I have made a list of sins, so I don’t forget them, but I have a hard time rememberng how many times I’ve committed them. The Lord, in His Mercy, has told me I have committed certain sins at least three times. Now, what I want to know is, should I go to Confession and confess to Jesus that I have committed all my sins at least three times? Or should I tell Him that I don’t know the exact number? Or should I tell Him I’ve commited my sins at least three times, but am unsure of the exact number of times that I’ve committed them?
Just be straightforwards and honest about how much you know or don’t know.
‘I committed the sin x, I guess about y times I really don’t remember.’
Or words to that effect, giving an idea of your state of memory. In other words confess the sin along with the state of your memory of it.
When you have a regular confessor especially you can get a working relationship where he understands you’ll get into a set routine where you know he understands what you generally mean by the way you say things.
What matters is honesty – you are precise when you know, when you don’t know you give your best idea and use words that make it understood it’s that.
Confession is unburdening honestly the state of your soul in regards to sins to be free of them, and to give you the grace towards your lasting repentance.
To clarify on my above post, when I said I have a hard time remembering the number of my sins, I meant, when I go to Confession, I usually don’t tell the priest how many times I’ve committed my sins, because I really don’t know. However, I think I should have told the priests that. May God forgive me for my sin!
It’s not a sin not to enumerate your sins. Especially not if you genuinely can’t remember.
Just make a rough estimate. How many times a day/week/month did you typically commit a particular sin? How long between the first occasion that you can recall and the last?
I think whats most important is the fact that you are truly sorry for committing the sins and are not trying to hide any. If you make an honest guess at the number of times you have sinned certain sins than God will forgive them all
Let me quote:
‘The declaration of the number of sins is another feature completing the Sacrament. The penitent must give the number of sins as far as he can; if he knows exactly how often he has fallen into a mortal sin, he must state that number of times, neither increasing nor diminishing; if, despite careful examination and reflection he cannot arrive at the real number, he must give it as near as possible, adding the words “about” or “at least”; in doing so he fulfills his obligation, for he has done what he could, which is sufficient to enable a judgement to be be pronounced humano modo. Should the penitent, after having confessed in all good faith, discover later on a more accurate number than that confessed, he is not obliged to make another confession to supply this number; nor should he disquiet himself, for the round numbers given in the first confession included everything; it is only when the newly discovered number is considerably greater than the vague estimate of his first confession that he is obliged to confess again, because the number, and in consequence, the sin, was not perfectly confessed, since a far greater number cannot be considered as included in his former round estimate.’
… ‘Indeed with habitual sinners it suffices to state how long they have indulged the evil habit, and that they have given willful consent more or less daily whenever the occasion offered; that is enough, when the actual number of sins is so doubtful that there wuld always be a grave risk of mistake in trying to determine it. “The confessor, when he knows the period over which the accusation extends, may easily and safely form his opinion in the case of the penitent whose will is habitually inclined to sin, that the penitent has sinned as often as there were necessary interruptions in his sin.”’
… 'Of course many distinguished theologians teach that whoever remembers a grave sin, even though not committed since the last confession but forgotten, must confess that sin and receive absolution before going to communion. The only reason urged is that he is conscious of this sin; and, according to the Council of Trent, no one who is conscious of a grave sin may receive communion before having confessed where there is an opportunity of making the confession.
It is permissible, however, with St. Alphonsus and other theologians (in less number) to follow the other “very probable opinion” which denies the obligation of confessing; for in reality the confession has preceded communion and the penitent has confessed all the sins of which he was conscious, so that neither the Council of Trent nor the divine law seems to demand more; moreover, the forgotten sin has been remitted indirectly, the penitent is in the state of grace, not merely by an act of contrition but in virtue of a valid confession. The practice of the faithful which is appealed to for the opposite side is not to be regarded as of binding force, but rather a pious and praiseworthy custom.’
- Theory and Practice of the Confessional, Prof. Caspar E. Schieler, D.D., Benziger Brothers, Imprimatur, Nihil Obstat [this is an instruction manual for priests]
In other words, the most important part of the Sacrament of Confession is the simple openness and honesty about the nature and number of your serious sins and the nature of your recollection of them.
I should also mention before Confession, but immediately after any sin, one should make an act of perfect contrition.
It is not hard for someone who tries to invalidate a Confession – one merely has to have a gravely sinful defect in one’s examination of conscience, deliberately conceal a grave sin, have no contrition and purpose of amendment, and there is more.
This is why people who approach Confession the wrong way with poor catechesis do not benefit.
And why Catholic knowledge and study is so important!
[edit – added a paragraph to the quote]
Thank you everyone
Welcome and Deo Gratias.
These are wonderful forums.
How specific must one be when confessing mortal sins?
is “I did X, X times a month for a number of years” acceptable?
See the responses here:
That is about right… you must be straightforwards as to how correct you think your statement is too if you have any doubts.
I.E. i did it about this many times, if one is uncertain as to the exact amount, or whenever there was this occasion which was nearly every day, one is exact to the capacity of one’s memory, and specific about the state of one’s memory or recollection.
Honesty and clarity, that is the aim.
What one does not truly confess in some fashion, save in the case of honest forgetfulness, is not forgiven – so one confesses to the extent of one’s knowledge, to give the confessor an accurate idea of the number and weight of what he is forgiving.
First, you tell the priest how long it’s been since your last Confession. That way he’ll know how long you’ve been sinning, so you don’t have to say “a number of years”. Then you tell the priest the sins you’ve committed and how many times. For example, murder - five times a month. It is not necessary to go into details - for example, you chopped the man’s head off. The same goes for sins of the flesh: just say you committed adultery, but don’t say what exactly you did in the bedroom. If the sins are frequent, so that you can’t say how many times a day, week, or month you’ve committed them, it is only necessary to say how many times committed (murder, five times; adultery, six times). God will excuse your ignorance and accept your confession. Honesty and humility are necessary.
it was a general Confession, so it was covering a long time.