First Confession for adult tips and tricks?


I am in RCIA with the intention to convert to Catholicism. Before I can receive the Sacraments I have to wait on a Decree of Nullity. I am looking at about a year. Meantime, I am trying to prepare as best as I can.

I was baptized as an infant and am 38 years old. I was a bit wild in my teens and 20’s. I have more sins to confess than I could ever possibly remember. Looking at the Commandments I know I have broken all but Thou Shalt Not Kill. A few Commandments I have broken many times with full knowledge that I was doing a serious wrong.

As I move forward and prepare to confess how do I handle a lifetime of sins? Especially since I have the memory of a gnat with a short attention span.

I have read a few things in a forum search about being general. As in “I have committed X sin many times”. The problem is that there is a laundry list of X sins.

Once I have made it through my first time I plan on confessing my sins fairly regularly. I have read that some people have a piece of paper or a notepad they write key words or phrases in to aid their memory. I plan on doing just that as I really am terrible at recall. So, how do I know daily and weekly what is really a sin and needs to be recalled for confessing?

I am coming from a Protestant and then Pagan and then an Atheist point of view, so I am working on recognizing thoughts and words and deeds that are small and seemingly ok, but that in reality aren’t ok at all. An easy example is taking the Lords name in vain, impure thoughts, being angry and snarky. These things aren’t nice, but they aren’t generally seen as sin by non-Catholics. Especially if they remain just thoughts. Now that I know they are sinful I could use any advice to help me recognize them for what they are, to break the habit, and to remember them for Confession.


The first trick is a good examination of conscience. I like this guide:

Be honest and do the best you can to remember everything. You may very well forget something. That’s ok as long as you’re not leaving out something on purpose. If you remember something later on, confess it the next time.

I went through RCIA and experienced my first confession as an adult as well. I was very nervous going in, but was so amazed at the peace I felt. Like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. What a great feeling.


Apparently, I have broken all of the Commandments. Under Thou Shall Not Kill sterilization and abortion or assisting with those things is listed.

I did assist a woman with transportation to an abortion. And I have been sterilized. Until reading your link I did not think of the assistance as sin because I was not the one having an abortion and I did not think of my sterilization as killing. Thank you for the link. Without it I would not have known to confess those things.

Also, I did not know what an Act of Contrition was. Now I do! And I think I will write down the proper procedure as I don’t know the words and responses. A “cheat sheet” for that part will be of great help until I have gone enough to have it memorized.

Any other advice from people would be very appreciated.


I went through RCIA this past year and one of the priests set up appointments with us. He knew that we would need help our first confession. One of our RCIA meetings was just about confession. Father was wonderful. I had my examination of conscience and he went down the Commandments. It took much longer than a normal confession, but he helped me out A LOT.

I husband was confirmed early and when he went to his first confession I was worried that I was going to go to hell because I hadn’t confessed my sins. I was assured by Father that God knows that I want to go to confession and that I was fine. Don’t fixate on this. If I worried about confession a year or more before I could have went I would have made myself sick. :slight_smile:


Because I am busy with the house and pets and kids I tend to be a bit scattered. On top of that I have a terrible memory. I like to prepare for important events as early as possible so that I have time to learn what I need to know, maybe do some research because I enjoy learning, and to memorize what needs to be memorized. The last being the primary reason I try to start early.

Our RCIA group is handled by a Sister and 3 others. I am really hoping they will get to the proper ways to do things soon as I feel like a goof. Right now we are at the very basics of Christianity and not into the specifics of Catholicism. I am at Mass every week and still am learning when to make the sign of the cross and what the proper responses are. Also still learning when to sit, kneel, and stand. sigh


Welcome to the Church.

When you make your First Confession you will say “Bless me Father for I have sin, this is my first confession.” You can follow that to explain that you have a faith back ground as Protestant, Pagan, Atheist. It can help him in understanding what you are saying and know that Father can help you during the confession.

You can have a paper with you if it helps you not have to “hold” so many thoughts in your head. You can begin to make your list and add to it throughout the RCIA program if you realize something you did was a sin.

During the confession you will say, “For these sins and all my sins, I ask God to forgive me.” This lets you know, if you forgot something - God still sees you as seeking forgiveness.

You can take the Act of Contrition prayer into confession with you. Sometimes, it is already there in case someone needs to have the words.

(On a side note: For your misguided role in helping a friend with transportation for aborting her child, I want to offer you a way of healing if you ever find yourself hurting for having been part of her abortion of her baby. There are Post Abortion Healing Programs designed to help anyone who assisted with an abortion. Often times, when a person becomes aware of what really happened, it hits them that they too were a part of the loss of the child.

Fathers of aborted children, grandparents, friends - often feel great pain and these Post Abortion Healing Ministries help them on their road to peace. Sometimes siblings of aborted children seek these ministries as their parent’s abortion effects them.

The mothers who abort often suffer from Post Abortion Syndrome. You may want to offer prayers for your friend.)



You can pray the Act of Contrition now if you want. When you are examining your conscience and learning about sin - you can offer that prayer to God.


I’m bracing myself for this also, and I’m handling it by just jotting down everything I’ve done and adding to the list as needed when something comes up in my memory. There’s something I did on a few occasions when I was 16 that I am particularly dreading, as I thought it was something I would absolutely never tell to anybody, ever. I regretted having thought of it.

It’s up to you ofc, but I’ve already decided that when I make my first confession I will be doing it face to face. If I’m going to dump it all out and expose myself, I might as well make it up close and personal. It’s something I’d encourage you to strongly consider also.


I know I have a really terrible memory, so I keep a small journal and write things down. I think this is fine as long as you don’t obsess over it; i know I struggled for a good solid month with scrupulous, obsessive tendencies because I was still learning the difference between mortal and venial sins. I once read somewhere that you should not take too long in examination of conscience each night before bed, and I stand by this. Simply do your best to remember any sin you may have committed. If you need help in Confession, ask Father and he will explain.

Also, do not be afraid of revealing very grievous past sins. Each time you go to Confession, remember that the priest is acting in the person of Christ. It is really Jesus in the confessional with you. Do not be afraid!


You sound very adjusted to preparing for the Sacrament of Confession.

About that sin you did a few times when you were 16, I am very glad that you did think of it.

Not because I am happy you feel that emotion of regret - but because God has helped you bring it to the surface of your thinking mind - not pushed to a place to “try” to forget. By bringing this to mind, you now will be able to confess it.

Here’s the part that makes me happy for you ------ You will confess it in the Sacrament of Confession — The priest will absolve you from this sin ------ You will be forgive AND you will feel forgiven!!!

Know that at this very minute God knows your sorrow for having committed that sin.


When we did RCIA there was a special first confession time. So Father knew we were just from RCIA. We were told to just do our best and not over-worry about forgetting. Confess what came readily enough to mind and trust God to do the rest.


I made my first confession back in March and boy howdy was I ever nervous! I had 52 years worth of sins to confess and couldn’t imagine how I would ever remember them. But the wonderful priest who heard my confession led me through everything, even giving me tissues when I began to sob. Believe me when I say I have become a big fan of confession. There were some truly egregious sins weighing me down and when I started recounting them everything just gushed out. When that garbage starts coming out, you can’t stop it and I thank God for that.

Have no fear, your sins will be forgiven and you will be washed whiter than snow!


Thank you all so very much! I didn’t want to take up a whole page quoting and responding, but rest assured i have read and thought over every word.

Thank you, RoseMary, for the link. The assistance I offered my friend was many years ago and we are both different people now (she has given birth to 4 beautiful daughters since), so I am not hurting over it…yet. As far as I know, she isn’t upset by what she did, either. But I think I may just casually bring it up and offer her info on support groups just in case she ever needs it.

I keep a notebook in my purse for things I especially need to remember. It’s a miniature 5 subject notebook so I will just dedicate a section to sins.

I am planning on doing face to face. Our priest is acting as my Procurator/Advocate for the annulment. The most terrible of my sins were committed during the very dark and hopeless years of my “marriage”. He already knows the worst of it. No reason not to do a face to face Confession now.

I’m not afraid of Confessing and I am very much anticipating absolution and walking out with a lighter heart and soul. While I am waiting to finish RCIA and for the annulment the things I am looking most forward to are First Communion and Confession. After that I am most looking forward to convalidating my marriage.

Again, thank you all so much for your help.


Thank you for letting us share in your joy for your upcoming Sacraments. Congratulations to you and to your husband also.

I’m glad to hear your friend seems to be doing well. Many post abortive women and men push their sorrows and experience from their abortion to the back of their mind. While they appear perfectly fine to everyone, they can actually have pain.

Here are some websites that may help you before you make the generous offer to speak to your friend about any pain she may suffer. Having background on Post Abortion Syndrome can help you before you speak with her or help you with someone God brings into your life who shares their post-abortion sorrow with you.

Project Rachel :Hope after Abortion
Post Abortion Walk
Rachel’s Vineyard
Silent No More
October Baby
Healing - October Baby
Surrendering the Secret
National Helpline for Abortion Recovery
Abby Johnson - Unplanned


If you have memory issues, it’s allowed to Make a list - you can burn it after confession. Or use a tablet computer, and delete it following.

Especially for a first confession.

And using a good written examination, make a copy, just tick off the items, and then tell the priest from the list. After confession, tick off the rest with the same instrument.

We’re all human, we all sin.

closed #16

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