MERGED: How to confess numerous sins?/real confession


I’m currently in RCIA and I am unsure how to confess many sins. I was going to ask my instructor, but I’m not sure that I would get the correct answer because this is her first year teaching RCIA and she has made some mistakes (nothing too major, I just want to get this right). I have also searched google and this site to answer my question, but most of the “first confession” questions are about when to confess or if the priest will keep quiet.

My concern is how to confess when my sins are so numerous that it would be virtually impossible to remember them all and if I did, I don’t think the priest would have time to take them all.

I know only mortal sins must be confessed, but even at 27 years old the list is rather long.


I have two tips.

First, write it down. When you have such a long list, as you say, there is no use trying to force yourself to remember them all. Write them out in a notebook, and keep it carefully stored away until it is time to confess it. Then, shred the pages you used.

Second, when you enter confession for the first time, tell the priest that this is your first confession in 27 years, and thus you are going to make a general confession. (“general confession” means a confession of all the sins of your lifetime that you can remember, and since you have presumably never been to confession, that means all the sins you can remember committing, ever.

The priest will not likely try to cut you off, unless he is scheduled to do a mass or to some meeting at a particular time. Try to go to confession at a time he will likely have time to hear you out.


Write down your mortal sins. When you go into the Confessional, tell Father you have many sins to confess and that you have written down your mortal sins and is it ok to read them to him. Then let Father guide you.
Don’t forget to destroy your written list after Confession/


If you are a catechumen preparing for baptism, you don’t need to confess before baptism. If you are preparing for confirmation, you will need to make a general confession of your sins since baptism.

Search “general confession” and “examination of conscience.” Make an examination of conscience based on the Ten Commandments and a list of your possible mortal sins. Don’t go into unnecessary detail unless your confessor asks and don’t worry about any forgotten sins.


First, get there as early as possible.
Just write down a list on a slip of paper sins and read it to the priest.

Having a weak memory, I try my best to write my sins down.

You also don’t have to be SO specific and detailed, priests
aren’t interested in the details, but if they are, they’ll ask.

If you can’t remember ALL, try what I do at the end of my confessions.
Say something to the effect of “And for any sins that I’ve fail to recall, I
am heartily sorry for them as well.”

[size=6]AL**[size=6]SO**[/size]:[/size] Helpful and Easy **Prayer Before Confession: **
O Lord, grant me light to see myself as Thou dost see me, and the
grace to be truly and effectively sorry for my sins. O Mary, help me
to make a good confession.


First of all, I’d like to commend you for wanting to go to confession despite the difficulty! It takes a lot of courage! :):thumbsup::yup::bounce::clapping:

Well, you go down like this…1st commandment…10 times, 20 times…100 times, 1000 times, a dozen times, dozens of times.

2nd commandment…

3rd commandment…

4th commandment…

and I generally just add a little information if it makes a sin serious or less serious

Then, I go through…say, the vices…lust, gluttony, sloth…number of times…you probably won’t know…try your best to estimate…100s thousands…dozens…?

Impure thoughts…10 times, 20 times…100 times…or thousands of times.
Impure desires…number of times.

Further, I used to do long confessions, but now, I don’t think that’s even necessary to go putting a lot of detail. If a priest wants more detail, he’ll ask.

I normally do my “review of conscience” either at home or when I am unrushed, preferably. I write it all down and afterwards destroy the list. Some now do it…on their cell phones and then delete!

If you try to at least start that way, it also shouldn’t take as long as other ways.

I’ll put each sin…number of times, and it moves along really well like that.

Keep in mind that some priests actually look forward to those kinds of confessions by those who are so truly in need.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that hearing nun’s confessions was like being stoned to death with popcorn! :wink:

One priest on Catholic Radio said he LOVED to be the confessor of someone who hadn’t confessed in, say, 30 years. He referred to those as the “big fish”! :slight_smile:

So, you’re not the first one with this situation and certainly won’t be the last.

Anyway, good luck and God bless! :thumbsup:


This is an interesting thread to me as I myself am also in RCIA and anticipating - dreading - my first confession. Being 42, and also being a person with attachment to sin, I am not looking forward to this, as I literally have more sins than I could possible recount if going by Catholic doctrine.

Having been raised Lutheran, we never had individual confession, and I am struggling with the reason a priest needs to individually “hear” the sins enumerated, rather than confession in Mass being enough. I see no reason a Priest cannot bind or loose sins in general (and normally I would think “loose” them) in the Mass by saying something akin to “if you are truly repentant in your Heart for the sins you have committed then I absolve you of your sins”, therefore opening the way for Eucharist.


I was a born and brought up Methodist. I was 44 when I converted. I made no list. I thought long on what sins I had committed during my life in the days leading up to my first Confession and simply tried to remember as best I could. If you are honest and sincere any sins you forget are also forgiven. The priest will help you through it.


Here’s what I would do:

Confess sins you think are mortal in kind and number. If you can’t remember exactly how many times, just say “several throughout my life”.

Ultimately, this is a question for a priest or spiritual director, not for a religious teacher.


I was so scared at my first confession about your age that my knees were knocking and I cried like a little baby in the confessional. Like a baby! An ugly cry.

I know it is hard to understand the why and our minds look for ways to get around it but just like another poster said go down each commandment and examine yourself and then DO IT!

You will not be sorry, I promise you that.


Confess them as you remember them or have written them down. If you forget one go the next time and get rid of it.

When I had me first confessions I was surprised by how easily it flowed out and there have been horrible things I have confessed that I thought I would never tell another living soul.

It is so powerfully uplifting I have had a grin from ear to ear after some confessions.

And if anyone that is new is wondering , a Priest would risk excommunication if you’re confession was leaked to any person.


A tip for a 27 year old: write the notes in your iphone (or similar) which is backlit in case the confessional is dark (many are). Then when you are done, just press delete.

I’m 55 and can’t see in the dark. Sometimes I forgot what I wanted to say to the priest. This has helped me.


Inspite of what was advised above, it is not a good idea to write them down. What if you died and someone found your " list? "

God does not intend for confession to be torture. Of course you can’t remember. Just say, " X " about so many times a month, " Y " about so many times a month, etc. and any circumatance that might make them more serious, i.e. it is more serious to steal from a poor man than from a rich man. The Catechism has a good section on sin and the commandments, just go with that, all God wants is honesty. And if you forget something, just confess it next time. The main thing is true sorrow for all the mortal sins and a firm purpose of amendment. A wise priest once said, an examination of conscience shouldn’t be more than thirty minutes. A good book that is a kind of classic is Pardon and Peace by Father Alfred Wilson and published during WW2, you can get it at Amazon. Go by that, we will pray for you, and we hope you will do the same for us.



As I tell my 8th grade Confirmation students, confession should be (somewhat) hard, especially if you give serious consideration to your actions and how you have chosen to separate yourself from God. Along with many, I find that the one-to-one contact with the priest is essential in the healing process. He may also offer you guidance, strength, hope, suggestion, and more.


Try this. Get yourself a good general list of sins or download an examination of conscience from the internet.Think about your sins. You probably have way too many to remember them all, but they fall into general categories. For instance, start with your favorite sins. You know what they are. Write them down. Not the frequency and not the total numbers. You probably wouldn’t remember anyway:) But just that you have done them a lot

Now do the same thing with all your other sins, going from favorite to least favorite.

You will now have a list that is fairly accurate in types and relative frequency of your sins, if you have been honest with yourself. That is very important.

When confession time arrives, don’t be scared just confess. You won’t get locked up or punished or beaten or anything like that…

If you have committed a certain sin a lot, just say so. Father, I committed the sin of so and so literally hundreds of times of the years. And so on down the list until you get to the ones you may have only committed once or twice. And if later, you remember some more, don’t worry:thumbsup:. As long as you had the intention to do a good thorough confession and are truly contritre for committing them and in asking for forgiveness you are OK.:slight_smile:
Just go back the next week and confess them. Really simple.


Acts 19:18…Penitents confess their sins and divulge their sins.

John 20:21-23…Jesus gives the apostles the power to forgive sin, not to read minds. How would the priest know which sins to forgive?

Further, in confession, I find it helpful to actually do an examination of conscience, individually, every month or more often, if I can, instead of saying, “I’m sorry for all my sins”.

One last thing, when we actually say the words, of each sin, number of times, specifically, outloud to another person, it’s different.

It’s like in Alcoholics Anonymous where we are to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to someone else. When we do this, it FORCES us out of our denial.

Also, I think the Catholic view of confession promotes discipline. We KNOW how long it’s been since we’ve confessed, whereas others may forget, forget.

James 5:16 James says to confess your sins to one another.

In the Old Testament, it was acceptable to confess our sins to God. However, in the New Testament, Jesus set up his Church for that. That’s why he gave the apostles the power to forgive sin. The early Christians did just that.

We don’t need to bypass the Church.

I find it helpful to speak to a priest for the sacrament of reconciliation, because sometimes in sin, we have the opportunity to receive guidance. There are people there with mental health issues…and a priest can encourage them to get counseling. There are people in abusive relationships, and the priests also act as counselors!

Lastly, one should be given the opportunity to confess, anonymously. This can be a wonderful blessing for someone who has committed a terrible crime, to have a chance to be able to talk this out with someone who won’t judge and will help counsel the person with a perspective of faith, and morality.

Even some non-Catholics have used confession to complete their 12-step programs, anonymously!


Basically, get a good confession guide, and just state how many times you did that sin. If rather frequently, say, “more times than I can remember” or “hundreds/thousands of times”. If Father asks for details, answer to the best of your ability. Usually it may be because he wants to know if the conditions of mortal sin were met, or if the conditions for excommunication were met (e.g. sins relating to abortion). That way he has a good picture of what sins need absolving, or excommunications need lifting.


The Laudate app for Android and iPhone are very helpful; I think that there are other apps as well. It includes a prayer for a thorough examination of conscience, and a check list of sorts, where you can check those off, and the next screen gives you instruction for the confession, including various acts of contrition.

God bless you on your journey, and welcome!


Thank you everyone that has posted. This has been helpful. :slight_smile:


When I was in RCIA they scheduled times for us to have our first confession. I don’t know if every parish does it like that, but usually first confession for an adult will take sometime. Also, if the confession time is scheduled, the priest would probably have more time to help you through it.

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