Why Go To
Confession? Why Confess To A Priest?
The Diocese of Richmond, Virigina has developed
this helpful video do explain the sacrament of
Reconciliation and why go to a priest.
Q: Why is Sacramental Confession necessary for
Catholics but not for other Christians?
A: Catholics believe that Confession is necessary
for the forgiveness of post-baptismal sins because
Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for this
purpose (John 20: 22-23). Church Canon Law states:
"All the faithful who have reached the age of
discretion are bound faithfully to confess their
grave sins at lease once a year." (CIC, 989).
Catholics who confess their sins have the assurance
of Christ Himself that their sins are forgiven (Matt
18:18; John 20:23). Other Christians who do not
believe in this Sacrament of Forgiveness must
confess in their own way to God and hope that their
sins will be forgiven. On their own, they do
the best they can. God bless them!
Q: How often should one go to Sacramental
A: "All the faithful who have reached the age of
discretion are bound faithfully to confess their
grave sins at least once a year." (CIC, 989).
"The faithful are recommended to confess also venial
sins." (CIC, 987-2). "Anyone who is conscious of
grave sin may not receive the Body of the Lord
without previously having been to Sacramental
Confession; unless there is a grave reason and
there is no opportunity to confess." (CIC, 915)
As a matter of devotion, monthly Confession or
Seasonal Confession (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost)
is recommended. Children and RCIA Candidates
are to go to Confession prior to their receiving
First Holy Communion. (CIC, 914), (RCIA, 482).
Pastoral Counsel: "If you commit a mortal sin,
go to Confession as soon as you can and certainly
before your next Holy Communion. For spiritual
growth, go to Confession regularly or seasonally."
Q: "I understand that it is not necessary to go
to Confession before we go to Holy Communion unless
we have committed a mortal sin. If we are not
guilty of mortal sins, do we still have to go to
Confession during the Easter Season?
A: You are correct in stating that if we have
committed a mortal sin it is necessary to go to
Confession before receiving Holy Communion.
However, if we have not committed a mortal sin it is
not necessary to go the Confession during the Easter
Season. A worthy Holy Communion is the
requirement at Easter Time. If, during the
Easter Season, a person is in the state of grace,
not in mortal sin, no Confession is necessary.
(CIC, 920-1-2; 989). The main event of going
to confession is the reception of God’s forgiveness.
Don’t let the mechanics of making a confession
Q: What is the Easter Duty?
A: The Easter Duty is the obligation to receive a
worthy Holy Communion during the Easter Time, i.e.,
the time between the first Sunday of Lent and
Trinity Sunday, a period of about a hundred days.
If we are not in the state of grace, then we must go
to Sacramental Confession before receiving our
Easter Duty Communion.
Q: Is it a sin if Catholics never go to
A: "Never say never." The Catechism of the
Catholic Church states: "Children must go to
the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy
Communion for the first time." (CCC, #1457), (CIC,
Can. 914) Also: "Anyone conscious of a grave sin
must receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before
coming to Communion." (CCC, # 1385 and 1457), (CIC,
Can. 989), (1 Cor II: 27-29) And: "…after having
attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful
is bound by an obligation fatithfully to confess
serious sins at least once a year." (CCC, #
1457), (CIC, Can. 989).
The Sacrament of Penance is part of the "Catholic
Sick Call" that prepares the sick person for death.
Holy Communion (Viaticum), Anointing of the Sick
(Extreme Unction) and the Apostolic Blessing (Papal
Blessing) are also parts of the sick call (CCC, #
1525). So, apart from these times of necessary
Confession, a person without mortal sin need not go
to Confession. "Without being strictly necessary,
confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is,
nevertheless, strongly recommended by the Church."
(CCC, #1458), (CIC, Can. 988 #2). Jesus and Sigmund
might well say together: "Keep in touch; Confession
is good for peace of soul and peace of mind."
How to Make a Good Confession
- Examine our Conscience.
- Have Sorrow for our Sins (Act of Contrition).
- Make a firm resolution not to sin again.
- Confess our sins to the priest.
- Accept the penance which the priest gives us.
How to Confess to the Priest
(Prayer cards on how to make a good confession will be available in the Church)
The Priest will often begin with the Sign of the Cross or a greeting and blessing.
May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercession of the
Mary and of all the saints, whatever
good you do and
your sins, help you grow in holiness, and
life. Go in peace.
–Rite of Penance,
PREPARATION: Before going to
confession, take some time to prepare. Begin with prayer, and reflect on your life since your last confession. How have you—in your thoughts, words, and actions— neglected to live Christ’s commands to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your
mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37,39)? As a help with this “examination of conscience,” you might review the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes (Ex. 20:2-17; Dt. 5:6-21; Mt. 5:3-10; or Lk. 6:20-26).
(Act of Contrition cards will
be available in the Church/Confessional. Other
approved acts of Contrition/Prayer of the Penitent
are listed below.)
Other Approved Acts of Contrition/Prayer of the
Remember, Lord, your
compassion and mercy you showed long ago.
Do not recall the
sins and failings of my youth.
In your mercy
remember me, Lord, because of your goodness.
Wash me from my guilt and
cleanse me of my sin.
I acknowledge my
offense; my sin is before me always.
Father, I have sinned
against you and am not worthy to be called your son.
Be merciful to me,
Father of mercy, like the prodigal son I return to
you and say: “I have sinned against you and am no
longer worthy to be called your son.”
Christ Jesus, Savior of
the world, I pray with the repentant thief to who
you promised Paradise: “Lord, remember me in your
fountain of love, I call on you with trust:
“Purify my heart,
and help me to walk as a child of light.”
Lord Jesus, you opened the
eyes of the blind, healed the sick, forgave the
sinful woman, and after Peter’s denial confirmed him
in your love.
Listen to my
prayer: forgive all my sins, renew your love in my
heart, help me to live in perfect unity with my
fellow Christians that I may proclaim your saving
power to all the world.
Lord God, in your goodness
have mercy on me:
do not look on my
sins, but take away all my guilt.
Create in me a
clean heart and renew within me an upright spirit.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Lord Jesus, you chose to
be called the friend of sinners.
By your saving
death and resurrection free me from my sins.
May your peace take
root in my heart and bring forth a harvest of love,
holiness, and truth.
Rite of Penance/Rite for Reconciliation of
Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.
Published by the
authority of the Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy,
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.