Returning to the Catholic Church


Hello everybody! I hope you’re all having a great day :slight_smile:

My name is Joseph, a 25 year old male. I am someone who never truly practiced the Catholic faith at any point in my life, though I was baptized and received my first communion in the church, and even went to Catholic schools from Pre-K through 12th grade. No one in my family is a practicing Catholic, so I had no family model to live against. I’m trying now for the first time in my life to finally be a devout, practicing Catholic, but I need some help and support and that’s what this post is all about.

Growing up, I don’t believe I ever really accepted the Catholic church or its teachings fully. I didn’t understand where the teachings were coming from because I never read the bible, nor did I understand what was said during mass. I was a daydreamer with a very small attention span as a kid, so I could not get the Word of God into my head through reading or through hearing. I made up my own rules and beliefs, therefore. I feel I’ve completely missed the whole idea of what Catholicism says about Jesus. Up until this month, my whole life I just assumed that everyone went to heaven (maybe not immediately after death, but eventually), and that one should believe in God and live a good life. I believed that as long as you live a good life, and you’ve got more good in you than evil, then you go straight to heaven, and if you have more evil than good, that you go through some sort of process only known to God like purgatory and then went to heaven. I didn’t believe in hell. I believed that this was the whole idea of Jesus dying for our sins-- that he saved all of mankind in doing so. So even though I only learned about these terms this month, you might say I was a “Once Saved Always Saved” and “Universalist” my whole life. I hardly ever went to mass in my life, not even on days of obligation, nor followed the church rules, because I didn’t believe you needed the church to get to heaven.

NOW at the age of 25, like I said, I’m trying to follow the Catholic church and start on a clean slate. I’ve prayed to God every night before bed for the past 12 years or so, and I feel He’s calling me. Without consulting a priest first, I wrote myself a prescription: I’d go to confession, then go to mass for the first time in years, and inquire about RCIA so I could be confirmed. Here’s where my problem is: I spent nearly a whole week trying to think of everything that I possibly could that would be considered a sin that I commited since my last confession (which was nearly 15 years ago) and I typed it all up in a Word document. When I went this past Saturday, the priest only had a total of 1 hour allocated for confession for everyone and he couldn’t stay afterwards because he had to prepare for mass. So I started reading off my list, very sincerely and trying to explain each and every situation, and he indicated that I needed to go faster because other people needed to have time to confess as well. So instantly I started rushing and just started reading off the list without thinking about everything, and I even missed a few things that were on the list accidentally, all because I knew I needed to hurry and let others in. But now I’m wondering if I truly did get that perfectly clean slate I was looking for.

I don’t want to gamble with my soul, so I’m looking for guidance to see what you think I should do. I am awaiting a call back from that priest and may also ask another priest. I want to make sure I’m right with God and can start my life afresh. Please keep me in your prayers, and ask that God may lead me on the path to heaven and that I have sufficient grace to avoid sin.


P.S. - I still haven’t read the bible but I now have one and am firmly resolved to reading it ASAP!


You were validly absolved.

Now, you may want to make an appointment with your pastor for another time, outside regular confession time, to discuss your return to the Church. Since you’ve been away many years, he may have some pastoral guidance for you.

Welcome home!


Talk to Pastor first , avoid confession and all else. Then work together on advised next steps. You may not be eligible for confession and other sacraments at this time, that is why I say see Pastor first.



There are other people in your situation, and some haven’t been to Mass a lot longer than you. But to address your specific question about your list: contact your priest again by phone if you don’t hear from him soon and ask him about it or ask for another priest. If he’s not in, find out when he’s available. Try not to worry too much. It is not uncommon for people who have not gone to Confession for many years to miss or forget things or have the priest tell them to go faster. So, take it a step at a time.

God bless,


Welcome! :wave:

Rickymiller is right that it is a good idea to talk to your pastor, but he is wrong about maybe not being eligible for Confession. All Catholics are eligible for Confession. You went, and it’s all forgiven. :thumbsup: In the future, if you know you have a lot to confess, it is usually a good idea to make an appointment with the priest. That way, nothing gets rushed. But it’s far more important that you went, even if you had to rush through it a bit. You put the thought into it ahead of time and put it all out there as best you could. That’s great.

Don’t be afraid to dive into the Bible. You might want to start with the Gospels. And do talk with your priest. I’m sure he will be glad to talk to you.

And we are always here to help out as we can. :slight_smile:

God bless you on your spiritual journey!


Thank you all for the responses!

Just one final question to confirm that I understand what you’re saying and that we’re on the same page: with respect to those things that I walked into the confessional intending to say, that I had written down, but didn’t say because I was rushing, or for those sins that I intended to describe in more detail, should I take them to be forgiven and completely forget about them or say them in my next confession? So far it seems clear from the responses that it should be the former.

I am awaiting the call back from my priest still, but I nevertheless want as many opinions as possible to be absolutely sure :thumbsup:


Edit: And yes, I’ll be speaking to the pastor too. He’s on vacation now as it turns out haha


Moogey, thank you so much for your post. I have a niece who is also considering coming back home to the faith. I will make sure she sees your post. I think it will help her to know that she is not alone in her journey back.

Thanks again, gook luck and welcome home:thumbsup:


You did the best you can and the fact that you wrote them down to the best of your ability proves your sincerity. If Fr. gave you Absolution, then don’t worry about it, you have been forgiven. You may want to make an appointment with him tho to discuss your concerns and seek his advice so it doesn’t worry you. The RCIA classes will help a lot but your just beginning on a wonderful journey in your faith Don’t rush it and take your time learning. The Sacraments, Confession and Communion, and Confirmation when you make it, will help so much. I will keep you in my Masses and prayers. Please keep us posted on your progress. God Bless, memaw


Welcome home. Speak with your Priest about RCIA. God bless you on your journey home.


You did not deliberately leave out any sins, so your absolution is valid. You may, however, want to confess those sins you missed.

Anyway, when you confess, you only have to confess number and kind. I was a burglar for 3 yeard and stole things about once a week; I told 5 lies; that sort of thing.

The only time you have to add details is if the details make it worse, like the burglar above burglarizing from church, or stealing from the poor. And the details can also be very brief.

What a lot of people do is to say, when they have finished mentioning the sins from their previous Confession, “for these [sins just confessed] and all the sins of my past life, ** I am most heartily sorry.” Some people add “including [times I did ____]” at the astericks. But don’t be terrifically concerned about this.


Actual I am correct and you are wrong , Being in perpetual sin such as marriage not being annulled and many other factor could make one not eligible for confession


Hey everyone, thanks again for your kind responses and prayers! Still waiting to hear back from the priest, but I’m planning on going to confession again before Sunday and will bring up this situation to the priest and then say everything I didn’t get the chance to say if he advises me to do so.

I’m not married/never been married and I don’t have a live-in partner :slight_smile:


That sounds like a good plan. :thumbsup:


Hi all,

So I went to confession again a few days ago at another church, which had more time allocated to confession, and I confessed the sins that I forgot about last time. I hadn’t heard back from the priest I was trying to call who I confessed to the first time, and later found out it was because he was sick.

Ok, I have another question for you all and I feel like I need to post it here so you can see my backstory. I have heard that you must specify the number of times you’ve committed mortal sins in the confessional. In neither of my confessions did I specify the number of times that I committed my sins, because I have done some of them so many times I honestly have not counted. For instance, I confess to you all that I have spent most of my life masturbating, viewing pornography, purposely thinking lustful thoughts, etc. on a regular basis. I have no clue how many times exactly I’ve done this - but it was a lot.

Now, this might be important: I don’t even know for sure if I ever really did commit a mortal sin. As you can see above, as a kid I didn’t pay much attention to the church teachings and when I heard them say that something I was doing was a sin, I just didn’t agree with them. When I found out that masturbation and pornography viewing can be considered a mortal sin earlier this month, I was genuinely surprised. I don’t believe I ever knew this, but it’s possible that I did as a kid and then genuinely forgot. I always knew the church said they were sins, but I didn’t think they were that serious. See my first post about my beliefs.

So anyway, what I’ve really been looking for now after being away from the church for so long (you might argue I was never really with it to begin with) is to hit the “Reset” button and start on a clean slate. But I am often haunted by the fear that I have not exactly achieved that yet. I often wonder if something I did in my past life was a mortal sin. You guys have mentioned that people have come back to the church after much longer than I’ve been away (I’ve heard of 50+ years). So what about those people who have committed grave sins that have no way of possibly numbering their sins? Is there some sort of exception for people like us as long as we make our best effort to confess the sins we remember and start a new life? Some guidance would be much appreciated. Thanks :slight_smile:

Edit: during confession #1, I hadn’t even heard about the fact that you need to number sins. I told the priest I was away from the church for about 15 years and that I masturbated, viewed porn, lusted, etc., without saying how many times. I described the beliefs I had as I did here, but keep in mind that confession was rushed because others had to come in and the priest had to go. I just can’t seem to escape the fear that I haven’t achieved the clean slate I wanted due to the technicalities of the confession process


Confession is a very private and personal matter and shouldn’t be discussed on the forum. It’s between you and God thru the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The priest would die before he would reveal your sins and I think you should respect your privacy as much as he does. Seems to me your going a bit to far with all this. God Bless, Memaw


I agree with you to an extent, and I have a line in my head that delineates what I would keep to myself and what I might post on a public forum. The things I mentioned are very common problems that a lot of people face today, which is why I chose those specifically and why I don’t feel like they are beyond the line. But I said those things for another important reason: because they directly pertain to the question I’m trying to ask, which is about the number of times you’d have to specify something in a confessional, and I wanted a concrete example to go along with it. Unfortunately I do not have direct phone access to any priest or religious guide at this point in time, although I will be asking about it in my parish as soon as I can get a hold of someone, so right now I feel like I’m going through this journey alone (and with you guys here). And even if I did have someone to call, I do like to have as many opinions as possible. Hence the detail of my post. Thanks

Also yes, I do often feel like I may be a little “OCD” about this. Like I said, I don’t yet have a religious mentor. I literally have just been using the internet and just decided to walk into a confessional without seeing a priest beforehand, which I regret. But it’s because I care and I want to make sure I’m right with God!


Sorry, but that is ridiculous.

There is no reason that the poster shouldn’t come here and ask questions. Many people do.

OP, yes, the priest will keep your sins private. But you are welcome to discuss your confession.

As the Holy Father says, the embrace of Christ in confession is the important thing; it's He, not we, who do the cleansing - He only asks a good faith effort to recall the sins, and adding ' and I seek mercy for all sins I may not remember or know' is enough. The Holy Spirit is not there to say 'Sorry - you missed a spot!'  We can't have the spiritual and moral grasp of ourselves that grace will eventually reveal within us - we can't know o u r selves at the start as we will,  by God's grace, at the end. Love and trust and abandonment to God - or as St. Pio recommended 'Pray, hope and don't worry.'


Joseph, it is great that you are seeking God. I want to encourage you in your desire to read your Bible. I would recommend starting with the book of Romans. I’ll be praying for you!



An important thing to keep in mind is that the Church never, ever requires us to do that which is impossible to do. For you to literally count in an exact fashion the number of times you committed a particular sin over the course of 15 years would be impossible.

The reason that Canon Law requires us to articulate mortal sin in number and kind is because it can change things. Saying “I masturbated a couple times over the past 15 years” and “I masturbated a couple times a day over the past 15 years” conveys two very different realities.

But it’s not usually something that we need to be meticulously exact about, especially when it has been so long since your last Confession. It’s not uncommon for new converts/reverts to get a little OCD about these things (I went through something similar). Estimates to the best of your recollection are good enough. You do your best. And priests know when they need to ask for more clarification.

The devil likes to trip us up any way he can. You have come back to the faith. You have gone to Confession. There is so much grace with that. And that makes the devil mighty unhappy. So he tries to minimize the good effects by distracting you with thoughts of “Am I really forgiven?” It’s a smokescreen to keep you down and focused on your sins rather than on the mercy of God.

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