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Five Steps for a Good Confession
After examining your conscience and telling God of your sorrow, go into the confessional. You may kneel at the screen or sit to talk face-to-face with the priest.
Begin your confession with the sign of the cross, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was _______ weeks (months, years) ago."
Say the sins that you remember. Start with the one(s) that is most difficult to say. (In order to make a good confession the faithful must confess all mortal sins, according to kind and number.) After confessing all the sins you remember since your last good confession, you may conclude by saying, "I am sorry for these and all the sins of my past life."
Listen to the words of the priest. He will assign you some penance. Doing the penance will diminish the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. When invited, express some prayer of sorrow or Act of Contrition such as:
An Act of Contrition: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.
At the End of Confession: Listen to the words of absolution, the sacramental forgiveness of the Church through the ordained priest.
As you listen to the words of forgiveness you may make the sign of the cross with the priest. If he closes by saying, "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good," answer, "For His mercy endures forever."
After Confession: Give thanks to God for forgiving you again. If you recall some serious sin you forgot to tell, rest assured that it has been forgiven with the others, but be sure to confess it in your next Confession.
Do your assigned Penance.
Resolve to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation often. We Catholics are fortunate to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is the ordinary way for us to have our sins forgiven. This sacrament is a powerful help to get rid of our weaknesses, grow in holiness, and lead a balanced and virtuous life.
Q. What is a mortal sin?
A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a mortal sin as follows:
"Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him." (C.C.C. # 1855)
"Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the Sacrament of Confession." (C.C.C. # 1856)
"Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the private of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance of God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." (C.C.C. # 1861)
"To choose deliberately - that is, both knowing it and willing it - something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death." (C.C.C. # 1874)
Q. What is a venial sin?
A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a venial sin as follows:
"Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it." (To "subsist" means to "exist.") (C.C.C. # 1855)
"Venial sin constitutes a moral disorder that is reparable by charity, which it allows to subsist in us." (C.C.C. # 1875)
"One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law,or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent." (C.C.C. #. 1862)
"Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God's grace it is humanly reparable. 'Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.'" (C.C.C. # 1863)
Q. What is the difference between a mortal sin and a venial sin?
A. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must exist at the same time.
1. It must be of a grave matter;
2. It must be committed with full knowledge that it is a mortal sin;
3. It must be committed with full consent. [Full consent means to do it "voluntarily."] (C.C.C. # 1857)