Cradle Catholic – 30 years old – first confession

From a reader:

Due to your blog you singlehandedly managed to get me to my first confession ever (just before this lent, actually); my first, while I’m 30 years old and a cradle catholic. Obviously, that was quite a bit of a hurdle, which took me about a year (!) to overcome…

This sort of thing makes doing this worth it.

The writer made some other points the obstacles that remained to be overcome.

The writer made a decision to make a list, to let the priest sort out the doubtful points, and – because of nervousness about going to the local parish priest who didn’t seem very patient – to go to a different parish.

Sacramental preparation in some places was so bad, for so long, and the priests were lax in preaching about, preparing people for, and the actually getting to the confessional that many now adult catholics out there never made a 1st Confession as children before their 1st Holy Communion.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Random Friar says:

    We try to leave out pamphlets on “How to Make a Good Confession,” and preach it up, especially during Lent and Advent. No one will be able to accuse me before Our Lord of not making sure the People of God knew of that great gift of Confession! I don’t say that to sound better, I say that because I would not like what Our Lord had to say to me if I showed up before Him, withholding His sacramental mercy to sinners.

  2. liongules says:

    He’s not the only one Father Z! I hadn’t been to Confession in over 25 years. I lived my life like it didn’t matter, going to Mass, taking Communion. Due to reading WDTPRS I quit receiving Communion at Mass, I studied and prayed. I finally went to Confession at another parish and have gone several times since.

  3. bernadette says:

    When I was in RCIA, back in the early 1980’s we were told that it is almost impossible to commit a mortal sin so not to worry. Forgiveness of any sins would actually come through taking Holy Communion. When I asked one of the RCIA instructors to tell us how to make a proper confession she blew me off. Thank God that the Holy Spirit would not leave me alone until I finally made my confession, almost 15 years later.

  4. Random Walk says:

    Chuck me in on the ‘took forever to get around to Penance’ crowd.

    OTOH, the credit goes to my missus, who discovered the Church (in spite of her being raised Mormon). She got me to grow up and come home to the church I was born into. The look on Fr’s face when my opening sentence ended with “…it’s been 22 years since my last confession” surprisingly got his attention. I held off on communion for about a year (took that long to get her through RCIA, and to get the marriage blessed officially), but it was all well worth it.

    Speaking of which, I have to hunt down a church this week – will be out on business, but I refuse to let that get in the way of Holy Week (which of course includes a trip to the confessional… :) )

  5. AnAmericanMother says:

    Random walk,

    I travel a good deal, often way out in the rural South, and I’ve found extremely helpful in finding a church. You can search by city or zip code, and it comes up with a map, basic info on Mass times etc. and links to the parish website (if any). And you can usually get a pretty good idea of the parish ‘attitude’ from the website.

    Hope you find an excellent parish with suitable confession schedules . . . .

  6. Christine says:

    I am one of those cradle Catholics. I was looking through some of my sacramental paperwork a few years back and I realized that my Catholic school (which I attended since kindergarten) had me receiving my FHC in 2nd grade and my first Confession was FIVE YEARS later. With that kind of catechesis it’s no wonder after high school (a Catholic one as well) I fell away from the Faith. It wasn’t until my husband’s conversion, which brought me to a reversion to my childhood faith, that I even understood what was wrong with that. Sometimes I get very angry but I try to pray for the nuns that taught there. If nothing else, it made me determined that my children were going to know and appreciate their Faith.

  7. jlmorrell says:

    Regarding Mass times, you may find all the Traditional Latin Masses (under Ecclesia Dei Commission) in the U.S. & Canada at:

  8. eiggam says:

    As you find those lists of Mass times, it doesn’t hurt to put a call in to the parish to make sure the times are right, especially with the Easter Schedule. Most parishes put the schedule on the answering machine, so you don’t have to bother anyone. I have been tripped up by online schedules in the past that were changed after the bulletin was issued.

  9. Mike says:

    My own story echoes the email from the reader.

    Thank you for this blog.

  10. APX says:

    First Reconciliation is now being administered in a few diocese after First Communion. I know Calgary is doing it, with the exception of the Old Rite.

    I know what Father’s saying about sacramental preparation being bad. I was under the impression that Reconciliation was a one-time thing until the priests starting coming to school to offer it a few times. After that I wasn’t aware we were supposed to go at least once a year, let alone regularly. It wasn’t until four years ago that I discovered my church even had a reconciliation room! I knew we weren’t supposed to receive communion if we were in state of mortal sin, but up until about two years ago, I thought in order to commit a mortal sin you had to do something really bad such as kill someone, have an abortion, or commit adultry. I figured I was always safe from mortal sin because I knew I wouldn’t do any of those. Now I find out that I shouldn’t have even been confirmed without going to Confession because I know I was not in the state of grace at the time. Surely during that full day retreat we all had to go to at the church they could have arranged for us to all go to Confession. Sorry, now I’m ranting. I just don’t like that I’m left to pick up the pieces.

  11. jkm210 says:

    I’m nearly 29 and also did not have my First Reconciliation before First Communion. We had First Communion at the end of first grade, and First Reconciliation in third grade. I’m not sure if I went to confession around the time of my Confirmation in seventh grade, but I was going at least a couple of times a year in grade school, since it was Catholic school. Like everyone else above, I worry about the state of catechesis in the Church and plan to do better with my own kids if what they get at church or school doesn’t cover everything.

    That being said, you can’t worry yourself too much about what happened in your past before you had an awareness of the importance of confession. You’ll drive yourself crazy doing that, and, if you weren’t properly catechized as a child, your culpability for things that happened back then is probably pretty minimal. As long as you started going to confession regularly when you learned how important it is, that’s as much as you can do. Even if it took you time to get to that point, or time to increase your frequency of going to confession, if you were making an honest and serious effort, you’re doing the right thing.

  12. Brooklyn says:

    I actually heard a priest say in a homily that he never committed a mortal sin and that none of us probably hadn’t either. I emailed him and got back a letter explaining to me that there are 3 kinds of sin: venial, serious and mortal. This priest also seriously believes that everyone is going to heaven. With heretical teaching like this, it’s no wonder people don’t believe confession is an important sacrament.

  13. EWTN Rocks says:

    Like some of the posters here, I am a cradle Catholic who had fallen away from the church as a teenager and returned 25+ years later due to a series of personal tragedies that hit me in rapid fire succession in 2009 and 2010. Although I had been to confession twice since returning to the church, I had not confessed sins from early in my life and wanted to do that yesterday. I decided to use the Iphone app to be sure I made a complete confession but unfortunately, it locked up on me as I was approaching the confessional and I had to wing it (which made me even more nervous). Let’s just say it didn’t go as well as I would have liked, and I don’t think I will be going to confession again anytime soon.

    I have a question though about the Act of Contrition. I’ve seen about 10 different versions and unfortunately can’t recall the one I learned as a child. Is there a preferred version? What is the most literal translation?

  14. Random Walk says:

    @EWTN Rocks:

    Not sure about preferred versions, but as far as Penance, try not to worry… the idea isn’t to deliver the perfect performance, but to clean out the spiritual closet and to get right with God.

    I almost always bork the lines when I go in (it’s not easy revealing your darkest crud and at the same time speak everything perfectly). I was kindly informed by my local parish Priest to work on it, but was told that the most important thing is to keep your heart to God, and be sure that you truly are sorry for having sinned (as well as have a determination to not do those things again).

  15. Random Walk says:


    Extreme thanks! works *very* well, and the chapel down in California is not only close, but rather beautiful:

  16. BLB Oregon says:

    I remember standing in a confession line with a fellow who seemed agitated. I asked if he was OK, and he said that it was to be his first confession in decades. He said he had already been in line once, bolted, and then came back. He explained that he was home for his mother’s funeral, and he decided that for his dad’s sake, it was time to go. I assured him that not only would he find our pastor a very good and gentle confessor, but that he would make the priest’s week. What did his nervousness tell me? That he intended to make a good confession. After all, if he were going through the motions for his dad and no more, without the intention of making a good confession, he would not have been concerned.

    I’m sure it did make our pastor’s week, too. It was God, more than the encouragement of the man’s father, who drew him to the confessional. There is nothing better for a priest than having the Lord place a stray sheep on his shoulders, drawn out of the brambles for the ride home.

    On the sad side, I have had people who prepare young people for confirmation say that they don’t remember ever going to confession. They had made their First Reconciliation, but never a second. This is in an area of the country where three or four times as many Catholics make their First Holy Communion (and therefore First Reconciliation) than are confirmed. I think that the lack of a second confession has a lot to do with that.

    This is the saddest: My aunt, who is now 80 years old and raised with regular confession, told me once that “nobody goes to confession any more.” That is not work that wasn’t done in children. That is work undone.

  17. JamesA says:

    What a great thing !
    I am a cradle Catholic whose family wandered away from the Church while I was very young. I had made my first Communion at about 8 but did not go to First Confession (c.1973-4)
    At the age of 40 I made the first confession of my life at the Mortuary Chapel on Rampart St., on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans, and started my path back into Holy Church.
    God’s timing is always impeccable.

  18. EWTN Rocks says:

    Oops, I got so caught up in describing yesterday’s confession that I forgot to complete my thought and reason for the post. I remember a first confession along with First Holy Communion but nothing beyond that, including at the time of Confirmation. I’m not sure if this was due to my lack of understanding of the Sacrament, or the fact that right after I received First Holy Communion we moved to a new church temporarily located in a converted hardware store while the new church was being built (St. Andrews in Daly City, CA), which took about 10 years to construct. I’m fairly sure that St. Andrews in the hardware store did not have confessionals. By the time the permanent church was built, I had stopped attending Mass.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    bernadette, you said, “When I was in RCIA, back in the early 1980?s we were told that it is almost impossible to commit a mortal sin so not to worry. ”

    I was told the same thing, repeatedly, but that idea is dead wrong. All you have to do is look around to see that people commit mortal sins all the time, and although life has become more modern, the moral dimension of it hasn’t changed one bit. In fact, now:
    Co-habitation is rife. Something like 80% of couples do it in the year before marriage.
    Birth control is engaged in by a majority of childbearing-aged Catholics.
    Statistics reveal that abortions are as common among Catholics as they are among the general population.
    So much for “spirit of Vatican II” morality being some kind of an “enlightening” change.

    There was no rupture of the basics at Vatican II, and no dramatic change for the better in the affairs of men & women, and if this isn’t proof, then I don’t know what could be.

    The idea that a collection of popularly mistaken (!) mental constructs, more or less drawn from a council document, could or would change human nature irreversibly just by their presence, is a ridiculous idea except for those who act like they have brains made of paper. The world, in all of its senses-spiritual as well as physical-doesn’t work that way, after all, and grace builds on nature. The Catholic way is so much richer than that kind of vacuity.

  20. EWTN Rocks says:

    Sorry, last post on this. BLB Oregon you stated “There is nothing better for a priest than having the Lord place a stray sheep on his shoulders, drawn out of the brambles for the ride home.” Quite beautiful and inspiring imagery.

  21. stgemma_0411 says:

    My wife, during RCIA, was told that Confession wasn’t a necessary part of the Catholic life. Thankfully, the priest who said that to her was removed from service not very long after that. But I can’t help but think, based on the various places I have lived in North America, that this is a normative thing in most parishes. Our “home” parish in our former residence of Halifax, Nova Scotia, never had scheduled confession times. The only place that did have scheduled confession times was the Cathedral parish and that was for only one hour a week. Thankfully, we now have a parish that not only has weekly confessions but also Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. But I still cannot help but pray for parishes in more rural areas that have no understanding of a Sacramental life.

  22. Titus says:

    All you have to do is look around to see that people commit mortal sins all the time

    Honestly, I can’t remember one way or another what we were told about mortal sins when I was in grade school. I know we had examinations of conscience documents that vaguely indicated that “some of these sins are mortal,” but that’s about it. And part of the irritating and scary part is that even though you can look around and see gravely sinful things being done all the time, most of them are actually pretty discrete: it’s real easy to know whether you’re committing murder, engaging a sexual sin, contracepting, or not going to Mass on days of obligation. Even blasphemy (did we ever resolve the profanity vs. blasphemy conundrum?) and sacrilege aren’t everyday kind of slip ups.

    You can do all of those things more or less just by being quite boring (I exaggerate slightly, but not much). It’s not frightening that staying in the state of grace can be accomplished largely by being boring: it’s frightening that it can’t be and one doesn’t realize it.

  23. Titus says:

    You can do all of those things

    That is, you can avoid all those sins . . .

Comments are closed.