Convincing Catholic family member to confess


I worry a lot about my mom, who is a practicing Catholic but for some reason, keeps recieving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. She often says that she “doesn’t need to confess her sins to a priest, only to God.” I try to explain the doctrine to her, but I think deep down she is simply afraid (having never been to Confession before)…

My question is, how can I convince my mom to go to Confession without seeming “judgmental” or accusatory? I try my hardest to approach the topic delicately, and with an attidute of informativeness and never insistance, but she always gets her feelings hurt. She sees it as me accusing her of being “sinful” or “unworthy”, but doesn’t realize that every human is a sinner and that Confession is something everyone must do, and that I’m only trying to help because I love her… I’m worried.:frowning:


Why would you think your mom is in a state of mortal sin? Do you know this for sure?

I can relay a personal story. I had a friend a few years back who was a fallen away Catholic. He was a practicing homosexual, an outspoken supporter or gay marriage and abortion. He wanted to “try” attending Mass with me after being away from the Church for almost ten years. We went together for five weeks during which time he did not go up to receive the Eucharist. One Sunday, as I rose to approach the altar, he whispered into my ear that he too was going to Communion. After Mass, he told me that he “believed” that God had forgiven him for any sins he may have committed (not sure which sins he was referring to!) and that he didn’t “believe” he needed to go to Confession. I told him the Church’s teaching on sin and repentence and the need for Reconciliation. I invited him to go with me to Confession on the following Saturday. During Lent, I invited him to attend the Penance Service with me. He declined all my invitations and continued to present himself each Sunday for Communion.

I spoke to a priest about my obligation and was told that I had done everything God would expect from me. The best I could do beyond that was pray, which I have continued to do.

If your mom is truly in a state of mortal sin and refuses to go to Confession, the best thing you can do is pray that God will move her heart. Perhaps you could leave some pamphlets in the house as well about the importance of the Sacraments and our obligation as Catholics.


When you figure out the answer PM me I’m still trying to convince my family to go.:shrug:


My mother, who is 86, stopped going up for communion when she found out from me (her big=mouthed revert of a daughter) that Catholics are obligated to receive the Sacrament of Penance once a year. I made the mistake of pushing her on going to confession and she became (rightly) angry at me. I let it drop. She would come to Mass with me every Sunday and then just not go up for communion.

This past week, before our Advent Mission began, I said very casually that I would sure like it if she would come with me to confession because it would be wonderful to be able to receive the Eucharist together at Christmas time…and she came…and she went to one of our wonderful parish priests…and told me later what he had said (in a general way) - “Well, Little Missy, he suggested I try to go at least three times a year…not once so there” and we just started laughing (I knew she was teasing).

Pray pray pray…and remember, God does know what is in her heart…and if it is fear, He understands…be a good example for her and talk openly about how wonderful it is to be a regular recipient of the Sanctifying Grace only a Sacrament can bestow…and how it keeps you sane in an insane world…you are both in my prayers.


It seems as if you are looking for “magic words” to say to your mother to get her to change her ways and suddenly see the light. I am sorry but there are none. This is obviously causing you much pain and I am so sorry. You have already talked to her about this. What more do you think you can say? She probably does not like discussing this with you because you mentioned she thinks you are judging her and she gets her feelings hurt.

This will be very difficult for you but (I beleive) you need to let this go for now.

I can see you are in much pain seeing your mom this way. Pray for her. Please know that you cannot change her but Christ can. Ask for his help. It is so hard when we see people we love going down the wrong path. We want to change them. We hope that if we can just say the right thing or have a really good talk with them that we can change them. I beleive your next step is to say nothing for a long time. I will pray for her, hope this helps.


Your mom has never been to confession–ever? I remember my kids going through first holy communion, and that was when they had their first confession…hmm. Interesting.

I am sorry for your struggle here. My husband is the same way…he had been to confession many times, but not recently–to the best of my knowledge. I used to ask him to join the kids and me, but he said the same thing–I only need to confess to God directly. I have tried explaining, that Jesus gave the Apostles this authority…not for people to look at it optionally. But, in Christ’s absence, He wanted His followers to serve as vehicles that He intended on working through to forgive sin. I would just plant seeds. Let God grow those seeds…your mom knows how your feel, you cannot force an adult to go to Confession. So, keep praying, and planting those seeds. She may just come around!


Short anwser: You can’t.

All you can do is share, at appropriate times, what the sacrement means to you. Beyond that, it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to convince her. —KCT


I would focus on the LOVE of the sacrament rather than the “requirements” and “obligation”…
Using the right words is very important… it’s very easy to sound judgmental and to close all doors…

Here’s a quote from the catechism on the sacrament of reconciliation…

The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father:37 the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy—all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life—pure, worthy, and joyful—of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

I think if the motivation is LOVE… like the love of the father of the prodigal son… conversion is peaceful.

Focus on sympathy and love… the message will be sent much easier…


Great advice!


What a great way of putting it, WG.


How can she be a practicing Catholic without having ever been to confession before?? If she was raised Catholic than opresumable she went sometime as a little girl. If she converted from another Christian faith, than confession would have been part of her RCIA process. Only if she was never baptized as a child and converted later would she not have had to go to confession --since baptism washes away all sin up to that point.

You cannot MAKE her go. You can encourage her, you can talk about how much better you feel after you go, you can make sure she knows about opportunities to go and offer to drive her if that is an issue. You can bring it to your priest as a concern you have, but you cannot make her go and you should not bodily stop her from going up to communion.

You should though pray and pray!! I am facing a similar situation with my mother who hasn’t been in many many years as far as I know. She doesn’t live with me though, so I have no idea for sure exactly what steps she may have taken.


Does anyone know of a website that explains, in layman’s terms, the meaning of reconciliation and its importance? It would be nice to be able to send that to people, so that can have an impartial explanation for why we want them to go. :shrug:


The catechism has a great section on Confession…

And Catholic Answers has a few good pages…

I’m sure there are more good ones out there, but those are the first that come to mind.


A coerced confession is invalid. If you nag and argue and put pressure, then even if that person goes to confession, if they only did it to shut you up and not cuz they are really sorry, you just did them exactly no good.

If she was raised Catholic, she knows the rules. She knows how it works. It’s between her and God. :shrug:


Read this! It will scare you into the confessional.


LOL, yes that would - but only if you understand the connection between the confessional and that penalty of hell. Many people, many Catholics even, do not. Hence the problem of explaining that connection and reconciliation’s importance.


The way I got my mom to agree to go to Confession came from my excitement to go. We never talked about her going ever, but about how excited I was to go and how much better I felt after going. Then I was horribly ill for about 6 months and when I was finally able to get out of the house with someone else driving the first thing I asked to do was go to Confession, so my mom drove me to the church and then decided “Well, he’s that excited, maybe I’ll check it out.” Now every once in a while I’ll casually say that I’m going and ask if she wants to go too. She normally says no, but she sometimes says yes, and I’ve never had to tell her that I think she should go.

Also remember that you are incapable of knowing that your mother is in mortal sin. You may know completely that she has been involved in grave matter but only God knows the entirety of her to know if she has truly chosen hell at this point.


We are having Advent penance services this time of year, and Lent isn’t that far off. Invite her to go with you to a penance service. Sometimes that isn’t as scary for people as a one-on-one ‘in the box’ with a priest. She’ll see that everyone else is going too that way.

When I think my son needs to go (not quite the same situation, I know) I just say that I am going, and ask him to come with me. He always does.


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