A few questions on confession

I have some questions about Confession.

  1. How specific do we have to be about our sins? I would appreciate a detailed response on this because it’s something I’m really concerned about.

  2. I have a lot of sins. Several months worth. What “format” should I use to confess them? I plan on writing all of them down, is it okay if I just read from the list or what?

  3. Can someone give an example of a good confession? Including anything “formal” I have to say to the Priest and what he will say to me?

That’s all I can think of now, I might have more questions later if they come to me. Thank you!

My missal gives the following simple advice: “Let your confession be plain, entire, and prudent; neither obscuring your faults, nor concealing anything wilfully, nor saying what would be prejudicial to a third person”.

Generally, you need to list your sins plainly. But you have to remember that circumstances can alter the gravity of the sin. You should list the number of times the sin was committed - roughly, if you can’t remember exactly. Sometimes there may be underlying reasons why you may have fallen into a habitual sin - perhaps by neglecting the advice of your confessor, or by neglecting to use prayer to help you avoid that particular sin. If the priest needs more detail for clarification, he will ask- but really the above short piece of advice covers everything: basically keep it simple but entire.

It might be a good idea to make an appointment with a priest for such a confession - if you think it’s going to take quite some time. I don’t think there’s a problem with writing your sins down. I’ve never done it myself, but I think I would be careful that I don’t rely too much solely on what is on paper - what I mean is, don’t be restricted by what you’ve written down. There have been several times that, even after a lengthy examination of conscience, I have gone into the confessional and then something else has come to mind. But again, the priest will ask if he needs particular details, and he will help you if you are having difficulty.

Well, firstly you need to find a good examination of conscience. I find that many of the old missals have a good examination of conscience. There are a few good formulae available online HERE & HERE, for example. Generally you should examine yourself on your last confession- if sins were forgotten, concealed, etc. Then you should examine yourself on the 10 Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, the 7 Capital sins, the duties of your state in life, and your ruling passion.

When this is done, you need to pray for true and heartfelt sorrow for your sins. This is probably the most difficult aspect of confession.

When you enter the confessional, generally kneel, begin with the sign of the Cross and then say: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been (mention time) since my last confession…Since my last confession I have been guilty of (mention sins)”. When you have finished listing your sins, say “For these and all other sins that have escaped my memory, I am heartily sorry, humbly ask pardon of God and penance and absolution of you, Father”.

The priest may then ask you questions about anything he may need clarification on. Answer his questions honestly. Listen to any advice he may give. Then accept his penance.

You will be then invited to say an act of contrition. There are many that you can use. I normally say: “O my God, I am heartily sorry for all my sins, and I detest them above all things, because they offend you who are all good and deserving of all my love; and I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to penance for them and never more to offend you. Amen”.

Absolving you, he will say: “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself, and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

Some priests may end by reciting a psalm, such as “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good” - the response is “His mercy endures forever”. The priest may simply say “God bless you”.

When you leave the confessional, carry out the penance that the priest has given you. You might develop your own post-confession formula - there may be extra prayers you would like to say in thanksgiving or asking for strength to help you avoid the sins of your past life in the coming days and weeks.

How detailed?

Try this: I gossipped about my co-workers. Not: Father, there is this lady at work, and she just works on my last nerve. She is so whiney and demanding. The other day, she told me… and so I just had to tell someone else…

Say: I missed Mass twice. Not: I had every intention of going to Mass, but then my mother-in-law showed up, and I had to stay and be sociable or …

Just state your sins, don’t give the story or rationalization behind them. No excuses.

I don’t usually find myself stating the number of times, but instead fall into - “often”, “sometimes”, “occassionally”, especially for venial sins.

I have never been asked for more clarification about anything in confession, that I can remember.

Always pray for guidance when you are doing your examination of conscience. Ask the Holy Spririt to shine his light on the things that are hidden in the dark corners. Sometimes this can be revealing.

Several months of sins?

I’ve done 8 years worth in under 10 minutes. Mostly they were the same things, repeated over and over and over. Such as: I missed Mass most weekends for many years. I’ve neglected my aging parents. I’ve stolen several thousand dollars worth of equipment from work. I have gossipped about co-workers and taken those family members closeset to me for granted.

I guess, what I’m trying to say, is that you can probably “group” your sins somewhat. You don’t need to detail each instance of every sin.

I always, always, always make a list. Sometimes I read straight off of it. Sometimes it is just there for back-up if my mind goes totally blank. Just depends on how long it is. I use 3x3 post-it-notes.

Specific format:

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It’s be ______ since my last confession.

Since then, I have said unkind things about others, engaged in impure thoughts, and lost my temper with my children on several occassions.

Sometimes if there is a situation weighing heavily on my mind, I might bring that up, as well: There is a situation at work that I am afraid to return to. I know that the fear comes because I don’t trust God to take care of my needs in that area. But always keeping it short.

I am sorry for these and all my sins. (Sometimes this is ommitted, because I have asked a specific question and he responds with his advice…)

The priest will sometimes give advice. Sometimes not.

Then he will assign you your penance. Mine always asks me to then make an Act of Contrition (Oh my God, I am heartily sorry…) which I do.

You can use a formal prayer or express sorrow in your own way. If your priest does not ask for an Act of Contrition, it is OK. Just say it after you leave the confessional.

After you say your AoC, the priest will give you absolution.

You respond with “Amen.”

Mine will often say, “Go in peace, have a good day” or something along those lines, and I respond in kind. “Thank you. You, too. Etc.”

It is more important that you are detailed internally during your examination of conscience than in the confessional.
As others have said, you can be brief, stating the specific sin (stealing, cursing, lusting, Anger etc) and then the number of times you recall committing that specific sin. Most people use the ten commandments for their examination of conscience. Personally I prefer using the seven deadly sins. In any case this is the prefered method when one has a number of “small sins” (venial) to confess.
Details are unnecessary unless you are seeking father’s advise on how to deal with a recurring issue. But since you have many sins to confess, I’d leave such inquiries to a follow-up confession.

  1. I have a lot of sins. Several months worth. What “format” should I use to confess them? I plan on writing all of them down, is it okay if I just read from the list or what?

Yes this is acceptable and in this case, a good idea. It will provide two benefits. First it will allow you to have a good grasp of how much time the confession will take. Second it will prevent you from “straying off” into details etc or from omitting something you really want to confess.

  1. Can someone give an example of a good confession? Including anything “formal” I have to say to the Priest and what he will say to me?

I think that “acadian” pretty well covered this in his post.

That’s all I can think of now, I might have more questions later if they come to me. Thank you!

You are welcome.


I have some questions about Confession.
I assume your Catholic or preparing cause your in RCIA…or newly Baptized…for one needs normally to be Catholic…

  1. How specific do we have to be about our sins? I would appreciate a detailed response on this because it’s something I’m really concerned about.

One only needs to confess Mortal sins (they have to be confessed and all together) confessed in number (as one can of course…at times a person may not know and may need to say “around 10 times” etc…the Priest can help here…) and kind and one would add the circumstances that change the nature of th sin. Such as I accuse myself of murder 3 times and* one of them was my brother*.

It is good and recommended to confess venial sins too…but one can confess some and intend the rest (life can bring a number) in the end "and all the sins of my life particular those of x and Y (like theft and lust)…(when you only have venial sins…hopefully most times…it is good to pick a few to zero in on more) and remember venial sins can be forgive in many ways…so do not wait for confession to seek forgiveness…but it is very good to confess them…see the CCC (of course an act of perfect contrition even forgives mortal sins if we can have such…of course with the intent to confess as soon as possible…and we wait for communion of course)

if you forget any mortal sins (as opposed to concealing them…for such would invalidate the sacrament and add sin) no worries…you were sorry for them with the rest I assume…and they where indirectly absolved…one is though obliged to mention them the next confession after one remembers…

Also read the Catechism on this Sacrament…

  1. I have a lot of sins. Several months worth. What “format” should I use to confess them? I plan on writing all of them down, is it okay if I just read from the list or what?

Yes you can write them and read (but in the form of a confession …I accuse myself of these:…but destroy it later.

There are a few different basic formats…such as just beginning with the sign of the cross “In the Name of…” and then saying your state in life…and when your last confession was…then saying “I accuse myself of.,…” the ending "and all the sins of my life particularly for x and y …then the Priest will advise and give penance …then you ordinarily make an act of contrition (you can use one or make it up…but read the CCC on contrition etc) …and then he will give absolution to which you respond “Amen” …then there is a dismissal…

That’s all I can think of now, I might have more questions later if they come to me. Thank you!

From Jimmy Akin at CA



This is quite fine for venial sins…(and they do not need any number really) but for mortal sins really one is obliged to be specific (if one can remember)…if one murdered 3 people …one may not say “a few” if one knows it was 3… we have to examine ourselves…and give number and kind for mortal sins.

though if you went on a killing spree…you would only be able to say…I killed many people …prob. more than 30 or so…

or other ways if one can not remember such as…I do not recall for sure but around 2 or three times a week for the last 3 months…things like that…if need be

(and any honest omissions of mortal sins needs to be corrected the next confession …unless they were knowingly done…which would need fixing right away…)

If one did omit the number of mortal sins…honestly some how…one would need to mention it next confession…of course if sinfully so (knowingly)…it would need to be confessed sooner…along with the other mortal sins (from then and since)…and the fact of the omission …but also do not scruple about this…for if one forgets…it is just that…you just mention it the next time…read the links from Jimmy Akin I posted above for you

Oh…at the end there is on our part (one option) to say after the Priest speaks of his mercy …one can say “his mercy endures forever”…

of course thanks to God and the Priest…:slight_smile:

Thank you all. You all have been extremely helpful. I am confessing this weekend for the first time and I’m trying to read as much about it as I can to prepare properly.

I do have one more question regarding a specific sin:

Sacrilege—The sin of sacrilege is a grave sin that consists of profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and liturgical actions of the Church as well as things consecrated to God (CCC 2120).
(From saintaquinas.com/mortal_sin.html)
If I disrespected, used a rosary in an inappropriate way, etc. that would be a sacrilege right? How would one confess this sin? Also, I have attended Mass a few times and took Communion while having mortal sins on my soul, this is considered a sacrilege as well, how should I confess this?


As far as receiving Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin, I say, “I have received Holy Communion unworthily x time (s).” Make sure you mention the other mortal sin as well. While you need to thoroughly list your mortal sins, remember that only those Holy Communions received after your mortal sin, not after your last confession, count as mortal sins in themselves. But this should go without saying.


You need to mention the specific act of sacrilege. I don’t know what you have in mind as far as using a rosary inappropriately, but say, if you threw it down in anger, you would mention that you threw the rosary down in anger x time(s).

Also, as already been mentioned, some priests will offer spiritual counsel to help you on your earthly journey so as to help you to avoid offending God and your brethren in the future . Make sure to take these to heart.

Finally, let me verge a little off topic for a minute: While we should never receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin and we should never sin, let alone mortally in the first place, is the answer to perpetually stay away from Holy Communion thinking that God will never forgive us? NO! A priest told me that we should hasten to the confessional as soon as we fall into mortal sin, or as St. Paul says, “Let a man examine himself, then eat and drink.”

For just as receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin will add to our eternal woes, it is also true that receiving it (after confession) will help the person to grow spiritually. So, take my take home message is this: hasten to confession when you sin, but hasten back to Holy Communion after you confess. For me, I tend to stay for the Mass after confession to receive, and even return to Mass on Sunday to hear the Word of the Lord again as well as to receive again. :wink:

Thank you, angelic. :slight_smile:

I have yet another question.
I’ve done my examination of conscience and I noticed that I have a “group” of sins that are similar. I have been angry, impatient, unkind, hateful, vengeful, jealous, and envious at times. Now should I confess all of these separately or can I confess them all at once? Or can I just say “I’ve been hateful _ times”? :confused:

Kind and number, mortal or venial, should be confessed. It is possible to confess a venial sin alone, but mention a mortal of the same kind from the past for proper contrition, because it is sometimes difficult to have proper sorrow for venial sins.

Fifth commandment: kill (anger, fighting, uncharitibility)
Ninth/Tenth commandment: covet neighbors wife or goods (jealousy, envy): sorrow at anothers well being because it somehow reduces your own.

These sins all come from frustrated desire, the desire is excessive and can lead to uncharitible actions and thoughts.

Seven deadly sins can be summarized (with help from St. Thomas Aquinas):

1 Timothy 6:10: “The desire of money is the root of all evil.”
Sirach 10:15: “Pride is the beginning of all sin.”

the excellence of honor and praise sought inordinately is “vainglory”
the preservation of the individual pursued inordinately is “gluttony”
the preservation of the species pursued inordinately is “lust”
external riches pursued inordinately is “covetousness”
sadness about one’s spiritual good, on account of the attendant bodily labor yields “sloth”
sadness about another’s good without recrimination is “envy,”
sadness about another’s good as being a hindrance to one’s own and with recrimination for vengeance is “anger”

If it were me, I would place these, “angry, impatient, unkind, hateful, vengeful” together as they all basically stem from anger and a deisre to hurt someone else. Jealousy and Envy would be a second grouping, jealousy stemming from envy, which is another of the deadly sins.
You could just give a number or you could, if you’re seeking advice from your confessor, elaborate (a little) on circumstances, or common denominators in the sins.


I just wanted to thank you all again. I made my first confession today (actually at the National Shrine in DC) and it was absolutely wonderful. I was EXTREMELY nervous before but the priest was really nice and helpful :slight_smile:



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