First Confession?


#1

I'm currently converting to Catholicism from being Protestant and I have a few questions that I haven't been able to get answered, so I was hoping you guys could help me out. I haven't started RCIA classes yet, but I plan on doing that soon.

About first confession, what do I do if I sincerely don't know how many times I've committed a sin? Do I guess or can I just say that I don't know how many times?

And when do I go to first confession? Do I have to wait to do it or can I go whenever I'm ready? I some things that I've done are weighing heavily on me right now, and I think I would feel better if I just got them off my chest, but I don't know if I'm allowed to do that yet.

Can you guys help me out?
Thank you.


#2

Welcome Home! If you can't recall the exact number of times you have commited the sin, then it is ok to estimate to best of your knowelge, about 18 times, approximately every week for the last few years and if you really don't know, you can say that too. If the priest needs more information, he will ask you. Usually, one makes their first confession just prior to making their First Communion. The RCIA program will prepare you well and answer all of your questions and concerns beforehand. You can always make an appointment and speak to a priest anytime; he can give you encouragement and advice. I hope you can begin RCIA soon!


#3

I welcome you as well!

For the first confession, you probably don't need to be too specific about how many times you have committed a habitual sin (unless there clearly is a pattern to your sin). If you confess often enough, it will be easier to be specific (remember: not everyone goes to confession regularly, and you don't have to either. You have to use your moral consciousness to determine when you need to go to confession). Basically, you are supposed to confess the most severe of your sins (anything that might be considered a mortal sin, and then venial sins). There is no need to keep the priest in the confessional for an extended amount of time, unless you really are in a state of sin that should be addressed with with care. I have been in the confessional for as short of a time as 2 minutes, and for as long of a time as one hour (but that was mainly because I was in the middle of a spiritual crisis and needed to talk about the issue in detail so I could forgive myself). Note: if you ever do have a spiritual crisis, it would be more charitable to make an appointment with a priest than to make the person behind you in line wait for an hour.
I think part of RCIA includes holding your hand through the first confession (at least that was the case when I was being confirmed as a child). If so, they will be able to set up a time for the priest to hear the confessions of first-timers, which means that you can use the experience to understand the process- so don't worry about making a mistake. My first confession was rather pathetic, and I did not even say the right prayers afterward. Confession is a great practice to help us get closer to our Lord, but it is also an act that requires a lot of courage and humility. It will never be easy, but it is definitely worth it!


#4

That’s really helpful. Thank you. But what do you mean by “a pattern” to my sins?


#5

What you are experiencing, that is, the weigh of the past sins, is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit: without grace, it would be impossible for us to experience repentance and to seek reconciliation with God. Thus indeed you are blessed. Allow me to quote the Catechism:

1451 Among the penitent's acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is "sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again."

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

Regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation, remember that it should not be seen as an encounter between a guilty servant and an angry master, but as a moment when heaven and earth are united and Christ Himself is present in His minister, who is said to operate in persona Christi.

To Christ you confess because you long to be reconciled with Him, that is, you want to be His friend, just like the good Peter jumped from the boat and crying told the Lord: "good Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you!". And it is a fact that between two people, the one who loves the most rejoices the most at reconciliation...and Christ loves you of an eternal and infinite love...thus when you confess, no matter how sorrowful you feel, no matter what sins you confess, remember that Christ rejoices at your presence and at your repentance.

Talk to Him with an open heart, naturally, without fear or constraints. Try to mention numbers, if you remember, but this may be hard sometimes, and thus you simply say it, most naturally. Mention kind, that is, be specific, have no shame, for God sees in the secret, and would be displeased that you refrain from confessing what he already knows and longs to forgive as long as you ask for its forgiveness.

And in the end, you may add that you seek forgiveness for these and for all sins which you may have forgotten, thus acknowledging humbly your own limitation in doing a good examination of conscience.

Of course, you will learn more in RCIA, but this is what I wanted to share with you.

At the beginning of the Church, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was much more strict. Sinners often had to enter an order of penitents and live entire years in penance and mortification, and often they were allowed to confess only once in a lifetime, which often occurred on deathbed. Throughout the centuries, not just confession, but even spiritual direction has become much more open and available, and this is the sign of God's ineffable mercy. So rejoice in a blessing that many in the past longed to have with their whole heart, and make use of it frequently, every 15 days or every month, even if you are only conscious of venial sins, for God wants to do something great with you: it is His will that, by persevering, you shall be made perfect in the fullness of time.

I recommend the reading of Story of a Soul, by the young Doctor of the Church Therese of Lisieux, as well as the Introduction to the devout life of St. Francis of Sales.


#6

Well, some people commit sins habitually. For example, I have fallen into a pattern of wishing harm on someone who has hurt me whenever I feel lonely. There is a clear pattern because I am always in a certain mood when my thoughts reach that dark place, and I know how to avoid falling into that pattern, but I nurse the hurt as a way to assert my sense of pride.
There are plenty of ways to fall into patterns of sin... these of things that come up habitually and cause us to deliberately deny our Christian values out of a sick sense of "justice" or "self-justification". Loving God is about sacrifice, not our skewed ideas of "justice".

Does this help explain what I meant?


#7

@ Margarete Faust: Yes. That helps thank you ^-^

@R_C Thank you, for giving me such a wonderful answer!

All of you have been very helpful, thanks. :smiley:


#8

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