We are all sinners and in need of God's forgiveness. In the sacrament of Penance, we meet Christ in the person of the priest, ready and eager to absolve us and restore us to new life. We confess our sins to God through his minister, the priest, who absolves us in the name of Christ.
This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in His capacity as the Son of Man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6). After His resurrection, Jesus passed on His mission to forgive sins to His ministers, telling them: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21). Since it is not possible to confess all of the numerous daily or venial faults people commit, we know that sacramental reconciliation is required only for grave or mortal sins – but it is required, or Christ would not have commanded the sacrament.
For forgiveness of sins, three acts are required from the penitent as parts of the sacrament. These are contrition, confession, and satisfaction.
1. Contrition, or sincere sorrow for having offended God, is the most important act of the penitent. There can be no forgiveness of sin if we do not have sorrow and a firm resolve not to repeat our sin.
2. Confession, the confronting of our sins in a profound way to God, by speaking about them aloud to the priest.
3. Satisfaction, an important part of our healing, is the penance the priest imposes on the penitent in reparation for one's sins.
Confession is not difficult, but it does require preparation. We should begin with prayer, placing ourselves in the presence of God, our loving Father. We seek healing and forgiveness through repentance and a resolve to sin no more. Then we review our lives since our last confession, searching our thoughts, words, and actions that did not conform to God's love, to His law (the Ten Commandments), or to the laws of the Church. This is called an examination of conscience.
Recall your sins. Calmly ask yourself what you have done with full knowledge and full consent against God's and the Church's Commandments.
* Do I pray to God every day? Have I thanked God for His gifts to me?
* Did I put my faith in danger through readings hostile to Catholic teachings or by involvement in non-Catholic sects? Did I engage in superstitious practices: palm-reading or fortune telling?
* Did I take the name of God in vain? Did I curse, or take a false oath?
* Did I miss Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation through my own fault? Am I attentive at Mass ?
* Did I disobey my parents and lawful superiors in important matters?
* Did I hate or quarrel with anyone, or desire revenge? Did I refuse to forgive? Was I disrespectful ?
* Did I get drunk? Did I take illicit drugs? Did I consent to, recommend, advise, or actively take part in an abortion?
* Did I willfully look at indecent pictures or watch immoral movies? Did I read immoral books or magazines? Did I engage in impure jokes or conversations? Did I willfully entertain impure thoughts or commit impure acts, alone or with others? Did I use artificial means to prevent conception?
* Did I steal or damage another's property? Have I been honest in my business relations?
* Did I tell lies? Did I sin by calumny, or detraction, of others? Did I judge others rashly in serious matters?
* Have I envied other people?
Begin your confession by making the Sign of the Cross as you say: "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was (state how many weeks, months or years)." Confess all of your sins to the priest.
The priest will help you make a good confession. If you are unsure about how to confess or you feel uneasy, just ask him to help you. Answer his questions without hiding anything out of fear or shame. Place your trust in God, a merciful Father who wants to forgive you. The priest will assign you a penance and then, acting in the person of Christ, will then absolve you from your sins: "Your sins are forgiven, go in peace." Perform the penance you were assigned by the Priest.