I am a fairly new convert to Catholicism and, to be honest, I don’t think that my RCIA instruction was what it should have been. I do not know how or what to do to go to confession. My husband, a cradle catholic, does not like to discuss Catholic issues for fear of having to defend his faith. I’m not questioning the faith, I’m questioning what to say, how to say and I want to understand the reasons why some things are done. Can someone please explain to me what to do when I go to confession?
Welcome by priest/sign of the cross
“Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been ______ since my last confession.”
List your sins
Listen to advice and/or penance the priest gives you
Say Act of Contrition
Absolution and Final Blessing
Go do your penance.
Guides to Confession:
In RCIA we watched some youtube videos by bustedhalo that were great! They walked us right through what to do, how to do it and what to expect. They even added a bit of humor to help ease the nerves that first confession can cause.
Here’s a link to the Table of Contents–look at “Lesson Twentieth” for the information about making a good Confession. I learned there to say “For these and all the sins of my past life i am most heartily sorry” when I finished so it was clear that I had finished Chapters 17 to 21 helped me understand many of the other aspects of Confession as well.
And the BIG ADVICE: JUST DON’T WORRY AND GO FOR IT! You’ll do fine–and after the first time it’s always easier, I promise! If you can remember to just make the sign of the cross and say “Bless me father for I have sinned–this is my first confession.” The priest will walk you through the rest. Most of us old Catholics know the act of contrition by heart–but in my parish, they also have a little hand out card thing with it printed on it–a stack of them–and father always asks if you need one to read unless he knows you and knows you know it. If you don’t have the act of contrition memorized and also aren’t sure if they hand out copies, go to one of the links provided by one of the nice posters above–find one, write it down on paper, stick it in your pocket and take it with you and read from it when the time comes. Reading it is not a wrong thing to do–Father will understand that it IS your first confession–and believe me, there are Catholics out there who’ve been Catholics for many years and don’t know it by memory! Okay?
The only other advice I’d give seriously is to spend some time examining your conscience and remembering what you want to confess–even if you can’t remember exactly how many times. You need to feel that sense of really getting closure for your sins when you are finished with your first confession and even though if you inadvertently forget a sin–it’s okay–tell it next time–it’s really worth your time to spend more than 15 minutes contemplating your entire past life, what you have done wrong and that you KNOW it was wrong and that that part of your life is behind you! Thinking through the 10 Commandments and 7 Deadly Sins always works for me–but everyone has their own way–there’s no one perfect way to do it. Approach it however you want–you can even make little notes on paper for yourself–maybe along with the Act of Contrition if you feel you need to write it down–and think of it as a cheat sheet or whatever. It will make you feel 100% better if you really invest several hours over several days thinking it through. I’ve kinda found that I usually get exactly as much OUT of confession as I put INTO it! Does that make sense?
NOW,onto a true story with a little humor involved: My husband is a convert. One thing that my husband mentioned–a silly little thing, when he made his first confession which really shook him up, I’ll mention here. I’d never thought to warn him of this beforehand–we did talk a lot before he went to confession the first time, but it just never occurred to me as something I should tell him. I mean, I made my first confession 56 years ago and I guess I took it for granted he’d know all this–but he didn’t and it was something that bothered him which I could’ve easilly prevented if I’d only thought of it. So I’ll tell you:
After you’ve said whatever sins you want and need to confess, it is accepted protocol for you to say something like: “And I am truly sorry for these sins and all the sins of my past life.” That line tells the priest that you are through confessing your sins. At that point, the priest will talk to you a little sometimes–not always–but usually and I’d imagine he will since it’s your first time. When the priest is finished telling you whatever he wants to say, he’'ll pause momentarily and then he will say: “And now make a good act of contrition.”–which is your key to say the act of contrition per above.
So, my husband got to that point and began saying aloud the act of contrition–you do need to say it aloud. But, when my husband began saying the A.o.C., the priest lowered his head and began speaking too. So my husband stopped saying the act of contrition–thinking the priest was speaking to him. At which point the priest quit speaking and looked at my husband to see why he wasn’t saying the act of contrition and so my husband continued with his act of contrition. Of course the priest began speaking again, my husband stopped praying the act of contrition again and apparently they did this multiple times.
Anyway, when my husband came out----well you’d have to know my husband to appreciate the look on his face—but he set down beside me in the pew, shook his head and said: “Well, that wasn’t too bad. He only gave me 3 Our Fathers for a penance. BUT, it took him forever to do it and he kept muttering something at me under his breath as I was trying saying that act of contrition prayer until I almost thought I’d never get it said!”
I nearly fell off the pew laughing. Here’s one of those little absurd things that someone may not have told you: The priest begins his part–praying the act of ABSOLUTION to forgive those sins and he says it aloud, but quietly exactly while you are saying the act of contrition! He is not muttering at you–and you need to say your prayer for contrition all the while he’s talking and while he’s talking! He’s not talking TO you–he’s praying FOR you!
Also, when the priest ends his absolution prayer,he says some version of “… Your sins are forgiven-- in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”–and even if you are still making your act of contrition and not quite finished–go ahead and make the sign of the cross–basically a good rule for any Catholic service of any kind is when a priest starts out with “In the name of the Father…” make the sign of the cross–you’ll never go wrong.
THEN, when everyone’s through–the priest usually says “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”–or some variation of that which signals you can get up and leave. “Thank you, Father.” or “God bless you too, Father” is an appropriate reply.
“Okay–have a good one!”–which is what my dear–but confused-- husband said, is NOT what the priest expects to hear! Both my husband and the priest did survive though! LOL!
You’ll do fine. The priest survived my hubby and vise versa–so priests are pretty shock-proof!!!
Thank You Everyone! And Starrsmother…what a blessing. I think I will do just fine LOL. That was a really wonderful story. I’m sure the priest had a few smiles of his own. Thanks Again!
My husband and i have gotten pretty close to our priest and we all share a similiar sense of humor…we had first confession on the same day earlier this year. I went in first and was so nervous! Father was great about walking me through and i used a hand out that had step by step instructions. When we came out Father said to my husband, “boy, its a good thing that room is sound proof! You didnt want to hear what she had to say!” Then laughed like crazy the next morning we had RCIA and was talking about purgatory. I said, is there any way we can avoid that because it sure doesnt sound like a good time? Father looked at me all serious and says," for you? Oh no, youll be spending a long time there!" We all got a good laugh
Be sure to use a good “examination of conscience” tool to prepare. I know my husband and i were very nervous about our first confession but once its over and you are absolved you will feel this huge weight be lifted from you! Confession is truly a wonderful gift