I used to go to confession with one priest who always gave the same penance: 3 and 3. Didn’t seem to matter what I confessed. Another priest always gives a full rosary. Another priest said my penance was to laugh more!
I did it after 22 years absence from the Church. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought. I too made poor lifestyle choices in that time.
It wasn’t too hard. I just asked to speak to the priest before Mass, told him what I had done over the years, he absolved me, welcomed me home, and said “don’t wait so long for confession next time” with a smile! It only took a couple of minutes. I had a longer meeting with him in his office some time afterwards to get me back on the Catholic rails.
This September will mark the point where I have been back as many years as I had been out. Might be worth cracking open my bottle of finest single malt to celebrate
My current confessor usually gives me my (favourite?) penance, go pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, which is in a beautiful side chapel in the abbey church.
I was away for most of my adult life and didn’t come back until I was well into my 40s. It took me some time to put together a “list” of what I had to confess. I don’t know how long that first confession took, but I was so relieved and happy when it was over!
“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.”
- Luke 15:20
There is so much depth to the parable of the prodigal son. But one of my favorite parts is how the father, before he even hears his sons confession, runs to him and embraces him.
Whenever I get nervous or jittery about going to confession, I think of this verse.
I came into the Catholic church two years ago as a 35 year old man. My religious background as an adult was sparse. I lived my life by my own moral code and believed that if i did my best to be a good person that everything would be okay. I went through RCIA and had to go for sacrament of reconciliation prior to recieving communion at Easter Vigil.
I have a Priest at my parish that I am very close with and I chose to do my confession with him. This was 20 years of sin that I was confessing and when I was younger I had slept around a lot. I was absolutely mortified to make my confession but I chose to do it with my Priest because I felt like it would keep me more accountable. He and I had already discussed many things because he was the Priest that was doing PreCana with my ex fiance and I.
For the longest time I felt like it changed our relationship and it really saddened me. I’ve come to realize though that it was all in my head. My advice, just do it and be entirely honest. One sin left unconfessed is enough to keep you out of a state of grace.
I have recently been fortunate enough to have God bring a wonderful lady into my life and we are engaged to be married. He will be the Priest that marries us. She is going through RCIA this year and will take her first communion at Easter Vigil. She is unbaptized so she doesn’t have to go to confession prior to receiving her sacraments but I have been encouraging her to sit down with a priest and do an examination of conscious anyways because the impact of confessing your sins can have a profound impact on how you feel. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do but it was also one of the greatest things I’ve ever done!
I just want to clarify, when people talk about a problem with leaving out a sin, they are talking about deliberately not mentioning a grave* sin, which people sometimes do out of embarrassment or something like that.
The advice to confess the “harder” sins is great!
*mortal if the other two criteria are met --full knowledge and full consent
The priest who heard my first confession, read that parable to me. He repeated the last sentence in verse 24 “And they began to celebrate.” so that it would sink in.
Within the next month or so I intend to go to my very first confession. I am currently 60 years old, nearing 61, and spent a large part of my early adulthood in the Navy as a single man stationed at and travelling to parts of the world that tend to cater to young single men with disposable income. I have a LOT of examination to do, even if I can just say “did X regularly for at least Y years…”. Not looking forward to the prep - looking forward to the finish.
Like someone said…write down a few bits to keep you on track. Just say the serious things or mortal sins for now you can get to other things at a later date. The priest will also guide you if you get stuck or dont know what to say, be honest, say it’s been a long time. I told the priest it had been 20yrs and I couldn’t remember what to do or all my sins. He said welcome home. Then told me to trust God and just say whatever I thought of for now as God would let me know what to say when.
What always helps me when I am feeling nervous is knowing that I am doing God’s will. That’s pretty cool, to know that you are doing what God wants you to do. I mean a lot of the time we hope we are doing it and we do our best not to muck it up but going to mass and going to confession, yep we are doing God’s will. So that always puts a little lift in my step and gives me a boost.
THANK YOU JESUS for your coming into the Church and Congratulations on your engagement. May she be filled with the Holy Spirit as you are and may you both have a life long relationship with Our Lord that leads you both to Heaven.
I just returned to the Church after an absence of nearly 40 years. I sat down with the parish priest and laid out my confession. I was so nervous, but he guided me along. He was very kindly and gentle. He placed his hands on my head and gave me a general absolution and I felt this huge weight I hadn’t even known I was carrying come off my shoulders.
He also told me to look forward, not back. I’m not exactly sure how he phrased it, but he said that I was not to dwell on past sins, or to worry about sins that I had forgotten to mention in my confession. He said that was the devil, trying to worm his way into my head. So that is what I’m trying to do.
THANK YOU JESUS for that Priest who heard your Confession and gave you absolution. We need many many more wonderful Priests like him.
Thank you all for your responses. I have one concern and it’s the thing that is holding me back the most. I am unsure about the status of my marriage. I was married by a justice of the peace and my husband is Lutheran. Until my marriage is convalidated do we have to live as brother and sister? Because he is not okay with that. If we are allowed to live is husband and wife that would clear up my last big problem and I would be ready to go to confession even this weekend.
Yes, you should live as brother and sister until your marriage is convalidated.
This is where some of the harder parts of Jesus’ sayings come into play. Namely needing to hate father, mother etc.
Before I joined the Catholic church, I had 70 years’ worth to confess. I told the Father that basically I had an attitude problem, gave a few examples, and he said that he could hear from my voice that I was sorry for my sin, he absolved me of my sins, and that was that. Made it easy for me. I guess easier for him, too, than having me rattle of a lifetime of wrongs and, realistically, with the best intentions in the world I would be forgetting a lot of things. Told me to say an Our Father, and I was finished.
Drink more beer would be a nice penance.
I know it’s scary but you’ll be glad you did it afterwards! Remember that the priest probably has heard everything under the sun when it comes to sins, and he won’t know who you are. And you’re both concealed to keep your privacy and for him to listen to your sins. Be honest with your sins. Because if your don’t say them on purpose they still count and you’ll have to go again.
Heck beer isn’t a penance, it’s a major food group! (Says OraLabora, typing this while enjoying a nice Belgian abbey beer).
Or as they say, gentlemen prefer blondes. Especially Belgian Trappist blondes after a tough bike ride
I always keep a couple of IPAs on hand. For my ticker, by cracky!
Ask the Holy Ghost, Our Lady, St. Joseph and your Guardian Angel to help you make a good general confession.
When I made my first Ignatian retreat, we had to make a general confession. First retreatants made a general confession of their whole life; those on subsequent retreats made a general confession from the last time they were on retreat.
We went through a detailed examination of conscience and wrote down our sins. If it was something habitual then you estimated how many times, e.g. at least 5 times a week you did ______. After making our confessions, one either burned them in the stove or shredded them in the shredder.
The priests gave sound Catholic counsel and an appropriate penance e.g. Litany of the Sacred Heart.