Fr. Z’s 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession

In light of Archbp. Nienstedt’s initiative, and the good discussion it is raising here, I thought I would repost my list, useful to some, called…

Fr. Z’s 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession   o{]:¬)

We should…

  1) …examine our consciences regularly and thoroughly;
  2) …wait our turn in line patiently;
  3) …come at the time confessions are scheduled, not a few minutes before they are to end;
  4) …speak distinctly but never so loudly that we might be overheard;
  5) …state our sins clearly and briefly without rambling;
  6) …confess all mortal sins in number and kind;
  7) …listen carefully to the advice the priest gives;
  8) …confess our own sins and not someone else’s;
  9) …carefully listen to and remember the penance and be sure to understand it;
10) …use a regular formula for confession so that it is familiar and comfortable;
11) …never be afraid to say something "embarrassing"… just say it;
12) …never worry that the priest thinks we are jerks…. he is usually impressed by our courage;
13) …never fear that the priest will not keep our confession secret… he is bound by the Seal;
14) …never confess "tendencies" or "struggles"… just sins;
15) …never leave the confessional before the priest has finished giving absolution;
16) …memorize an Act of Contrition;
17) …answer the priest’s questions briefly if he asks for a clarification;
18) …ask questions if we can’t understand what he means when he tells us something;
19) …keep in mind that sometimes priests can have bad days just like we do;
20) …remember that priests must go to confession too … they know what we are going through.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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12 Responses to Fr. Z’s 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession

  1. David says:

    Thanks for reposting these, Father. It’s good to be reminded.

    In the spirit of reviving old posts, and since Advent is soon upon us, will you also be bringing back the recordings you had a year or two ago of the O Antiphons?

  2. Daniel says:

    6) …confess all mortal sins in number and kind;

    Question: What happens when a lapsed catholic who btw is a very active sinner cannot possibly fathom the number, only kind? Is is ok to say that you’ve done such and such a whole lot?

  3. Bendi says:

    “A lot” is a good measure. I am a convert and had no chance to confess my sins accurately. I was to confess all I had ever done in my life. That is a 40 years record… I remember using the term “a lot” a lot in my general confession.

  4. David says:

    Daniel, while “a lot” works, another good measure for a general confession oft-repeated mortal sins, if you can estimate it, is to say “about once a week for 15 years” or “about every day for 10 years” or whatever.

  5. Martin says:

    6) …confess all mortal sins in number and kind;

    I am needing clarification on this.

    Some of my sins are so bad, and the additional factors affecting the gravity so great, that to simply state the kind, would seem to me to be concealing the full horror of the sin.

    Additionally, some of my sins are of more than one kind; that is, the single sin of itself, was of more than one kind.

  6. Sian says:

    On point 14: “never confess tendencies or struggles” – just sins

    I would have thought, that with the agreement of a regular confessor, it might be salutatory to confess repeated tendencies. The dividing line between these and venial sin is not always clear, and, for me, at least, it is better to err on the side of caution. Again, by agreement and with a regular confessor, it might be judged healthy for some penitents to even confess their temptations.

    [Fine. At the same time, we are not obliged to confess venial sins, only mortal sins. And a tendency is not a sin. A tendency can be an impulse, a thought to which you might not have given consent of will, an inclination which you succeed in fighting off, etc. A tendency in itself is not a sin. Confession is mainly for sins. Sometimes, especially when there is not a line of people waiting patiently while the person inside's confession gets longer and longer, just sticking to mortal sins in number and kind, with sufficient detail to be clear, is the best way to go.]

  7. 11) …never be afraid to say something “embarrassing”… just say it;

    This is a good reminder for me. My pride definitely get in the way.

    John Michael

  8. Maria says:

    I too am puzzled about point 14. As one who goes to weekly confession, I often feel interior promptings to confess tendencies and regular struggles as well the more obvious sins. By way of example, if one were frequently inclined to put off less pleasant tasks in favour of more appealing ones or in some other way struggle to live in a spirit of self-denial, would it not be appropriate to confess such tendencies? [That is just fine, so long as one can be brief, keeping in mind that tendencies are usually not sins.]

  9. tony says:

    I’m guessing you heard a bad confession, Father. ;-) [I am very happy to say that in my years of hearing confessions that has only happened a couple times. It is incredibly rare to hear a bad confession. Sometimes people are not too sure about what to do, but their hearts are in the right place and they do their best. Frankly, I - and I am sure other confessors will verify this - terribly impressed with the good will of people and their sincere desire to confess their sins well and receive absolution even though they stumble a little because of lack of "practice" or being nervous.]

  10. Daniel: I sympathize with that question, since I am an adult convert.

    We should really do our very best, even to estimate, even it it must be in vague terms. The most important thing is to do our best. If we do our best God forgives them all.

  11. Martin: Some of my sins are so bad, and the additional factors affecting the gravity so great, that to simply state the kind, would seem to me to be concealing the full horror of the sin

    Well… I didn’t say “only” in number and kind. That point really refers to the fact that, these days, very few people regularly are confessions their sins also in number.

    It is important to include, without rambling or to great detail, those circumstances which are important.

    For example, if a penitent says that he stole three times, and neglects to say that he stole the pension of an elderly widow on a fixed income, that would be wrong. The amount and the person he stole it from make a difference in this case. It is not the same as stealing three candy bars from a large store chain.

    Include necessary details which either exacerbate or mitigate the severity of the sin.

  12. Okay folks.

    The problem evolves when I post anything on confession is that suddenly everyone thinks themselves to be qualified to give everybody advice.

    I should close this down now.

    If you have questions or comments, drop me an e-mail. I can consider them offline and see if they will be good fodder for this entry.