May 18, 2021

3 Answers: How Do You Prepare For Confession?

We asked three people to answer the question, “How do you prepare for Confession?” Here is the wisdom they shared:

Fr. Timothy Smith
Parish Pastor for the Diocese of Sioux Falls

I have to give the Holy Spirit all the credit in my preparation for Confession. I did not make my first confession until I was 28 years old! I am a convert to the Catholic faith from mainline Protestantism.   My first confession was a “general confession” that reviewed my moral life from the time of my childhood to the best of my recollection. It was a grace filled experienced that lasted almost an hour. I was assisted with an examination of conscience guide that helped me review all the areas of my life.

I have used several different examinations of conscience since that time, depending on my state in life. When I was in seminary I used an examination that focused on the duties for the life of a seminarian.

Here is my preparation process now as a priest:

  1. Pray and ask the Lord to show me where I need healing and forgiveness
  2. Review my duties and responsibilities in regards to the Four Cardinal Virtues
  3. Review an examination of conscience. There are several to choose from online or in most parish bookstands. I think most of the digital ones are fine.
  4. Sometimes the Sacred Scriptures convict me of my need to ask for God’s forgiveness.  1Corinthians 13 is a great example of a scripture that also works as an examination of conscience.

The examination of conscience I like to use comes from the Fathers of Mercy. On the back page it includes a simple listing of the seven capital sins, the seven capital virtues, the theological virtues, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and fruits of the Holy Spirit. I focus on these attributes of the moral life.  By studying these gifts and virtues, most notably in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or more significantly in the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I have grown in my understanding of Christian Virtue and that helps me grow in the moral life with God’s Grace.

Jon Konz
Catholic Ministry Professional in the Diocese of Sioux Falls

I LOVE Confession. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never comfortable. I don’t enjoy wrestling with the weight of my sin, and it’s one of the few times I’m grateful for masks. Yet, I am a sinner in need of forgiveness, and my life has been transformed by the words, “Your sins are forgiven; go in peace.”

Having been to Confession so many times, it can be easy for me to slip into a transactional preparation for the Sacrament: I did ____ again, better go to Confession. Two things have really helped me enter into the confessional more intentionally.

  1. Prayerfully reviewing an examination of Conscience can really pull me out of a lazy approach to reconciliation. Using the Lord’s name in vain would be a pretty obvious sin for me, but there are a lot of other ways that sin can creep into my life. An examination of conscience shines a light on some of the more subtle ways that I am giving in to sin.

  2. It has been fruitful for me to consider the root of my sins prior to Confession. In the Act of Contrition we promise to avoid whatever leads us to sin. Beyond the specific actions themselves, I know that it’s important for me to consider what led me to that sin, so I can partner with God’s grace to a greater degree in the future. Did I let loose a string of profanity when I bumped my head? Did I act sarcastically toward my spouse? Am I being lazy at work?  I ask myself: Why are these things coming forth from my heart? What was the first trigger that led me down this path? How can I build up more virtuous habits in the future that will combat my vices? If I can suss out the root of my more habitual sins, this becomes a powerful thing to Confess and turn over to God.

Sammi Murtha
Diocese of Sioux Falls Summer Intern and soon-to-be Lumen Christi Missionary

I try to make confession about once a month. In my time getting to know the Lord, I find that receiving His mercy is one of the surest ways to relationship with Him.   Prior to confession, I will sit in the chapel and recall my sins. I sometimes will pull up an examination of conscience on my phone. I then like to look towards the crucifix. I look upon Christ in His suffering and the great trial He went through for me. I think of His personal love for me. I often feel a soft encouragement to receive His mercy in these moments. Any fears of confession often drain away as I realize how much of a gift it is to be reunited with Him through the sacrament. After sitting for a few moments in this place, I will then pray for God to help me make a good confession before going to receive His forgiveness.

Trish Irvine is a pursuer of the good, the true, and the beautiful. As a high school theology teacher with a penchant for reading and writing, she has numerous encounters with each. Trish has a desire to help others encounter the Lord through a recognition of His presence in the ordinary. Her degree is from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, but her home is the South Dakota prairie.

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