What to confess?


I was initiated into the Church at Easter, and have gone to Confession twice. I did not get very good training about what and how often to confess…I was told to think about the one or two things that were most a problem for me at the moment and confess those. It was emphasized that I should NOT have too long a list and discuss too many things.
My questions are:
Where can I find a good list of things which need to be confessed, or questions to ask myself? I know to use the Ten Commandments as a guide, but I find that too broad.
Also, I never did a “general confession” when I joined the Church. Do I need to do this, or should I simply move forward and confess all sins from now on? How far back to do I need to go?
Finally, our priests don’t seem to care if we follow traditional prayers when confessing. It’s more like a conversation. Is this how it is for everyone else? i thought there were things I should say and ways they should be said. It seems very rule-less.

I’m feeling full of anxiety about this because I don’t want to be weird and enter the confessional with 27 things to confess, but I don’t want to NOT confess something and partake in the Eucharist unworthily.

Thanks for guidance!

Hi Angela,

I’d like to recommend the following website.

A Guide for Confession: catholic.org/prayers/confession.php

Your sister in Christ,

Hi, newangela, and welcome!

If you were baptized when you entered the Church, all your sins, including Original Sin and all your personal sins were washed away, and you are starting fresh from that day. No general confession is needed.

If you had been baptized before and you were confirmed and received your first Communion without Baptism (which can only be received once in your life), you do need to make a general confession that goes back over your entire life.

The website in the first reply is very good. If you want an examination of conscience with more detailed questions, either let us know and we’ll get one for you, or Google “examination of conscience,” and you’ll find all kinds of good ones.

The informal nature of the sacrament is meant to make things easier for you, not to stress you out. A lot of new Catholics think there’s some kind of formula you must use in order for confession to “work.” In truth, although there’s a standard outline that we follow, the only thing that absolutely must be said correctly is the absolution, given by the priest.

The thing you must keep in mind is to confess all of your mortal sins (once you figure out what they are! :)). Leaving any of them out on purpose because of shame or whatever reason will invalidate your entire confession. Be assured that the priest will not think any less of you because of what you confess, no matter what it is. The bigger the sin, the more he will admire your courage, and the happier he will be to relieve you of the burden. Also, the priest is strictly forbidden, under penalty of excommunication, to ever disclose your sins to anyone, so whatever you say is perfectly safe.

After mortal sins, choose a couple of venial sins that give you particular trouble and which you are very motivated to get rid of. Some people confess every venial sin they can think of week after week, without any real effort to stop committing them. That’s a waste of time. Pick them off a couple at a time when you are truly sorry for them. That’s the way to make good progress.

Although the rule is that one must confess once a year, it is much better for your soul to go more often than that. If you’ve gone twice since Easter, you’re on a good path. For myself, I find every week to be a little too soon, and every month a little long. Two to three weeks is a good interval for me. Find out what works for you. If you struggle with a habitual mortal sin, it’s good to go often to help you overcome it and to be in a state of grace so you can receive Holy Communion at Mass. If not, you can be more flexible.

Hope this helps. Always ask questions, either from us or from your priest. This is the sacrament of peace.


This is my experience: I ask the Holy Spirit to help me see the things that need changing in my life, and I bring those things to confession. Sometimes it is only 2 or 3 things. Sometimes it is a list of 6 or 7. If I have a “long” list, I find that most of those things don’t really need any discussion. They are done and there’s not a whole lot to say about them. I don’t have questions, and Father doesn’t have advice. I find that when my list is shorter is when I sometimes have something that I want a little feedback on, and my priest doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.

There is a basic outline that you follow for confession (bless me father…, it’s been however long… these are my sins…penance, act of contrition, absolution), but within that outline there is the flexibility to converse, to ask questions, to receive advice. I find about once a month works for me.

Only mortal sins MUST be confessed, and it is unlikely that you’ll have 27 of those in one sitting. I hope. Do not be anxious. This sacrament is wonderful - so much more about healing and restoration than crime and punishment.

Welcome home, Angela!

What you’re looking for is an Examination of Conscience. Here’s a good one.

My first confession took 45 minutes. Father set up a special time for us catechumens & confirmandi, so there would be plenty of time.

Some people are scrupulous: that’s a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are deeply worried, and torture themselves by spending hours trying to figure out what is and is not sin, and whether or not a sin is venial or mortal. This is a heavy cross to bear. Unless such a soul gets good spiritual guidance, their confessions will be long and detailed - like 2 hours.

At the same time, we only have to confess grave sin, because venial sin is wiped out when we receive the Eucharist. (I like to confess mine, because they are habitual, and the sacrament will give me graces to fight them.) And you don’t have to go into great detail; a blow-by-blow description is not necessary. “I was rude to my father about 15 times last month” is all you need to say.

One thing - the least important thing, really - to consider is how many people are behind you in line. If Mass is approaching rapidly, and there are folks behind me, I try to just list 'em instead of being more conversational.

For info about mortal vs. venial, the Catechism starting at # 1854. There is a searchable Catechism here. It’s great; you can search by keyword, or just plug in the paragraph number.

God bless you, and here’s a towel. (You just swam the Tiber!)

Tiber Swim Team '06

You must confess all mortal sins committed since your last confession by kind and number. You may also confess any venial sins. I am more comfortable with the formula. Bless me Father for I have sinned etc etc. I listen for my penance say my Act of Contrition and listen for the absolution. I suppose without the formula it would be OK as in a more casual conversational way; …as long as the mortal sins are confessed and there is penance/Act of Contrition and the absolution; I guess it doesn’t matter.

If you google examination of conscience you’ll get all sorts of them. Here’s one


I’d like to suggest you go to this link.
Its quite good.

Welcome, Angela! Congratulations!

That was a great post, Betsy! I agreed with all of it, although I generally only go once a month (I’d probably be a better person if I went more, though!).

The statement above is entirely correct, but I just want to make sure one thing is clear. Leaving any of your mortal sins out of confession by accident does not invalidate your confession, and you can receive communion after that confession (as I understand it) even if you later remember the forgotten mortal sins. But you should confess them at your next confession after remembering them.

God bless!


Thank you everyone for the responses.
So, since I was not Baptized at Easter, but was baptized earlier in my life, it seems I need to make a general confession? Should I make an appointment with our Priest and tell him I have not done one yet and feel as though I should?
Thanks again,

I personally think making a general confession is a good idea. It can shed light on many things, good or bad. It can also make you feel more comfortable, usually it is in the Priests office, as opposed to the confessional, so it would be a face to face confession.

I have a great CD from Fr Larry Richards called Confession. He talks about how to make a good confession. It is available at lighthousecatholicmedia.com

Yes, that’s exactly what you should do, since a general confession may take a longer time. You’re doing just great as a new Catholic, Angela! :slight_smile:


That would be a good idea. If he says it is not necessary, you can say it would just make you feel better. :slight_smile: Technically speaking, you can just get all of your thoughts together and go to confession at the normal time. But when I came back to the Church I found it easier for that first time to make an appointment.

Also, you can change your profile on CAF to say you you are Catholic now! :extrahappy:


You must confess mortal sins. Give a number/frequency of the particualr sin, if possible.

The Church recommends confession of venial sins, however, it is not required (and people behind you in line may get annoyed!)

If you’d like some more direction, there are several guides on the Internet. google “Catholic Examination of Conscience” for some help. You should also be able to talk to your priest about it as well.

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