granted by the Church, as is the practice for all Jubilee Years. This means that through the infinite merits of Christ and all the merits of the saints, a special gift of God's mercy is offered through prayers and acts designated to impart this indulgence. For the Year of Mercy, the plenary indulgence can be received in several ways:
- Pilgrimage to the "Door of Mercy" at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity or the Schoenstatt Family Jubilee Shrine. One must walk through the doors and carry out the other usual conditions for an indulgence.
- Carrying out one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy (under the usual conditions for an indulgence).
- For the homebound, offering up their suffering with hope, praying, and receiving Holy Communion (under the usual conditions for an indulgence).
- For those in prison, visiting the chapel of the prison, which becomes a "door of mercy" for them (under the usual conditions for an indulgence).
For more information on indulgences, see the resources below:
Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy
Corporal Works of Mercy:
- feed the hungry
- give drink to the thirsty
- clothe the naked
- shelter the homeless
- visit the sick
- visit the imprisoned
- bury the dead
Spiritual Works of Mercy:
- counsel the doubtful
- instruct the ignorant
- admonish sinners
- comfort the afflicted
- forgive offenses
- bear wrongs patiently
- pray for the living and the dead
scripture passages for meditation
The following scripture passages were mentioned by Pope Francis in Misericordiae Vultus as particular points of meditation for the Year of Mercy. Pray with these passages, study them, and share them with others!
- Ephesians 2:4 - The Father is "rich in mercy"
- Psalm 136 - Mercy of God throughout salvation history - "for his mercy endures forever"
- Matthew 9:36 - The compassion of Jesus for the crowd who were like sheep without a shepherd
- Matthew 9:9-13 - The call of Matthew, on which Pope Francis' motto is based
- Luke 15:1-32 - Three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the father with two sons
- Matthew 18:21-35 - The need to forgive in order to be forgiven
- Matthew 5:7 - "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy
- Luke 6:27 - "Be merciful just as your Father is merciful," the phrase from which the year's theme is taken
- Matthew 25:31-45 - Works of mercy
- Isaiah 58:6-11 - Works of mercy
- Hosea 11:5-9 - God's mercy in the face of our unfaithfulness
mercy in the mass
The mercy of God is mentioned numerous times throughout the Order of the Mass. The supreme prayer of the Church can become a powerful means of proclaiming the message of mercy. Consider preaching a homily on "Mercy in the Mass" during this Year of Mercy.
“Have mercy on us, O Lord. / For we have sinned against you.
Show us, O Lord, your mercy. / And grant us your salvation” (Form B, no. 5).
“[invocation], Lord, have mercy. / Lord, have mercy.
[invocation], Christ, have mercy. / Christ, have mercy.
[invocation], Lord, have mercy. / Christ, have mercy” (Form C, no. 6).
“May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life” (Priest’s concluding prayer, nos. 4-6).
“Lord, have mercy. / Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. / Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. / Christ, have mercy.”
or “Kyrie, eleison. / Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison. / Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison. / Kyrie, eleison” (no. 7).
Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water
“Grant, O Lord, in your mercy, that living waters may always spring up for our salvation, and so we may approach you with a pure heart and avoid all danger to body and soul” (Appendix II, no. 2 [second option]).
“Lord our God, in your mercy be present to your people’s prayers… You also made water the instrument of your mercy: for through water you freed your people from slavery and quenched their thirst in the desert…” (no. 2 [third option]). 19
Gloria in excelsis Deo
“…you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us” (no. 8).
Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon)
“To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord…” (no. 84).
“To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs…” (no. 96).
Eucharistic Prayer II
“Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face. Have mercy on us all, we pray, that with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, her Spouse, with the blessed Apostles, and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life, and may praise and glorify you through your Son, Jesus Christ” (no. 105).
Eucharistic Prayer III
“…in your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself all your children scattered throughout the world” (no. 113).
Eucharistic Prayer IV
“For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you” (no. 117).
“To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, her Spouse, and with your Apostles and Saints in your kingdom” (no. 122).
Eucharistic Prayer I for Reconciliation
“For you do not cease to spur us on to possess a more abundant life and, being rich in mercy, you constantly offer pardon and call on sinners to trust in your forgiveness alone” (Appendix to the Order of Mass [AOM], Eucharistic Prayer I for Reconciliation, no. 1).
“…we offer you, who are our faithful and merciful God, this sacrificial Victim who reconciles to you the human race” (no. 7).
“Help us to work together for the coming of your Kingdom, until the hour when we stand before you, Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven, with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the blessed Apostles and all the Saints, and with our deceased brothers and sisters, whom we humbly commend to your mercy” (no. 7).
Eucharistic Prayer II for Reconciliation
“In a similar way, on that same evening, he took the chalice of blessing in his hands, confessing your mercy, and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying…” (AOM, Eucharistic Prayer II for Reconciliation, no. 5).
Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs
“Therefore, Father most merciful, we ask that you send forth your Holy Spirit to sanctify these gifts of bread and wine, that they may become for us the Body and X Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” (AOM, Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs, no. 3 [I-IV]).
Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs (IV)
“It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father of mercies and faithful God” (AOM, Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs IV, no. 1).
Embolism after the Lord’s Prayer
“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ” (no. 125).
“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace” (no. 130).
Priest’s Prayer before Communion
“May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy” (no. 131 [second option]).