“Let’s go to the movies this afternoon.” Otherwise…


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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


  1. Priam1184 says:

    Very good and helpful list Father, thank you. From the perspective of a penitent I would only add one thing. If, while you are waiting patiently in line, the most random thoughts start coming into your brain (especially if you haven’t been to Confession in a while) about why you should be anywhere else besides heading toward the Confessional, even doing seemingly holy things, then repeat these words over and over again in your mind:

    Ave Maria gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
    Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus
    fructus ventris tui Iesus. Sancta Maria
    Mater Dei ora pro nobis peccatoribus
    nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

  2. Faith says:

    Why can’t he go to Confession after the movies? He’ll probably have to then, anyway.

  3. APX says:

    I used to tell my parents that I was either:
    a) Going to a friend’s house
    b) Meeting up with someone

    Neither of which were lies. I never wanted to tell my parents I was going to confession because they’re the types who would assume I committed a mortal sin and it would go downhill from there with the gossip.

  4. Robert of Rome says:

    Thanks for this post, Fr. Z. It never gets old.

  5. vetusta ecclesia says:

    I liked the reaction of the priest who, asked about his reaction to hearing of people’s sins, said that in confession he saw good people trying to be better

  6. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Faith, I disagree with your second sentence. What makes you assume he would?

  7. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Mom used to keep an appointment calendar on the the refrigerator door, on which she noted our doctor and dentist appointments, PTA nights, special events, and while we were in grade school, she noted in the “Saturday” boxes, the initials of those of us who had gone to Confession that afternoon.

    It was up to each of us to receive this Sacrament regularly, but we knew Mom kept track, because if more than a month had gone by since we had made our last Confession, she would remind us. Once. And that was all that was needed.

    Once we were in high school, it was up to us to keep track of ourselves.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Mom had given birth to twins, and named them Edward and Sara. When the time came for them to prepare to make their first confession, Sara confided to Mom that she couldn’t think of any sins to confess. Sara was silent for a moment, then announced, “I’ll ask Edward! He’ll know!”

  8. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    Couldn’t you have said that you were going to your BEST friend’s house?



  9. Bedens says:

    “10) …use a regular formula for confession so that it is familiar and comfortable;”

    I went to Confession this past summer at a local monastery and a visiting priest was in the Confessional. I was going along with my familiar and comfortable formula when he unexpectedly opened the glass partition halfway and passed over a handout to me (On Examination of Conscience and going to Confession) published by his order. Evidently there was a response on it that he wanted me to say and he instructed me about how I was to say it. The friars who are normally in the confessional never require this so I wasn’t familiar with this procedure. It was no big deal, really, but it threw me and I had trouble concentrating from then on out. This is the second time a priest has opened the partition during my Confession, the other time was to hand me a prayer booklet. :)

  10. APX says:

    No, that would have brought on suspicion and excessive questioning and interrogation.

  11. ASPM Sem says:

    Ah, the good old Baltimore Catechism. Need to see more of that these days!

  12. O. Possum says:

    I just received two copies of that Catechism for my wife and I to use as “Cliff Notes” as we go through RCIA. Those old red and white cartoons are just awesome. :D

  13. SebastianHvD says:

    Ad point 4: The more traditional the church, the flimsier the confessional. Sometimes it’s two boards in T-shape, so you’re basically confessing out in the open. I challenge anyone to “…speak distinctly but never so loudly that we might be overheard” in these cubicles. You better choose a time where NOBODY is in the church (Actually, the hours of confession qualify in that respect…). And even if I do my best, the priest will give his feedback alta voce, I can just hope he doesn’t reference my sins in any detail… [How did anyone in the Old World ever survive?]
    A couple of years back, in Peru, where I volunteered in a missionary order, my job as an altar boy was herding the parishioners away from the confessionals, which was difficult considering how densely packed the church was: You had to hum in order not to be in on everything that was being said. Doesn’t the seal include an obligation on behalf of the priest to make sure the confessional is sound proofed? [Alas, it does not.]

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