Confession after 30 years, not sure it went well...

I’m new here to the forums so please be patient with me.

This has been bugging me and I haven’t been back since…

I hadn’t been to confession since catholic grade school. I guess I fell away into a non-church goer starting in Catholic High School and College. I can’t believe it’s been this long :eek:

Anyway, trying to get back to my faith and a new & better relationship with God. I went to a “Landings” program, wasn’t what I had hoped, but still worth it some of the time. Started going to Mass but still felt like I was just going through the motions. I went through the process of having my wife’s previous marriage annulled and it was just as I had expected (a story for another time). I decided it was time to go to confession, did a lot of thinking and praying, and went to the church. I sat in the pew a long time trying to get up the nerve to do it. I felt like I was back in grade school waiting for the Nun to tell me it was my turn. In any case I really wanted to do it. There had been a lot of serious sins to get worked out and forgiven. I’m not sure what got me to move, but I ended up in a face to face room some how (I would have never done that if i was thinking about it) but I sat down and noticed the priest was very young, probably a brand new priest. I didn’t think it mattered, so I went with it. He seemed really uncomfortable for some reason and almost nervous while I was talking. Kind of made me uneasy. Anyway I explained my long time away from the church and confession. I was expecting a lot of questions from the priest before getting started, but he didn’t ask any. I showed him a booklet about confession I had with lots of notes so i could remember all my sins, so we began. It took a while and I felt kind of rushed because there was someone in the confessional next to him waiting. Afterwords I read a penance prayer from the booklet and he gave me additional readings from the bible and absolved me from my sins like I remembered from grade school. Now, after I left and did my readings and prayers I sat there for a while trying to get a feeling for what just happened. I just wasn’t feeling it, I felt like something was missing or went wrong. I figured it was just because of my time away, but I wasn’t feeling it or even feeling like I was truly forgiven somehow. I figured I’d give it more time and think and pray about it some more, but it’s still bugging me and I haven’t been back since, It’s starting to make me question my Catholic Faith which is much more serious them my falling away which was just that, a distraction, not a loosing of my Catholic faith. It’s been about a year since the confession :frowning: I was attending Mass regularly, but now it’s not as regular as before, but I keep praying about it while trying to comprehend what i am feeling and what to do next.

Is this normal for someone who hasn’t been involved in the church for a very long time? I’m kind of at a crossroads and don’t know where to go or what to do. Maybe I’m just rushing it, but I want to truly feel like I’ve been forgiven, and I don’t feel that way for some reason.

Thank you in advance for any thoughts.



I can’t comment on what it might be like for someone who comes back to confession after such a long time.

But I can say that confession has a very personal element to it, because it involves a discussion between two people, often people who do not know each other well or at all. The two people may not “gel” for whatever reason. The priest may not be on a similar wavelength to you. I have confessed and left feeling uneasy, as though I wished the priest had said more, commented on my sins, imparted some wisdom, etc. Sometimes I leave feeling great because the priest has understood me, given me some insightful penance and imparted wisdom. But however I feel on a personal level, I know that they key reason for confession is to bring my sins before God and to hear the wonderful absolution offered.

I’m sorry that your confession did not leave you feeling as you might have hoped or expected. Perhaps you should give confession another go (not for the old sins, but any new ones since this last confession) and see if you have better luck with regard to the personal element? Just like some priest say the mass better (in my opinion) than others, some priests are definitely better confessors/directors than others.

The Sacraments are not about feelings. The Sacrament of Confession, whereby the priest gives you absolution, is a reality. It is something we believe. This is our faith. We have faith that what we really can not see happen, really happens. We are cleansed of our sins. We have to believe the priest’s words of absolution. Some people may have great feelings associated with this and others don’t. But, we all must believe that the absolution is from Jesus Christ, and we are truely forgiven. We need to go to the Sacraments with no expectations of feelings. Sometimes God gives us feelings with the Sacraments and other times feeling are not there. It is our belief and faith that is important. It is all about faith, hope, and charity_not about feelings. Don’t look for feelings to tell you what is real. Feelings are not our higher faculties given to us by God. Use your intellect and free will to believe. Pray for an increase in faith. God wants us to ask for what we need, even if He knows already what we need. Please go to Confession again but with no expectation of walking on a cloud after. Ask for forgiveness and trust that the priests words of absolution are from Jesus Christ Himself. I hope this helps you.
God Bless you.

Dear Him—thank you for such a heartfelt post. One can easily see your concern and worry. I want to echo, however, what Cathryn said…please don’t try and think this is about having a “feeling”. Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so much more than just being about feelings. Of course, we have those–but you went into the Sacrament with so many emotions, anxieties, and trepidation–all certainly understandable. It would be pretty hard to just let the adrenalin fade away–and when it did, even though you were forgiven, the adrenalin let down would be a bit much as well.

I too was away from the church for awhile (about 7 years) and that first confession upon returning was a different experience than any I had before (or since). I have recently started to go to confession a bit more often and have learned that a different kind of peace comes over me after attending. The “emotion” is never the same. I would recommend you trying to find a spiritual advisor in your parish or develop a relationship with a Priest where He can become more familiar with you and help guide you more in your confessions and penance.

Please keep your heart and mind focused on our Lord and this great gift that He has left us. I will pray for you.

I am wondering if you expected more from the priest in your first confession after 30 years? It seems to me, from your description, that he was more impersonal about this than one would expect - especially in a face-to-face confession. I think most priests would say a few words of encouragement and express some joy at your returning to the faith, and perhaps ask a few questions about where you are now.

So, if I have read your story correctly, then I do feel a bit sorry for you that your happy return to the Church was not more appreciated by the priest.

Mostly confession is accompanied by sense of peace and joy, but not always.

Still, just be happy that you are back, and that all your sins were forgiven by God! :smiley:

You may consider finding another confessor, who is more personally warm than this one seems to be.

Have faith.

Here’s a good little booklet on how to make a good Confession.

It also goes into contrition, and describes what is perfect contrition. One makes this act after one’s sins immediately. It’s a habit to pick up.

This habit, along with a habit of making the prayer or act of spiritual communion, will revitalize a soul.

Step by step.

hjm3inpa forget about the priest (they are are almost “irrelevant,” because they are in the person of Christ, so their personality, strengths, gifts, warmth, sense of humor, facial expression, accent, hairstyle, clothes (any detail large or small you care to think about) etc are totally and utterly unimportant).

Christ forgave you your sins through the priest.

Since you have been missing mass a bit you may want to go back to confession and get back to square one.

Good luck with your journey and welcome back:thumbsup:

You said nothing that indicated that it was not a truly good Confession.
Your feelings are not an indication of God’s grace.
You have memories and expectations that get in the way of knowing that intentions and choices are what is important.
Faith is more significant than feelings, in relation to God’s grace

Like others have said, it’s not about what we feel, it’s about what we do. You were forgiven, and brought back into grace and friendship with God.

That being said, it does get easier if you work at it consistently. Go to Confession every week, if you can, because the graces we receive are immeasurable, and a solid help in our spiritual lives.

Go and visit the Lord in the Tabernacle often, every day if you can. Even if it feels strange, or even stupid to do so (random feelings I had to contend with for a while). Show Jesus with your actions that you love him, not just when it “feels” right to do so.

Your feelings and emotions will come around to that more regularly with time, as your body, heart and will conform gently to our Lord’s, and are made more like Him.

Remember that this life, today, right now, is what we have to prepare and be at peace, as our ultimate goal is to come to be with Him in Paradise.

And, you are very loved, by me as well as Jesus. I’m prayin’ for you, brother.

Although the sacraments may not be about feelings, we are humans, and we have them. You have been having a pull to come back to your faith, and that is wonderful! I personally think we should have an overall good experience at Mass, and while receiving the Sacraments. Many will say…"It’s just the Mass, it’s not about fellowship. but one of the biggest things that pulls Catholics away is not feeling wanted or cared about. I personally am a convert. My experiences for the first 12 years (it’s been 14 years since I converted) the priests always knew me, came over for dinner, and everyone just seemed to know each other, or about each other in some way. There were always church activities, and just a real community feeling. This continued from Philadelphia to San Diego. When I moved north towards LA, where my husband works, I have had a horrible experience. I don’t want to go to Mass, but still love to pray. People leave before the end of the recessional song…I think, “how rude! these people dedicate their time to do this for us”! Then there is the mad dash for the parking lot with people honking at each other…showing to me, it truly is an obligation! Of course it is as a Catholic, but does it really need to feel like that? Why are the same exact people all over the bulletin, basically controlling every ministry, and woe to you if you try to “get in” From what I understand this is a very typical Catholic experience which I find so sad. Calvary Chapel boasts an 80% former Catholic evangelical success rate. If we are to care only of our own salvation, I guess this behavior is OK…but I really feel for you. Since I was a convert, I had to really fight for what I believe, and I go to Mass, despite how I “feel” but if we are our brother’s keeper, we should care how others are feeling. Many people have no real family outside of their church. for some, their ONLY day of the week out of their house. I would really pray that you “shop around” Not all communities are the same, and you may find one more accepting…of course that doesn’t change the purpose of the “Mass” but if fellowship is important, then you should find a church that has more ministries etc. as far as confession…I like to go to the same person, whom I’ve established as a sort of a spiritual directer. (my actual spiritual directer is in Baltimore, so I speak to him with spiritual crisis’s, as you seem to be experiencing). I’ve had all sorts of experiences with young and old priests, and you just never know. What you did was a general confession…and for that an appointment may have been best. You could call the parish office and state that you have been away from the Church for a long time, and really need some time with a priest for a general confession (that is everything you can remember from your earliest sin…at least when you became aware of sin) You can write it all out. I have done this before. Then you don’t have to worry about the time frame, or if someone else is waiting behind you…you have an appointment, and a confession from over 30 years needs more time then the guy behind you who may have gone last week, and is a regular Church goer. This young priest was probably just really caught off guard. Maybe he never had someone come to him with your situation. All priests do the same thing…listen to your confession, offer you a penance that is to bring you closer to God, and absolve your sins. “Feeling” forgiven, may take a while. Remember what Mother Angelica used to say. “There is no sin greater than god’s mercy”!You may really need a spiritual directer to help you. There are many Catholics who go to Mass every week and don’t really even know what they’re doing.Your quest is admirable. My husband admitted that he had no clue that different parts of the Mass mean this or that…he was strictly into the religiosity of it. His parents took him, showed him what to do, but they don’t even know why they do what they do. this is why I mentioned being a convert. I had to really study, and make sure it was for me…I had to put up with arguments from anti-Catholic friends and family…it was a total scandal when I converted. I really will be praying for you, that you find the right parish for you, and that you meet the right priest that you can have some spiritual guidance with…including explaining your faith, and why you may be going through what you are going through. But confession is not a counseling session. With an established relationship with an adviser, you get education, along with some counseling about faith matters. I might also suggest “The Journey Home” on EWTN, and possibly read something like “Surprised by Truth” there are 2 editions, one is just a continuation. they are by Patrick Madrid and tell of people’s conversion stories. You are what is called a “revert” you don’t have to go through catechizes again, but you are learning the faith your parents gave you all over again. God Bless you in your search:)

Speaking for myself, I always feel differently after confession. Sometimes I feel a strong sense of guilt, sometimes a feeling of truly having a new beginning, sometimes I feel just absolutely nothing, at times I’ve left feeling offended at something the priest said or did. Once, while the priest was saying the words of absolution, the clouds that had been in front of the son all day moved, and the sun came to shine on me like a spotlight. That time, I actually FELT the forgiveness. But the important thing is that in each and every one of these episodes my sins were forgiven by “God, the Father of Mercies.” They were not forgiven by the priest sitting in the confessional who may or may not have felt like sitting there on a Saturday afternoon.

As with all the sacraments, sometimes we feel the Graces, and sometimes we don’t feel it.

WOW, thank you all for responding so quickly with wonderful information and advice. I truly appreciate it. Much more engaging and welcoming here online then I’ve experienced locally in the catholic churches I’ve attended. Thank you.

I needed that reminder about being forgiven through the priest and not by the priest, and I understand that the feeling isn’t what I should be looking for. It’s just hard because as an adult I can see why it was so easy to fall away with out some sort of feeling, even from my parish community. The catholic church just wasn’t and still seems to lack the “community/parish outreach” that might have keep me from falling away. There was very little to encourage me or even a structure that would have helped them to know I was even gone. The parishes are big and I can understand why, but I’m wondering how the protestant churhes manage to do it with even bigger congregations.

Anyway, I am a little behind in my catholic studies after 30+ years, but I am trying to catch up as quickly as possible. I have to be honest again, the local catholic churches really don’t seem to be catering towards people like me at all. I’m finding more learning experiences here on the forums and over at the catholic radio page. The Catholics come home website has also been helpful as has the EWTN program Journey Home. I did get involved with a local Catholic Mens Fellowship (CMF) group and that looks promising.

Spiritual Adviser, that’s an interesting thought, how do I find that person? Is it the Deacon or a pastor? Some sort of mentoring program would have been nice after going through the Landings Program. I never heard from anyone after going through it, and I was told the pastor would reach out. He never did, but I’m sure they are busy with the lack shortage of priests. I’m use to the days when there were like 5 or 6 priests at a parish, now it seems we’re lucky to find more then one.

I know it’s all about glorifying God and worshiping in a Liturgical way, but I’m a social person and I think the “community” part of the church should be stronger and more evangelical if I’m using the term correctly. I’m halfway through the book Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei By Scott Hahn. I never heard of Opus Dei, but they sound like a group that is really needed at every parish to help people like me understand and get involved in the community, work and with my family while glorifying God. I’ll be looking for more info on that organization very soon.

In any case I will keep at it and take your suggestions to heart. I hope to “catch up with my friendship with the Lord” and his church, The Catholic Church very soon :smiley:

Looking Up,


I am SO glad you are feeling some support online here. As for finding a spiritual adviser…It is really a Holy Spirit guided thing. My adviser was the head of our RCIA classes in Philadelphia. He’s a Capuchin Franciscan, so he’s been relocated to Baltimore, but I just always ended up with him for confession. After Mass I would occasionally hold the poor man hostage with my “issues” especially regarding reconciling who I was with who I want to be now that I am a Catholic. He finally brought to me the idea of being my spiritual adviser, as he stated that “If I am going to be your spiritual director there are some things you will need to do”. That’s how it became formal. I call him about twice a month, to help with faith questions, or spiritual deadness problems (maybe what you are having with not “feeling it” I call it spiritual deadness…he guides me to exercises to help me reconnect with God). Unfortunately because we live 2700 miles away from each other, I can’t go to confession with him, but I am planning my next trip home to Philly to drive down to Baltimore for a “session” which is first confession, then spiritual direction, then share some lunch and I drive back (did it once a month when I lived out in Philly) I say…as you’re shopping around for the right faith community for yourself, where you really feel you can call it “home” I would maybe listen to the homilies of the different priests (that’s how I ended up with mine, I LOVED to hear him!)…may I suggest a religious order maintained church due to the fact they live in community and therefore usually have at least 3-4 priests or more, depending where you live, at the church regularly. There may be one priest whom you just feel a connection. Ask him if you can make an appointment and feel out the situation as to whether he is open, or “put off” see how available he is for your specific needs. You are in my prayers, and I am so excited for your new journey back home!:smiley:


I’m from the Philadelphia area as well, that is where I grew up Catholic in a pretty Catholic area. After college and the military I moved to Harrisburg for a job and found it to be a much more protestant area with many big churches. That may have been part of my inability to reconnect with the right church community. Recently That job has moved me to Pittsburgh, which seems to be a huge Catholic community, so the opportunity to grow in my faith seems much more available, lots of Catholic churches to visit and get to know.

Unfortunately I did an online search for faith groups that get together and found only protestant ones. The Catholic Church really needs to get the word out about it’s activities (or even start having more) and non-Sunday type groups for people like me to get connected. The protestants definitely know how to reach out and get people involved, I’ve had no shortage of invites to come and get involved in their small groups. I wish the Catholic Church did the same.

I’m going to take your advice and get back to confession and church regularly, and see if it leads me to a spiritual Adviser, thank you.


Be kind to yourself hjm3inpa. What i mean by that is take your time, don’t expect to be perfect, and try not to have too many expectations.

Our faith is a journey, and the only thing perfect is at the end of that Journey - namely God.

InHim—if you are living near Pittsburgh, you are very near Steubenville, OH. There would be, I would think, many involved with Franciscan University (including Scott Hahn who teaches there) who might be able to help guide and direct you. You should attend some of the Masses at the University and see how spirit filled some of these students, teachers, Priests, brothers, etc. are—and you might “feel” a bit of what you’re looking for.

Really small world huh? I know in Philly you tell people which area you live by saying which parish you are in, like “Oh, I live in St. Matt’s parish” But you’re right about Harrisburg…It’s real hick-like so the fundamentalists and Evangelicals are all around. So glad you got to move to Pittsburgh where there is a more solid Catholic community. I am sending you a PM regarding some info I found in the diocese of Pittsburg…ttyl:)

Might as well make it a small reunion of those from the Archdiocese of Philly lol :wave: Hi also, Hjm! and welcome back!

…and your right onthisrock, I lived in St. ‘Gabe’s’ (Gabriel’s) Parish :slight_smile:

Hey, Just wanted to let you know that I tried to respond to your message, but you have too many messages stored in your PM folder, so If you delete some (max is 50, then I can send you my message:)

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