Before going to confession, remember to never bring your phone in the confessional (as a phone even in airplane-mode may be hacked by the government or another enemy.) Rather, write out your sins on a piece of paper that you may wish to bring into the confessional. Then, begin your confession by saying to the priest your state in life (married, single, priest religious) and then say how long it’s been since your last confession (one week, one month, one year, etc.). Say, “I accuse myself of the following sins…” as you keep in mind the traditional Four C’s of Making a Good Confession:
- Clear. Someone recently told me about an account in Fr. FX Shouppe’s book The Dogma of Hell where a penitent purposefully obfuscated his confession of a mortal sin and ultimately went to hell for it being considered an unconfessed sin. Look—we priests have heard every sin under the sun. You will not shock us. We believe the one thing greater than your ability to sin is our heavenly Father’s ability to forgive you. So, there is no need to confess your sins in an unclear or tricky or coded manner. Just say the sin clearly, even if it’s embarrassing. If you don’t play games or use ambiguous parlance to confess your sins, you will leave with a clear conscience. And it might save your soul.
- Complete. As I have explained before, the Church only requires you to name and number your mortal sins. The Catholic numbers these sins not to be numbered not in order to be legalistic, but because Christ did penance for each one of our sins during his horrendous Passion. Christ did penance for our sins not only in general, but specifically. Thus, we number our mortal sins. That is the main thing a Catholic must remember when confessing his or her sins to a priest in the sacrament of confession. If you don’t know the difference between a mortal sin and venial sin, one thing that might help is this blog of mine on those which are frequently-forgotten mortal-sins.
- Concise. As traditional Catholics, we do not believe the sacrament of penance is a therapy session. Just name and number your sins and get out. Well, before that, listen to a couple sentences of advice of your priest. Then, remember the penance he gives you. Try to have perfect contrition (sorrow) for your sins as he grants you absolution. The key is this when you enter the confessional: Do not turn confession into a chatty-cathy session or a confess-your-husband’s sins session or an event of protracted spiritual direction on where to bring your cats for declawing (or whatever) when there’s a line of twenty other people behind you.
- Contrite. First, do not make any excuses for your sins in the confessional box. Secondly, remember that old-school catechisms hold that contrition for sins (sorrow for sins for having crucified Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who loves us beyond measure) is the most important aspect of the major aspects of confession. This might sound surprising to even traditional Catholics who believe absolution is the most important part. But we are confessing our sins through the priest to Christ who died for us. And because Christ is a person (yes, a Divine Person) and not a robot, He expects us to put our heart into the confession as He put His Sacred Heart on the line during the crucifixion to be pierced for you and me in great love. The Church has always seen a great sorrow for sins as the greatest fuel for ensuring firm resolution of amendment to “go and sin no more.” As you leave, do not have a plan to hop-scotch in and out of grace, but rather remember that the Church holds that those returning to their old mortal sins is tantamount to crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt.—Heb 6:6