Haven't confessed in years, what would be the best course of action?


Hey guys, this is my first post so I hope I’m not forgetting something or if this is in the right place. I’m in the middle of trying to come back to the Roman Catholic faith after nearly a decade of agnosticism, and I thought that going to confession is obviously a good step in this plan. Although, I haven’t went to confess since I was 7 years old and now I’m in college, (I don’t even think I did it right when I was 7 come to think of it…) so I have no idea what to do when I go there. On top of that, I have much to confess unfortunately, so I’d think I would be a bit self-conscious about holding up a line as I fumble over countless sins atop my inexperience.

One question I have, is I’m wondering if there is any way I can confess unconventionally like for example scheduling a personal meeting with a priest? Has anyone done this and could share their experience or recommendations? Of course, if you have any words to encourage me to go forth with the conventional confession, it would be appreciated just as well. Thank you.


Your question about scheduling a meeting with a priest for confession is a good one. Tell the priest you have been away for years and that is why you would like to do it that way. I’m sure he will be understanding. And it will give him time to make some observations that may be helpful to you in your journey. I’ve done this many times in the past.
And don’t be self conscious. Unless he was ordained a week ago, he had probably heard it all. Especially from young college age men. A suggestion might be to research the proper prayers (act of contrition, etc) that are part of the sacrament. Other than that, examine you conscience fully, bring it all to confession and you will probably be happy when you leave and feel that a terrific burden has been lifted.
Good luck


So by this, would it be best to go to the general confession later today and try my best and ask the priest on the side after I’m done if I can meet with him privately at a later time to discuss my stance in the faith as well as anything else penance-wise? Aside from sin, I don’t really have much knowledge of Scripture or the rest of the religion, so I’d like to kill as many birds with one stone if I can seek pastoral help.


If you are comfortable with this, go today and simply tell the priest what you are telling us. Then, let him guide you. And if you are not satisfied with the response of the particular priest later today, pray on it, and maybe try someone else. But in any case, persevere, the reward of faith is worth it.


Absolutely you can schedule a one-on-one with the priest. He’d probably jump for joy that you’re coming back to the Church. Good on ya!


Welcome @KarmaPolice, (great song, great band)

The grace is palpable and gives me goosebumps every time I hear this.

I think what you’re looking for is a general confession. Yes, call and schedule a personal meeting with a priest. When calling, just explain exactly as you have in your OP.

Yes. Maybe 12 or so years ago, I had a reversion to Catholicism. Called to schedule a general confession, did my best to write everything down and prepare spiritually, learned the basic form (bless me father for I have sinned, it’s been x years…), held my breath and jumped. My confessor was critical (thank God) of one aspect of my confession because I was glib about it, but I was open, so I broke down in tears. I’m almost tearing up a bit right now recalling it. It was a flood of grace. Tough but catharsis. Sincere. That’s all that really matters: that you’re honest/sincere with yourself and your confessor and open to being forgiven. You’re confessing to Jesus through the priest and, let me tell you, He is thirsting to forgive you, reconcile, and commune thenceforth.

CCC 2560 "If you knew the gift of God!"7 The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.


Thank you @Boler for the detailed reply, I have been googling and bookmarking some Catholic websites that have an Examination of Conscience the past few days and I’ve been trying to get down as many of my sins as I can remember. It pains me to admit that I can’t give an estimated number for some of the questions but I hope the priest may help me through with this. I also didn’t realize there was more than one method of confession, I just thought I would prefer a personal scheduled meeting because I thought I would take around half an hour confessing and I wouldn’t want to hold up the already long line. I will certainly consider the idea of a general confession.


I assured a friend of mine that the priest would say, “Welcome Back”.

So my friend came back to me and said, "He said, ‘Welcome Back’ ".


In your situation it would be BEST to schedule an appt. with a priest and be sure and let the person know that you are returning to the Church after a long time. Father will be MORE than happy to help you. And you will know so much peace once you make a good honest confession and come home to the Catholic Church.


be like a nike and JUST DO IT! Don’t let anything hinder you in your faith. I am learning just how much our faith is a precious thing. Call your priest and regardless of whatever doubt and distraction the devil throws in your way, GO! Don’t put it off.


A woman giving witness about her long term absence from the Church and the sinful lifestyle she lived while away included mention of her confession upon returning.
God is “not an accountant.” He is more interested in a repentant heart than a grocery list of all the sins that you have committed.
Scripture tells us there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than all the righteous.
The priest whom you see will be more than happy to guide you in terms of form,etc.
In stead of stating exactly how many times, she had used drugs, engaged in illicit sexual activities, or other activities (too many times too count), what the woman witnessing about her return to the Catholic Church was take the lesson of the Prodigal Son. “I have sinned greatly before God and man.” She didn’t need to go into any specifics. God loves us as we are. Yes, she did tell the priest, as directed, about the lifestyle she had led while away.
Again, let the priest confessor be your guide. Know that your Heavenly father awaits your return with outstretched arms.


When I returned to the Church about 6 years ago, I did a combination of going to confession during the appointed hours and also by appointment. I was away for most of my adult life; it’s not that I concealed thins or didn’t do an examination of conscience prior to, but I’d go to confesssion and then later I would remember something else. It ended up being a process for me ( I was also probably bit scrupulous at first).


I went about 18 years between confessions. Not proud of that, but it is what it is. I had a lot of anxiety about going through confession my whole life and it was not easy to make myself go back. I am not the type to schedule a meeting with the priest and instead just made myself roll out of bed, get in the car and haul myself down to the city cathedral at 6:30 am, their regular confession time, to tell it all to an anonymous priest in 5 minutes. Get it out of the way so early I didn’t have time to sit around having nerves about it.

I was heartened that the priest was encouraging AND that they had the Act of Contrition taped to the kneeler top so you could read it and not have to rely on memory after many years. Strangely, I remembered most of it though I hadn’t thought about it or looked it up in advance. Some dusty brain cell had been storing it for me since 1997.

Nothing wrong with scheduling a meeting if that works better for you, though. Just offering an alternative approach.


Alright everyone, I have made my decision after reading the replies of everyone here. I went ahead and e-mailed the rectory and inquired about scheduling an appointment to see a priest for general confession later next week. I will be waiting with bated breath until then, and probably trying to jot my memory of what I’ve done in the mean time. Thank you everyone for your advice, and if you have anything else to add I’d still appreciate it.


Don’t fret too hard about making up a sin list or saying “how many times”. I pretty much said stuff like “I did (big bad sin X) for a while, I stopped a few years ago and haven’t since”. When it’s stuff you did during a time frame years in the past, you’re not going to remember how many times and the priest doesn’t care all that much as long as you’re not continuing to do the behavior.

Also, if you accidentally forget something big or miss something big in your examination of conscience, don’t worry, just go to confession again in a week or 2 and mention it. I had old sins that i either forgot or hadn’t realized they were serious sins at first, popping back into my mind for several months after the initial return.


When I was a boy, confession was taught to us as a sacrament that would allow us to come back to Jesus and become his friend again. This sounds good, but I think it gave the impression that we were dealing with an angry God. The fact is that God loves you so very much that he is longing for you to come to Him and admit what is wrong in your life. You are not telling Him anything that He does not already know about you. He knows it all. What you are doing is opening the secret vault and bringing to light that which was concealed in darkness. Confession is not like a court session. It is not you against them sort of thing. Rather, it is a son speaking to his daddy and the daddy helping the son over some rough patches. God’s mercy is yours for the taking, He wants you to have it. Do not be afraid of this wonderful sacrament. The more often you go, the more graces you will receive and your behavior will change albeit slowly. Perhaps the sin you commit the most will be able to be resisted for one more minute the next time temptation presents itself. Think of confession as a workout for your soul. Each time you go, you will get stronger.


You can practice at home. A good contrition is a good thing


Don’t read too much into this.

Priests hear long-delayed confessions all the time.

I kidded a priest one day, … a wall mounted key case came down … made a mess. I said you can assign sorting this out as a penance … he said, “No … we let 'em off easy.”

Just show up!


One of the joys of being a priest is their ability to forgive sins.

A priest has the gift of lifting horrible psychological burdens from peoples’ shoulders.


Find a quiet spot for reflection. Take a few days to examine conscience. Start from your earliest days from your age of reason and re-live in your mind your actions and those of others. Note the sins on paper and NTS store it in an absolute safe location. You can use cryptic or codified language if you feel uncomfortable having that around. Do not confess those that you recall confessing.

When complete call a parish and ask for a confession appointment which probably will be face to face. When done, if you have it, it’s a good practice to offer a stipend(most likely it will go in the priest pension fund.). Burn the list. Be prepared to experience a wonderful weight taken off, a gift from the Holy Spirit. This is a one time method, go to confession on a regular bases.

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