Life & Soul Life and Soul

How to . . . Go to Confession

Confession in St Peter's Basilica (CNS)

For those in mortal sin, getting to Confession is all-important; even for those who have committed venial sins, it is a priceless spiritual aid. People sometimes complain, justifiably, that parish Confession times are far too brief. Those that offer Confession before every Mass are wonderful models. But for so crucial a sacrament, nobody should feel awkward about approaching a priest.

There are many examinations of conscience available online, and – perhaps more reliably – in print. The CTS’s Simple Prayer Book contains a helpful guide (see Some write down their sins for the sake of memory – though this isn’t recommended for those at risk of scrupulosity.

Priests often stress that they won’t be shocked: they have heard pretty much everything, and the sacrament is above all about God’s mercy. Fr Timothy Finigan adds some other tips: “You may say the act of contrition in your own language; you may use the ‘formula’ that you learned as a child; if you realise afterwards that you unintentionally forgot something, it is forgiven – if it is serious you could mention it at your next Confession.”

The sacrament is there to help us, not to trip us up. So the most important tip of all is to make time for it.