What to do

  1. Say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been [this long] since my last Confession.”

  2. Confess your sins. The priest is there to help you and may ask some questions to guide you through the sacrament.

  3. Listen to the counsel and penance the priest gives. Tell him if you do not understand or cannot complete the penance.

  4. Pray an act of contrition. If the priest does not ask you to do so, pray it outside. You can find examples below.

  5. Receive absolution. The priest blesses you as he says the prayer of absolution, which frees you from your sins.

  6. Complete your penance. If you cannot do the penance right away, do so as soon as possible.

Preparing well for confession

Come, Holy Spirit. Enlighten my mind that I may know the sins I ought to confess, and grant me the grace to confess them fully, humbly, and with a contrite heart. Help me to resolve firmly not to commit them again. Amen.

After praying for God’s help to make a good Confession, seek to cooperate with His grace by examining your conscience. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I confessed?” and, “What are the sins I have committed since then?” As you examine your conscience, remember the following:


Number and kind

In order to receive more fully God’s mercy and to express our repentance, the Church asks that we confess all our mortal sins (see below). We do this by stating the kind of sin committed and how many times to the best of our ability. For example, “I missed Sunday Mass twice, and I have engaged in lustful kissing about every other day,” is better than, “I have not been going to Church as I should, and I have been impure.”

Mortal vs venial sins

A mortal sin breaks our relationship with God. A sin is mortal when the act committed is grave and when we did so with full knowledge and deliberate consent. If any of these conditions are not present, then the sin committed was venial. Venial sins hurt our relationship with God and, when left unrepented, they dispose us to commit mortal sin.

Act of Contrition

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”


“O my God, I’m sorry for my sins with all of my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.”

The priest will then absolve you from your sins. He may conclude the Confession with the words, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” The response is, “His mercy endures forever.”

Questions for an Examination of Conscience



  • Have I taken the Lord’s name in vain?

  • Have I missed Mass on a Sunday or on Holy Days of Obligation?

  • Have I arrived at Mass late or left early?

  • Have I received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin?

  • Have I failed to go to Confession at least once a year?

  • Have I failed to tithe?

  • Have I used horoscopes, fortune telling, or other occult/superstitious practices?

  • Have I denied teachings of the Church?

  • Have I failed to defend or stand up for the faith?

  • Have I failed to pray?

  • Have I deliberately omitted a mortal sin in a previous Confession?



  • Have I drank underage?

  • Have I gotten drunk?

  • Have I used marijuana or other drugs?

  • Have I driven under the influence?

  • Have I eaten too much?

  • Have I spent an excessive amount of time on entertainment - social media, video games, YouTube, Netflix, or the internet?

  • Have I failed to make a sacrifice on Fridays during the year?

  • Have I eaten meat on Fridays in Lent? Have I failed to fast on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday?

  • Have I spent money frivolously?

  • Have I used profane words or excessive/biting sarcasm?


  • Have I looked at arousing images or pornography?

  • Have I intentionally consented to impure thoughts or fantasies?

  • Have I masturbated?

  • Have I dressed immodestly?

  • Have I engaged in impure conversation?

  • Have I shared impure photos via texting or social media?

  • Have I engaged in lustful touching/kissing?

  • Have I had sex outside of marriage?

  • Have I engaged in any sexual acts with a member of the same sex?

  • Have I used contraception? Were they abortifacients (IUDs, the morning after pill, etc.)?



  • Have I cheated on assignments or tests?

  • Have I neglected my responsibilities or studies?

  • Have I disrespected professors or those in authority?

  • Have I dishonored my parents?

  • Have I gossiped? Have I lied?

  • Have I envied/disdained others’ goods?

  • Have I made condemning criticisms or rash judgments?

  • Have I stolen? Have I returned it or tried to make up for it?

  • Have I received pay for work that I did not do?

  • Have I hurt someone in speech or deed?

  • Have I committed or helped someone to commit an abortion?

Getting more out of your confession

When someone comes to the sacrament of Confession, we know that God is already at work in their life - even before the forgiveness takes place. Conversion is a work of the grace of God, who makes our hearts return to Him. In Confession, He rejoices to welcome you back home (see Luke 15). After Confession, He wants to bring that work to fulfillment through a life of true peace, joy, freedom, and love. Follow these tips to cooperate with His work and get more out of your Confession.

  1. Examine your conscience daily. Before going to bed, briefly recall the past day. Thank God for the good you have done, ask forgiveness for the wrong, and seek His grace to do better tomorrow.

  2. Go to Confession monthly. While the minimum requirement for a practicing Catholic is to go once a year, confessing once or twice a month helps us to form our conscience, overcome our sins, and grow in God’s grace. If you feel that you need to go more often, discuss this with the priest.

  3. Seek a more perfect contrition. Contrition is a sorrow of soul for the sins committed, and it includes the firm resolution to sin no more. Aim towards a more perfect contrition, making love of God the motive for your sorrow and resolve rather than fear of hell or a desire for relief from the feelings of guilt and shame.

  4. Make concrete resolutions to amend your life. The firm resolution to sin no more includes taking concrete steps to avoid sin and practice virtue. Consider these or similar resolutions: establishing a prayer routine, making a balanced/disciplined schedule of study, work, and leisure, installing pornography filters on your devices, or making a plan with your significant other about boundaries and curfew.

  5. Evangelize. Share the peace and joy that you receive from Confession by encouraging others to go as well. Perhaps consider inviting a friend to come with you.

  6. Deepen your relationship with God. The peace and joy of a deep spiritual life causes everything else, including temptation, to pale in comparison. Growing in your spiritual life through daily prayer will bear great fruit in your moral life.

  7. Add to your examination of conscience a “particular examen.” Examining the past day with a focus on a particular virtue that you want to develop is a great way to respond to struggles with a particular vice or sin.

  8. Make fasting and sacrifice a regular spiritual practice. Fasting and sacrifice atone for sin, strengthen us against temptation, and honor the Passion of Christ. Take up the Friday penance and other regular sacrifices out of love for the Lord.

  9. Practice devotions and acts of reparation. Spiritual practices such as the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and devotions to the Sacred Heart are great examples of devotion and reparation. These help us to express more genuinely our sorrow for sin and receive more fruitfully the grace we need to fulfill our resolutions of amendment.

  10. Make the most out of your time in line. Capitalize on the time waiting in line for Confession by preparing well, making good resolutions to overcome the sins committed, and praying - read the Bible, pray the rosary, write in a journal, etc.