Confession question


I have a question for people who don’t bring lists with them to confession.

How do you remember what to confess?

I ask because when I go to confession I inevitably seize up every time in a dumbstruck fit of terror. I am not afraid to go to confession at all, but when I actually get into the confessional I am like, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhh… I did this, I did that. Uhhhhh do you have a copy of an act of contrition? Oh it’s taped below where my hand is? Oh really? Duh. I remember that.” So I can’t remember anything past like 2-3 things max. I just blank. I try to remember more but I just can’t, so he gives absolution and I just rely on the fact that I forgot (which I really and honestly do). So I think I should start writing things down in the future.

So to you who have your laundry lists in your heads, do you just not get that dumbstruck lockup blank going on in your head?


First, I suggest that you enter “Examination of Conscience” into any search engine on your computor. You will see several pages of sites for this title. Read through the description of the sites and choose one appropriate for you.Then get a sheet of paper and a pen. Follow the questions and write down your sins and the number of times you did them. If you do not remember the exact number, don’t worry about it. G*d is not a CPA! Simply say “a couple of times” or “several times”.That is good enough.
Then, when you have finished with your examination of conscience, Look up the “Act of Contrition”. When you find it, write it down on the same piece of paper, below your sins.
Take this piece of paper with you into the Confessional. There should be a light inside the Confessional. If there isn’t one, hold the paper up to the screen so you can read it by the light coming through from the priest’s side. The rest is up to you.
I know that this works, because it is what I do…and I am a lot older than you!


I have always been terrible at examining my conscience, mostly because I wasn’t taught to do so properly years ago. Long story, that. But what I tend to do is do a sort of examen right before I go into the confessional by “rehearsing” what it is I will say to the priest. I just mentally say to myself what it is I’m going to say as soon as I’m prompted, and that both helps to clear the nerves and to help me remember what to say.



In our UK Diocese we are discouraged from using the word confession, hence my use of the words Sacrament of Reconciliation (I need to keep the habit).

Once I know that I must go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I start by checking if I know why, sometimes it needs much prayer or examination of conscience (beyond the usual daily examination). When I have identified the issue, I think about the consequences, separation from God &/or community, disappointing God etc. I rehearse before leaving the house, outside the church and in the queue. I ramble, so much work is done on succinctness and focusing. Listing doesn’t work for me. If anger is the big problem then I will say that it has become increasingly an issue, give an example or two, express the concern or consequence/s. If I miss a big problem, God in His love and wisdom brings it out and it is tackled immediately in the box.

We are different in that how, and what we bring is necessary for our spiritual journey, so the above is not necessarily suitable, acceptable or an option for others. If anyone finds the above odd, please note that where I am, bringing the burning issue/s is encouraged and lists are discouraged (except for the first few Sacraments of Reconciliation for new Catholics and recent Reverts).

If you have many issues you need to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, perhaps taking a list may help?


The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the sacrament 5 different names (emphasis added).

I. What Is This Sacrament Called?

1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin. (1989, 1440)

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” — acknowledgment and praise—of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man. (1456, 1449, 1442)

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”


I think the ideas offered about the importance of the examination of conscience are spot on. I encourage you to begin praying the Liturgy of the Hours and you will find an examination daily as part of the night prayer.


Thank you. I would never have thought to look that up. Thinking about it, the Diocese may have decided on the Sacrament of Reconciliation to try to encourage people to look beyond confession and penance to reconciliation with God. The Diocese and parish priests have been gently working very hard to get the message out.

Once again thank you for the quote. That is the great thing about CAF - learning something new.


I list my sins and anything else I want to discuss with the priest on my Iphone notes.

It is easy to remember, as I have my phone with me anyways (sound off naturally).

It is backlit so that I can read it in the dark.

I adjusted the font so that it is big enough for me in case I forget my glasses. :wink:

I have my prayers and examination of conscience and other helpful goodies (including CA) all in there too.

Hooray for modern technology!


This is why I have a regular confessor and celebrate the sacrament on a ‘scheduled’ basis- usually once a month. It makes things so much easier.

My spirituality is very Ignatian, and I do the daily examen, so I can readily see my patterns. The night before my appointment, I pray the examen, looking back since my last confession, and if anything really pops up, I note it in my prayer journal, which I always have with me, so if need be, I can have it ready.

As far as an act of contrition, I always struggled with remembering the traditional one, and reading it from the little card in the confessional seemed “not right” for me, so I made up my own. It’s short, sweet and to the point, and very easy for me to remember, and it’s my own words, which in my book in a good thing! :thumbsup:


When I do not have a list (often because I forgot the list at home), I do bring with me or pull up an Examination of Conscience. Since I usually take the bus, I have time to examine the Examination.


If you go to Confession regularly there should be much to remember.:slight_smile:


So to you who have your laundry lists in your heads, do you just not get that dumbstruck lockup blank going on in your head?

I have a hard time believing that you commit so many mortal sins that you cannot remember them all. :eek:

As for venial sins, it’s always a good idea to confess them in order to obtain sacramental grace to resist them in the future. But if you forget them, they are forgiven in a humble confession, even if you have not specifically named all of them. I like to include at the end of my confession, “And I ask forgiveness for THESE and ALL the sins of my past life, for which I am truly sorry.” Who can remember all the failings we commmit daily due to our concupiscence? “The just man falls seven times a day.”

As we grow in grace, our sensitivity to the purity of intention in our acts will increase. We will become aware that what we now see as imperfections or sins was hidden from our consciousness in previous times, so we never confessed these. Therefore, the additional phrase I use in confession covers them all!


I kind of do a combination. I always have a few things on my mind. I have a regular litany of some sins :shrug: and a few that I am actively working on that I bring to confession. I read a really good book that recommended that you should choose 3-4 venial sins to confess and not try to name every venial sin and I generally follow that advice. The book was Pardon and Peace, but I can’t remember if it which one it was. There are two excellent books with the same name and I have read them both. I rehearse my confessions in my mind so that I can find a succinct, yet detailed way to confess. If I have something particularly difficult to confess, saying it to myself over and over again can help get it out. Sometimes my confessor asks me, after he has given me advice, “Is there anything else?” and I always worry a bit that he knows something I have forgotten or he’s being prompted by the Holy Spirit to try to encourage me to go deeper. I have forgotten sins before and sometimes remembered them as I’m walking away. I actually did that this morning. I sometimes take “notes” in with me to the confessional, but not usually a list.


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