Have you made your good confession yet? Fr. Z’s 20 Tips.

Lent is a time for introspection and conversion.

Has it been a while since you have made a good confession?

Here are some tips.

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.

And this…

An examination of conscience to help make a better confession by a really sound priest

Keep these in mind, examine your consciences, and



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in GO TO CONFESSION, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. DavidJ says:

    My wife and I hit Confession 2 nights ago. 14 priests were at our parish penance service. Started at 7PM with a talk from a visiting priest, and the place was packed. The lines for the sacrament were quite long, some priests staying as late as 10:30 hearing confessions.

    Also, that confession sealed the deal for a plenary indulgence for renewing my Baptismal vows on Monday!

  2. Jeannie_C says:

    For anyone who hasn’t been to Confession for a long time, or who has always been uncomfortable, here’s what worked for me: I conducted my examination of conscience, went face to face in the confessional, asking for the prompts and guidance on how to confess behind the screen. At the appropriate time, I made my confession, received absolution, far easier than I’d anticipated. There is a reason for the format, not only does it keep you on track, it frees you up to confess. It was such a relief!

  3. wanda says:

    Done, Fr. Z. My husband, also, who returned recently to the sacrament. I would like to get myself to confess more often, but I am ever so grateful for your constant urging. Just go!

  4. I will be making my first confession with all mortal sins in kind and number tomorrow hopefully. For years I have had so-called “general absolution for all my sins” – I know this is invalid .

    Pray for me!

  5. eben says:

    Made it yesterday after two failed attempts. At our church, during Lent each day but Saturday, there are 3 masses, 9:00, 12:10 and 7:00 pm. Before each mass a priest hears confession for 20~30 minutes. My first try, no priest showed up, (that’s o.k., they’re busy); the second try, no one was paying attention to the “line” concept so I kept getting bumped and time ran out; made it the third try. Our Parish church is quite large; the Parish itself is becoming huge and somewhat crowded. Kind of funny really, but this Parish is approaching “Mega Church” status. Rather odd in our area, for a Roman Catholic church, our part of the world being mainly Baptist. The experience of confession was quite up lifting; then of course, I always worry that I’ve forgotten some mortal sin. During this Lent and in preparing for this confession, I have become aware of the fact that notwithstanding the fact that I’m a “cradle” Catholic, I’ve been largely sleep walking through my faith life, paying insufficient attention to the details of our faith. When asked, I describe Catholicism as a lifelong Pilgrimage of prayer and discipline. Its best to stay awake in the Lord while walking “the way”, otherwise you’re likely to stub your toe. I’ve managed to stub all ten! It isn’t an easy trip, but neither is it without its joys. I continue to pray for one and all of us “on the way”.

  6. The Masked Chicken says:

    What do you do if you’ve made either an invalid confession (or more) in the past because of improper words of absolution or merely confessing tendencies. There is no way to recover the original information. Ecclesia supplet does not apply, apparently. Given the number of odd confessions reported in posts like these, I just wonder some can do when they have the realization that their confessions haven’t been valid.

    The Chicken

  7. Imrahil says:

    Confess anew, of course.

    Just as if the thing had not taken place at all. We are absolved for forgotten sins, after all. I would not doubt that if the sins have actually already been confessed to a priest who failed to give proper absolution (a rare thing, though; “I absolve you” suffices and stutters or ad-libbed insertions even in there do not hinder), the urge to remember is a bit less pressing than otherwise… anyway the general principle holds that we have to confess all sins we remember, and must not willfully decide not to remember one.

    Confessing tendencies could only hurt in being an abuse of a sacrament, and for some reasons or other I do not think this danger is imminent. If however, for a reason and without scrupulosity even here, someone thinks he really has abused the Sacrament, then the plain thing to do is to Confess in a valid Confession “I abused the Sacrament of Penance by merely confessing tendencies and no sins and inducing the priest to give me an invalid absolution”.

    Confessing tendencies alongside with sins does not hurt validity (though it might annoy the priest, take away time, and be disadvantageous in other ways).

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    The reason I asked is because I can’t believe that I am the only one to have had things like this happen. There was a priest I know of who actually (if I understood correctly) said during a homily that as people become more advanced in the spiritual life they start to confess tendencies. That can be misinterpreted to mean confessing only tendencies. I’ve also had a few priests substitute their own words of absolution. Some, I’ve corrected in the confessional. Some, I was either too shocked to say anything or didn’t realize that the words were invalid. Years later, when I realized what happened, what could I do? Fortunately, these incidents are rare and I have confidence in most priests, but, I think we all must pray for those who will hear our confessions and especially that the sacrament will become better known, understood, and appreciated by the laity, who, more often than not these days, are totally unaware of what they or the priests are doing.

    The Chicken

  9. Torpedo1 says:

    Fr. Z,
    thank you for this post today. I’ve had a very busy week and was planning on going to Confession tomorrow afternoon, but I had forgotten about going and your post reminded me that I indeed had to go. This is a very good reminder because it forces me to reexamin my conscience and that’s a good thing for me because I’m scrupulous. thanks for this and I’m praying for everyone who has to go and who is afraid. I know it’s scary, but your guardian angel is with you and so is Christ. He is with us in our fear and suffering and we can rely on him. We can also rely on our Blessed Lady. She’s with us too and they all want us to make a good Confession and be whole again. So go, even though you’re afraid… It’ll be all right.

  10. LouiseA says:

    Dear Deus Salus Nostra,
    Yes, prayers for you!

  11. APX says:

    Masked Chicken,

    What those priests are referring to as “tendencies” might be what’s often referred to as “imperfections”, which can be broken down into voluntary or involuntary. Since cutting out all sin in our life (both mortal and venial), is only the beginning of the spiritual life, it is true that those who advance in their spiritual life no longer have sins to confess and will confess voluntary imperfections in order to receive the sacramental graces to root them out as well. However, absolution is 0nly valid for sin, so the penitent must confess at least one sin from their past life that happened after Baptism.

    There is no doubt in my mind that some people might go to confession and it comes out something along the lines with this:

    “Bless me Father, I have sinned. It’s been a month since my last confession. Since that time I got mad and yelled at my husband, and then he yelled at me and kicked the dog and started swearing. You know, Father, sometimes I really struggle to be a good wife and I have a tendency to nag my husband because he can be so clueless sometimes. Like last week when he…

    [20 Minutes Later]

    So you see Father, my husband…But maybe he has a point because I sometimes have a tendency to talk too much and struggle to not ramble…

    [10 Minutes Later]

    For these and all the sins of my past life I’m sorry and ask for absolution.

  12. St. Epaphras says:

    Masked Chicken,

    I would try to contact or see a really traditional priest such as FSSP re. the confessions with invalid absolutions and so forth. If you yourself had done something deliberately or semi-deliberately (with knowledge of what you were doing, of course) to make the confession(s) bad, you would go back in time to your last good confession and confess all mortal sins since that time in kind and number and also the sacraments you received unworthily after that bad confession and bring it up to the present. Since it was the priests’ doings, I don’t know, but some very knowledgeable priest (I’m biased toward the FSSP) will be able to help you and will want to help you. An FSSP priest helped me know what to do in a sticky situation and I shall be forever grateful to him. He went past the second mile. But I would do something about it soon and not wait. The peace is worth it.

  13. Imrahil says:

    Dear @APX,

    short correction: While it’s true we have to make a stand against all sin, I think it is dogmatized somewhere and it is in the Bible somewhere (letters of St. John?), that not supposing very special graces (of the sort we can, for all practical purposes, count as not given), we will nevertheless happen to fall back into at least venial sin, every now and then.

    Note that I do not deduce that from my own life. It is true about it, but I have no right to not assume that all the others are not dimensions better…

    No doubt these sins will fall into the category of what you call voluntary imperfections. The distinction between a really mere imperfection and a venial sin is, at any rate, an interesting one.

    Probably it is just like this, that in the category of 1. specially grievous mortal sins, 2. mortal sins, 3. venial sins, 4. voluntary imperfections, 5. involuntary imperfections, we can safely distinguish always leaving one number out (i. e. mortal sin from an imperfection, etc.), but not at the immediate boundary (i. e. a venial sin from an imperfection, etc.)

  14. Springkeeper says:

    I am a bit taken aback by #8. How can you “confess” someone else’s sins? Isn’t that just another way to tattle-tail?

  15. Jeannie_C says:

    I thought about #8 as well, came to the conclusion it would mean if during Confession I tried to justify my sin due to responding to another person’s sin against me. i.e. I would not have said or acted uncharitably had the other person not ___. I am responsible for my own sins, no matter how provoked.

  16. VexillaRegis says:

    Springkeeper: That’s called “venting”, and APX gives a very good example of what some people (mostly women), say at coffee breaks at work or babble about with their friends (minus the absulution frase). Sigh. So, when confessing, just say “I yelled at my husband, and I shouldn’t have done that.”

    Vexilla, not neutr. plur., but female.

  17. PatB says:

    Springkeeper: Yes, it’s another way to tattle-tale, so that’s why you don’t do it. You just say what you did, not what another person did to provoke it.

    APX: Nobody gets to the point where they don’t sin. The venial sins may be few and far between, but they are there.

    I was a visitor at a parish mission this week, and the mission-priest/confessor didn’t get into the “box” until there was a line. He just sat in the narthex waiting for people to line up. Then he popped in and out of the confessional like a jack-in-the box. Needless to say, those who wanted to be anonymous ended up not going to confession. I’ve never seen such behavior before, as I usually go to confession only in my parish. I hope this is not the new normal in the wider Catholic world.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    “If you yourself had done something deliberately or semi-deliberately (with knowledge of what you were doing, of course) to make the confession(s) bad, you would go back in time to your last good confession and confess all mortal sins since that time in kind and number and also the sacraments you received unworthily after that bad confession and bring it up to the present. Since it was the priests’ doings, I don’t know, but some very knowledgeable priest (I’m biased toward the FSSP) will be able to help you and will want to help you.”

    Whether it might be an invalid confession due to improper formula of absolution or confessing tendencies instead of sins, in many cases, it is impossible to confess anything like an accurate number because of the years since the original incidences and not even remembering how many times they happened or if they happened (after a point, imagination supplies where memory fails). I go to confession, basically, once a week. That is over a thousand confessions. Did I only mention tendencies in two of them or five or any? One can confess tendencies, as long as one also confesses the number of times that those tendencies became real sins. Invalid absolutions? A priest in college did it once so egregiously that I made him do it, again, but did he do it earlier, but not so bad, so it slipped under my radar?

    How am I to know these things? I’m not overly scrupulous, but it would be devastating to know that all current confessions are invalid because of past circumstances, largely beyond one’s knowledge and control. Ignorance comes to the defense, I think, because if one makes a non-imputable invalid confession, it becomes, essentially, like forgetting to mention the sins at the next confession (because you on’t know you should). The non-confessed sins are forgiven, but must be confessed if you realize that they haven’t been auricularly confessed, previously, but unless that happens, they are, nevertheless, forgiven. God does not ask the impossible.

    The Chicken

  19. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Chicken,

    if you forgot the sin, then do not confess it (obviously…). If you forgot the number, confess the calculated frequency. If you have no clue about the frequency, say “I do not know how often”.

    On that other topic,
    viz. justifying or, appropriately speaking, semi-justifying one’s sins, I’d not be inclined to say this is generally forbidden. There is something to be said for mentioning mitigating (and worsifying) circumstances. The Church is not the Armed Forces with its “do not excuse yourself” policy; God knows all our heart.

    Frankly, in some cases we must mention the other’s sin because it entirely changes the nature of the sin. It is a difference as day and night if we deliberately insult a person in calmness, on the one hand, or on the other hand repeal an invective with an invective in heated emotions.

    I think the distinction is the more difficult one about what is describing a circumstance and what is going off in rant, gossip and grumbling at others.

  20. Fr. Z.: Has it been a while since you have made a good confession?
    It has been 2 weeks – but I’m going again tomorrow. Face to face (I only confess that way). Thank you for the constant reminder and encouragement, Fr. Z.

    Deus Salus Nostra, prayers for you – may the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance be a source of strength for you; and may your first occasion be a profound encounter with Our Lord!

  21. MikeM says:

    Masked Chicken,
    In that case, you should make a real effort to recall all that you can. It’s important that we make a serious examination of conscience and are forthcoming in the Confessional, but the Sacrament is not a memory test. God does not want to keep us away from Him… an earnestly forgotten sin is not an eternal death sentence.

  22. Joe in Canada says:

    Once, through various circumstances, I heard confessions of a large Italian group for over 3 hours, mostly in Italian. I started knowing no Italian, I ended with the phrase “mio sposo” beat into my brain.

    I would add 21) don’t change your own words to “thank you Father” at the end; stick to “thanks be to God.”

  23. St. Epaphras says:

    Masked chicken,
    My suggestion to talk to a good traditional priest about all the confusing issues was for your peace of mind and “in case” you even have to do anything to straighten things out. About going back in time and then making a good general confession: some people have to do that but when you speak with a priest you trust he will let you know if that is you or not. Sounds like the absolutions would be the problem if there is one. I don’t like confusion when it’s something that important, so I suggested you get with the soul expert and find out for sure. God never expects us to do what we cannot. Anyway I am sorry if it seemed I meant you with my mention of penitents who made bad confessions due to their own fault and they knew it. It seems that anymore many people don’t know that they can’t just mention the serious stuff they deliberately failed to say during a previous confession at some future confession. Instead they must backtrack and start over from their last good confession. That is why I brought it up — more as a “to whom it may concern” sort of thing. Even if you were told by a priest that you needed to do that, the Holy Spirit would help you and so would the priest. We do the best we can and God knows if we are sincere and not omitting anything on purpose. He knows our intentions. Better to sort it out with an expert and then enjoy the peace of knowing that’s taken care of. Thank God for holy priests and for the Seal. God is so good to us. God bless you.

  24. JacobWall says:

    Thank you Fr. Z!
    A while back, I was looking for those PDFs from Fr. Finigan! As it turns out, I had one bookmarked in my computer. I’m not sure why I couldn’t find it. I appreciate your guide to a good confession as well.
    I’m very thankful that, although our small parish that only has Mass on Sundays and the priest comes from another nearby parish, he has offered to hear confessions before or after Mass if anyone requests it. It has made a big difference in helping me go to confession more often.

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