So thankful for confession!

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
So thankful for confession!
Tue, 07-24-2012 - 3:17pm

But I haven't always felt that way...

I had the best experience this week!  Can I share? Can I do a PSA for confession?

Many years ago, I thought you could go to confession and just confess the things you were willing to confess, and keep doing the things you weren't going to stop.  Well, of course it doesn't work that way - but I didn't know any better.  And those things I wanted to keep doing...well, they were pretty big things.

Then I went for many years without going at all.  9/11 was a huge wake-up call in that regard, and after months of soul-searching, I found a priest who I was pretty sure wouldn't throw me out of the church.  The wonderful man never even batted an eye, as I laid it all there.  Big stuff.  That was many graces.

And then I continued on with my once-a-year or every-other-year confession schedule.  You know, because I don't rob banks or anything.  One evening, after our yearly Advent trip to confession, my then-11 year old asked me why we only went once a year.  I had no answer.  So we started to go every 3 months.  I described my relationship with confession as "love/hate"  Hated to go - loved the feeling after.  Gradually I started to look for opportunities in the middle of the 3 month cycle...every 6 weeks.  And now I've settled into a monthly or so routine.  (Unfortunately, my teenagers are about twice a year...)  

I had just started to establish a more frequent confession routine about 5 years ago, and my priest was transferred.  I was so sad, but I decided to give the "new guy" a try.  The first time was OK.  So I went back a second.  And then a third.  And gradually he started to know me.  I always go face-to-face because I don't like talking through walls, but whatever.  Sometimes I get great advice, and sometimes just penance and absolution.  Always, though, there is grace.  Sometimes his penance just really hits the nail on the head.  Sometimes we are done in 2 minutes; sometimes it takes 7 or 8.  He answers my questions if I have some, gives me his perspective.  

I have realized that you don't need to just confess robbing banks, sex outside of marriage, skipping Sunday Mass, and contraception,  but impatience, treating others with contempt, wishing ill on others (you know that boss you wish would retire or the idiot that cut you off in traffic), not trusting God, missing chances to do good, failing to be grateful, not wanting to forgive, not setting a good example for the kids, procrastinating, forgetting to pray, putting just about everything else ahead of God, being distracted in Mass and prayer (not talking about dealing with your own small children, but what the lady in the front is wearing, and what the couple on the side is doing, and what you are going to cook for dinner)....and oh-so-much more.  

This sacrament has become such a wonderful part of my life, I'm not sure where I would be without it.  I wish others could experience the good effects!  I have a friend who I work with who had not been to confession in more than 35 years.  She went last Advent, and it has been amazing to see the things in her life just fall into place since then.  She says she feels so much "lighter".  

I wrote about my experience last week here.  I wish that I could bottle the encouragement and the hope that this sacrament provides.  Truly Jesus reaching out (through His priest) and touching us in the craziness of this world.  

Anyway, I could go on and on ;-)  But I'll spare you.  Just wanted to share what has been a wonderful (but often misunderstood) bit of the faith we share!





PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-10-2006
Thu, 08-02-2012 - 2:46pm

Hi.  Im new to the board and to being Catholic.  I recently converted and have yet to go to confession, not sure how I did not have to confess first but it happened and well I have yet to take eucharist even tho the Father told me I could I do not feel right about taking it without confessing first.  But Im really really nervous about confessing, I was raised Baptist and married my dh who is Catholic, I did some research and decided it was the way I wanted our family to go and I converted, we recently married thru the church as well.  I guess Im just so nervous because it is not something I was raised doing, in the Baptist we just confess our sins silently and Im just not sure how Im going to go about confessing my entire life in one sitting, I feel like I will be there for hours, I know I will feel better afterwards it is always a relief to get things out in the open Im just used to doing it.  I enjoyed reading your experience and hope I can get to that place one day as well.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-07-2000
Fri, 08-03-2012 - 3:52pm

Karen, I always love reading your posts about confession.  Can you believe I have never gone?  Not even once.  And I completed the RCIA process 10 years ago.  When I was going through the classes, my instructor told us that confession to a priest is not mandatory, but it can be helpful to hear those words of forgiveness from another person.  I've never gone because I don't know how to do it.  10 years is a long time to be doing bad things and admit them to someone, so I wouldn't even know where to start at this point.  I do personal confessions on my own, but never ever in front of a priest.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-07-2000
Fri, 08-03-2012 - 3:56pm
I completely understand where you're coming from. I do my own silent confessions. I would feel so awkward trying to go to confession right now. Plus, the priest at our church is not someone I want to share anything with. If I was comfortable with our priest and didn't think he was such a pompous jerk, I think I would have tried it. I really do need to find a new parish. :smileysad:
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-10-2006
Fri, 08-03-2012 - 7:00pm

We just recently got a new priest so we have to get to know him but I do not plan on confessing to him, our parish is so small he practically knows all of us so I plan on traveling to a nearby town to confess.  When I took my class they told me that confession was needed to be done twice a year and then my husband is from Mexico and over there they told me and him that it was not mandatory, so Im really confused and really wonder what makes it so different over there from here, but either way I feel like it is something I need to do.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-27-2012
Tue, 08-14-2012 - 8:56am
I grew up in the church but have never been either. I always had felt reconciliation during mass was enough, but - of all people - a Russian orthodox friend made a very convincing argument for going. I too live in a very small town (<1K), so I'm still thinking it over, but I do think it is something I want to do. Whether or not it is obligatory isn't that important imho, but I think doing so will help alleviate a lot of anxiety we build up without even realizing it. Confession is also one of those things that varies from parish to parish. The orthodox woman's church, for example, has them check 'sins' off a list and then meet the priest to discuss penance. In our town, you set up a meeting at the rectory as far as I know. We now live in the former rectory, and the room previously used as a waiting room for confession will now be my office. ;-)

- JM

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Wed, 08-15-2012 - 7:53pm

Oh, Jenna, and Emma and Txdela, 

We have to talk!  Grab a cup of coffee and let me hold your hand through this!  You are so missing out!

First of all, if you were baptized when you converted, that wipes away all sin to that point, so confession would not have been necessary.  Secondly, if that is not the case, perhaps the well-meaning people in charge of RCIA  - knowing that many people struggle with confession - just decided to skip it, instead of "holding your hand" through it.  It is also possible that some of the wonderful people running RCIA also have their own issues and baggage with confession.  Even some priests don't seem particularly convinced that it is necessary. is.

However....the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us differently.  I could find the paragraphs and cut and paste them here, or you can google it.  It's a pretty quick and easy read - the pages on Reconciliation (or Penance, Sacrament of).  Bottom line is that confessing your sins to a priest in the sacrament of confession is the "ordinary" way that mortal sins are forgiven.  

Some common mortal sins:  missing Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation (like today) without a good reason, artificial contraception (BTDT), sterilization (BT...),  premarital "relations" (....), abortion, being impure with oneself....

Yes, God is God and can forgive however He wants to, and surely takes into account ignorance, mental issues, our repentance, upbringing, and whatever else.  But I wasn't sure I wanted to stake eternity on that.  I hate Louisiana summers (my version of hell) too much to be stuck with them forever!  So at some point in my searching, I just decided that it didn't matter if I "agreed" with some church teachings (really - my opinion is so insignificant), it was just my job to accept them.  Maybe someone really *did* know better than me!  (unlikely as that may be!)  

Two points about confession....

If a co-worker somehow hurts me at work, I would hope that eventually they would come to me and apologize face to face, and not just stick a post-it note saying "Sorry!" in my box.  That's how I think of confession sometimes - yes, God knows I am sorry, but when I admit whatver to the priest, sitting there in the place of Jesus, it is taking the opportunity to apologize face to face.  I imagine standing before Jesus and Him asking, "Why wouldn't you apologize to me?"  What would I say?  Because I was too nervous, too proud, too....

The "official" explanation - sin wounds the whole community - all sin (even personal things) makes us less than we should be.  And since all sin is a community event, so to speak, the priest represents the community in reconciling things.  It's surely a lot better than how they did things in the early days of the Church with public confessions!

Another point - some (all?) of you have small children.  They will be making First Confession and First Communion sometime soon.  YOU have to lead the way with this.  And you have to keep leading once the big "First" event is over!  Side note:  I have an acquaintance who is dying of lung cancer.  She has 3 children from 4-12 grade.  In an article she wrote for our diocesean paper a few years ago, she mentioned how as parents we make sure that our children have every opportunity to excell in this sport or that, but how so fail to give them the opportunity to have their sins forgiven on a regular basis or to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  This is one of the most important things we do as parents - to raise Saints.

For all of us - regular confession is one of the best ways to grow spiritually - in humility, in self-awareness, in grace, strength, peace.  

Enough about "why".  How about a quick tutorial on "HOW"?  (Like I can be quick....  ;-))


Before you go....PRAY.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to shine light on the things that need to be brought out of the darkness.  Pray for a good and holy confessor.  (Especially if that doesn't seem to be the strong suit of your parish priest.....although some that are pompous arses can be good in confession).

Take your time and do an Examination of Conscience.  If you have never been, you will want to concentrate on the "big" things.  The mortal stuff.  You will want to move out the big furniture, and then you can go back and "dust" later.  There is some really good information here.  Make a list.  I always take a list with me.  Last time, I had made the list on my iPad while I was at Adoration, and the good Father didn't bat an eye when I brought in my iPad with me.

If you don't think you want to go to your priest, ask around.  Go to the next town over.  Ask God to lead you to the right priest.  People have asked me (about our priest) - "how is he in confession?"  I can understand the reluctance to go to your own priest, but honestly, that shouldn't stop you.  When I went back after 8 years, I picked someone who I knew and who knew me well.  With my own priest now, he knows me and my struggles well, but it is never awkward when we are conducting other business.

After you have prepared yourself and you think you have a holy priest in mind, think about a time.  It may work that you just fit into the regular confession times.  I knew there was no way in hell I was going to call and make an appointment when I came back.  But truthfully, if you think it's going to take a while it will be in everyone's best interest to make an appointment.  You won't feel rushed, the priest can offer inciteful feedback, and the people behind you in line won't be making unkind comments.

I am a computer/email kind of person, so when I want to schedule a time for confession, I send my priest an email.  "Do you have time for confession after Mass one morning this week?"  or something to that effect.  You might want to explain this is your first confession.  Check your parish bulletin/website and see if your priest has an email listed.  Some do.  Otherwise call.  If you have to talk to the receptionist, just say that you want to schedule an appointment with the priest regarding a personal matter.  Beyond that, it is NONE of their business.

That is probably the worst part!

Once you get there (and you may meet in an office or in a confessional - ask if you have a strong preference), it's not so bad.  YOu can start out with "Bless me Father for I have sinned.  This is my first confession. (and I'm not really sure what I'm doing.)  Then you can talk.  You can tell him you made a list.  He might tell you to go ahead.  He might try to help you.  If you need help, ask.  They know how to do this kind of thing.  

You say what needs saying.  Don't go into minute details, but do try to give some indication as to how much of a problem things have been (how often, how many times, if it is in the distant past or recent). That will help him know what to say to you.  They don't usually comment on everything.  Sometimes they comment on nothing.

When you are done with your list, you can indicate by saying, "I am sorry for these and all my sins" or something similar.  On occasion I have said, "That's about it!"  If you have questions, this might be a good time to let him know, "I have some things I am confused/have questions about." 

Then he takes over.  He will give advice, if he wishes.  

He will assign a penance.  You can ask for a different one, if it seems impossible, but I've never done that.

Then he MAY ask you to make an act of contrition.  If you don't know one or don't remember one, say so, and he will help you.  I had a friend who went back after 37 years, and she was so afraid he would yell at her for forgetting her Act of Contrition, but he was so kind.  He just had a question that he asked her, and all she had to do was say, "YES".  My husband had a priest who said it for him and had him repeat it line by line.  Don't stress about this.  You can use your words of sorrow if you want.  Some priests don't ask for an AOC and that is OK, too. 

Then the priest will say the prayer of Absolution.  Bow your head and just let Christ's mercy flow over you.  Say "Amen" at the end.  

Usually my priest will say something like "Your sins are forgiven.  Go in peace,"  I usually tell him "thank you".  


You can do this!

Yes, you will be nervous.  It usually goes away once you get started. Picture yourself as the sheep on Jesus's shoulders.  Or the Prodigal Son returnign home.

Yes, there may be tears.  Its OK.  Tears are healing.

Yes, it may take a while to get through a life-time of sin (or 10 years or whatever).  It took my friend with 37 years of stuff about an hour and a half, with questions.  I did 8 years in about 5 minutes (it was the same stupid stuff over and over).

Priests make time for this.  It is what they were ordained to do.  To reconcile.  My friend was too afraid to call to set up an appointment, but gave me the OK to email our pastor.  He was SO accommodating.  "I will do whatever it takes to bring her some peace!" 

This is a sacrament of HEALING.  Not a sacrament of fussing or condemnation or shame.

Some priests are better confessors than others.  Look for one, but if you don't find a great confessor, it's OK.  They all work for Jesus, and Jesus is sitting in every confessional (or office) listening.

Shred the list.  Or burn it.  Unless it's on an iPad.

Usually the experiences are overwhelmingly positive, but if it is not - priests are human and have bad days, etc - do not get discouraged and give up.  The forgiveness - no matter what it might feel like - is an overwhelming, undeserved gift.  Pray.

Thank God for His gift of Forgiveness.  (God loves to Forgive.) 

Go back again.  Lent and Advent are good minimum times to go.  Work from there.  

Once a month works good for me.  Our priest says that's about how often he goes.  Not too much to remember, and you deal with "current events".  Sometimes I have several things.  Sometimes just a few.  Sometimes I want advice and wisdom.  Sometimes I just want forgiveness.  Our priest hears confessions for about 10 minutes before weekday Masses and for 30 minutes on Saturdays.  I usually like to go at those times, but a couple of times I have asked for an appointment, and he has graciously accommodated me.  

If you want to talk further, email me. I think you can email through ivillage.  If not, try my blog.  

For any lurkers, I am not interested in debating theology or anything else.  But I will happily assist anyone who is trying to take this step.  It took me months.


I'm sorry this is extraordinarily long.  I tried not to be too wordy.

I must run for now.  My children are expecting to be fed.  (You can thank them later.  ;-))





PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Wed, 08-15-2012 - 9:00pm

Hi Emmy, 

Welcome to Catholicism.


Just hit the high points (or low points as the case may be).  Most priests will be happy to help you through the difficulties of confessing a life time.  It won't be a new experience for them.  

Nervous is normal.  I've been doing this for a long time, have never really had a bad experience, and still get nervous nearly every time.  





PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Wed, 08-15-2012 - 9:06pm

Jen (not Jenna - sorry),

I wish I could come hold your hand.  

Don't worry too much about the form.  You can find cheat sheets on the internet.  Any priest worth his collar will help a willing penitent.    10 years is long, but not too long.  

Soon enough you will be helping your kids prepare.  You can do this!!



PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Wed, 08-15-2012 - 9:49pm
Being known can be an advantage, but do whatever makes you most comfortable. Just go!

Technically, we are obliged to go once a year, or whenever one is guilty of serious (mortal) sin. But venial (less serious) sins can be forgiven in any number of ways and do or have to be confessed in confession. So if you have no mortal sins, you don't HAVE to go. But it is so valuable as we endeavor to be closer to and more like Christ.

How's that for a definite answer?


PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-26-2000
Wed, 08-15-2012 - 9:55pm
What a neat experience! I love reading other people's confession stories

Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I have enjoyed your posts here over the years. Your willingness to speak the truth even when it is not politically correct or popular has been a witness.


PJPIIadoration.jpg picture by Kimberly_sahm