ASK FATHER: Making a General Confession

From a reader…


Watching the signs of our times and considering my life, I feel God is calling me to make a general Confession. So I set the date for next Tuesday, but I am in need of some resources. Could you explain how to make a good general Confession or send me a link to someone who has already written about it? I have three small children, so I don’t have time to make an Ignatian retreat over the weekend.

A “general confession” involves reviewal of an confession of all the serious sins of one’s life or of a long period of time rather than just the all mortal sins in kind and number since one’s last confession.   A general confession is often made before a big move in one’s life.

It is not as if those previously confessed sins need to be absolved again.  It is helpful for us, to know ourselves better, where we have been in life, to make a review, especially reflecting on God’s goodness and mercy.

A general confession isn’t to be made all that often.  And definitely – because it takes a while – don’t hold up a confessional line.  Make an appointment if possible.

You can use a good written examination of conscience to prepare.  One of the best that I know of is from my good friend Fr. Tim Finigan.   It is detailed enough, but not overly detailed. It is available online: HERE


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gregg the Obscure says:

    i highly recommend the general confession. my first confession on my entrance into the Church 20 years ago was a fiasco. RCIA insisted we do these at the big Lenten parish reconciliation service. the RCIA boss insisted i had to confess to one particular priest who was hearing confessions face-to-face in the sanctuary, so i was the very last one. everyone else involved in RCIA – including my wife – was nearby in what was by then a quiet room. that priest was hard of hearing. i didn’t get to “the big stuff” before he started his counsel. ten years later – largely thanks to Fr. Z – i made a general confession including mentioning the most serious sins in kind and estimated number. the Capuchins in Colorado Springs (90 minute drive away) maintain a ministry where they are available for confessions about ten hours a day Mon-Sat. it was a transformative experience that took the better part of an hour.

  2. Julia_Augusta says:

    I made my general confession in 2017 after 40 yrs away from the Catholic Church. How to confess the sins of 40 years? There are probably one or two major classes of sins that you have. Is it impurity? avarice? Start with the one major type of sin that you’ve committed over and over, and try to think of all the times you have committed those sins. Get a piece of paper and write them down. I’m a bit of a geek, so I created an Excel spreadsheet with the seven major types of sins in column, and then listed all the sins I could remember under each type. There’s nothing like an Excel spreadsheet to reveal to you just how terrible you’ve been. Think about it for a few days and add more sins that you remember into the spreadsheet. Pray to Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. Mary Magdalene for a good memory of your sins. Make an appointment with the priest and tell him you are making a general confession so he can allocate an hour or more to you. Print out your spreadsheet and voila! Go to your general confession. You have to tell the priest each type of sin and their number and if you have particular terrible sins that weigh on your conscience, you can elaborate on those. Afterwards you’ll feel better. But remember to go to Confession often. I recommend once a week so you develop a habit of making an examination of conscience every night, and you are very vigilant about your sins.

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