on making a Good Confession
The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni
THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
If you wish to make a good Mission you must receive the Sacrament of Penance worthily. This is an important part of your Mission. You have been bound by sin, and desire to be loosed from the chains which bind. When you feel the desire to be loosed from sin, God is calling you. If you wish to go to Him, raise up your heart in fervent prayer. You must earnestly ask God’s help.
Many sacrilegious Confessions and Communions may be traced to the fact that a soul confides too much in self, and not in the help of God. Men and women come into the confessional without the least preparation, after having been engaged in useless conversation on the street up to the moment of entering the Church. Others spend their time idly gazing around the church. This does not happen often, but it should never happen; and those who do so show that they do not realize the sanctity of the action, which they are about to perform.
The priest is the ambassador of Jesus Christ. Christ has placed in him the power of reconciliation. The priest is sent even as our Lord was sent, by the Father. How can he exercise that wonderful ministry of reconciliation if you neglect to do your part in seeking to be united to God in the Sacrament of Penance.
For this union you must pray, have sorrow for your sins, examine your conscience, confess your sins to the priest, make a firm resolve and promise satisfaction.
PREPARATION WITH PRAYER
1) Try to start your confession with the Rosary and dedicate it that God may give you the grace to make a good, humble, sincere and worthy Confession. We never know when God could call us home, and we must show we care about the Holy Trinity and the state our souls are in by always making a good confession. Always keep in mind that this life is only 70-80 years long (If you are lucky). After that we are judged. God wants all his children to go to Heaven, but all of us reject his love through sin at some point, and many of us unfortunately reject His forgiveness through the holy sacrament of Confession. Life is not about this world, but the next. Remember- God does not put us in Hell, we put ourselves in Hell. God wants us to be in love with Him and out of His love, we then have the opportunity to return that love during our lives by living by the guidelines God has given us. If we choose to travel down the path God has provided, we can then live forever with Him in Heaven. It is difficult to be in this world and live for God, but anything worth doing should be hard, and nothing is more important than our eternal salvation. Loving on faith is very intense, but Our Lord has given us the tools to live a holy and virtuous life and the graces are there waiting for you. All you have to do is simply ask for them or receive them through the sacraments, like Confession and the Holy Eucharist.
2) Pray pious Catholic prayers in preparation Confession.
No matter how well you examine your conscience, how exactly you count your sins, how clearly you tell them, all will be useless, without a true sorrow of heart for having offended God.
You must have sorrow for your sins. As there is a difference between joy that is true, and that which is put on for effect – so, too, with sorrow; one is from the heart and the other a pretense. Sorrow of heart is necessary for the pardon of sins in Confession.
There are two kinds of sorrow. The first arises from a pure love of God. Knowing how good, how loving, how tender a Father we have offended by our sins, knowing all that He has done and suffered for us, we are grieved to the very heart that we have offended Him. This is perfect contrition. Imperfect contrition arises from fear of God’s judgment and from a knowledge of the baseness of sin and of its evil effects on the soul. This latter is true sorrow, but not perfect like the first. United with confession, with a determination to amend the past, and with the absolution of the priest, imperfect contrition will justify the sinner; but you should always endeavor to have perfect sorrow for your sins. This sorrow can be acquired by prayer and meditation. “You must earnestly ask it of God, and make use of such meditations and considerations as will move you to it.”
SORROW FOR SIN
The sinner, wishing to receive the Sacrament of Penance must have true and sincere sorrow for his sin; he must detest it, and turn away from it in order to be reconciled with God, who it offends. Mere natural sorrow for sin because of the temporal evils which it causes is not sufficient. I may be sorry because sin has ruined my good name, or my wealth, or health, or honor in purity, but such motives are merely natural, and have no relation to God. The sinner in the Sacrament of Penance seeks reconciliation with God, and so the motives of his sorrow must have reference to God; they must be supernatural, founded on revelation and faith. Without faith no act can be of avail for salvation, as “without faith it is impossible to please God.” The sinner must regard sin as the greatest of all evils, as it is. He must be prepared to do and suffer anything rather than commit sin again. Otherwise he cannot be said to fulfill that greatest of all commandments, which bids us to love God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind.
You must know that our Lord is most desirous of giving up His graces. He is the Good Shepherd who is anxiously seeking His poor lost sheep. He is the Father of the poor, hungry, wretched child. You must also know that sin is the only enemy of God. Sin crucified our Redeemer. Sin blackens and defiles the soul, which is the temple of God. Sin robs the soul of its inheritance, the everlasting joys of Heaven, and precipitates so many into the eternal torments of hell. A soul in grace is a spouse of Jesus Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost; a soul in mortal sin, is a subject of Satan, a den of unclean spirits. A soul in grace is beautiful, like an angel; a soul in sin is poor, despoiled of all merit, a slave of the devil. Remember, mortal sin kills the soul. It is true that our souls are immortal.
The Scriptures mention a second death, which is the everlasting death of the soul in hell. Now, that death is the sequel and issue of mortal sin, for mortal sin deprives the soul of the grace of God, which is the life of the soul. How hideous is the body a few days after life has departed! You could hardly find a man willing to stay a whole night with a decomposing corpse. Yet a soul in mortal sin is infinitely more horrible. One mortal sin changed the brightest angels of God into ugly demons; so ugly, that the sight of one deformed spirit would be enough to strike you dead. What, then, must be the terrible deformity of that man’s soul who is guilty of many mortal sins! We read in the life of St. Catherine of Siena, that God permitted her to see a soul in sin; and she declared that, had she not been upheld and strengthened by God, she would instantly have died from fright and horror.
Sin is an infinite evil. God alone knows the enormity of sin. Hence to have true sorrow for sin, you must ask God to give it to you; and that you may be moved to greater fervor in doing so, meditate on the Passion of our Lord. For in the Victim of Calvary we see, the enormity of sin that required such atonement; the justice of God that required such satisfaction; the love of our Lord Who endured so much for us; the ingratitude of men who hardly ever think of all that Jesus Christ suffered in order to save them from the punishment they deserve for their sins.
WHAT IS AN EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
During your conservations with God through prayer, you came to know your real self. He has given you strength and courage. The Holy Ghost has enlightened the soul. Reflect how you stand before God. Take account of your soul. Think about your sins since your last Confession. This is making an examination of conscience. The neglect of examination of conscience is a source of sacrilegious Confessions. It is owing to carelessness on the part of some, indifference on the part of others, and ignorance on the part of a third class. Generally those who hasten to the confessional without asking God to give them grace to make a good Confession, begin to accuse themselves without any previous examination. They never try to COUNT THEIR SINS. Many do not show themselves to the priest, as our Lord tells them. They either hide their guilty conscience, or they show themselves in false colors. They do not examine their conscience. They do not count their sins. The following is an example of a confession made without an examination of conscience.
An example. Here is a man, for instance, who has been away from confession for five years: -
Confessor – When are you at confession last?
Penitent – A long time ago.
C. – How long?
P. – Oh, several years.
C. – Please tell me, as near as you can, how long it is.
P. – It’s so long, Father, it’s hard for me to tell.
C. – Is it one year, or two or five or ten years?
P. – Well, it’s about five years.
See what questions the priest asked before he told him. Why did he not say five years at once? But listen:–
Confessor – What sins have you committed since then?
Penitent – A great many.
C. – Have you cursed?
P. – I have.
C. – How often, and what did you say?
P. – Oh, not very often.
C. – About how many times a day did you take the Holy Name of Jesus in vain?
P. – Some days a good many times, and other days not at all.
C. – Please, my child, tell the number of times you committed each sin, and do not keep me waiting.
P. – Well, I cursed and swore, told lies, missed Mass, had bad thoughts, and got angry sometimes; that’s all, Father.
Such a Confession is not clear enough. It is too general. It is a most imperfect confession. How can the priest form a correct judgment of the state of such a man’s soul? The priest must form a just judgment before he passes sentence, otherwise God will not ratify his decision. The penitent alone is the only accuser, the witness against himself. If he does not tell the truth, how can the priest rightly tell the condition of his soul? In the example given the penitent says, “I cursed,” but does not tell the whole truth. He does not say whether it was once, twice, ten or one hundred times a day. Again, he does not tell the curses he used. He does not say whether, in cursing, he invoked God, or Christ, or the sacred Name of Jesus. How, then, can the priest have any knowledge of the curses and oaths which that man has vomited forth, when he only hears, “Father, I cursed.” The again he says, “Father, I missed Mass.” He does not tell the priest how often, whether it was once in a month or once in six months, whether he could help it or not. He says, too, that he has had bad thoughts, but he gives no intimation that he took pleasure in them; he does not tell how often that was the case, and so on. If he absolves that man without a knowledge of his soul, he runs the danger of committing a terrible sacrilege himself.
How are you to examine your conscience? THINK ABOUT YOUR SINS.
Examine your conscience:
1. On the Ten Commandments of God.
2. On the Commandments of the Church.
3. On the particular duties of your state of life.
4. On the Seven Deadly Sins.
And consider where in and how often you have offended God by thought, word, deed, or omission. REMEMBER ALWAYS TO COUNT YOUR SINS. There are certain words never to be used in the confessional. Never say sometimes, a good many times, not often, very often. Never use such expressions, because they are all vague, indefinite terms; they do not give the priest any idea of the exact number of one’s sins. Tell what you said, and how many times you said it. Tell what you did, and the number of times you did it. If you cannot give the exact number, give it as nearly as you can. Tell about how often. God does not require impossibilities. Doing the best you can, you need have no fear of telling a lie. To come as nearly as you can to the number is not lying. It is all you can do. But if you find this too difficult, because you have been absent from Confession a long time, then give an average number of the sins you have committed daily or weekly or monthly. Put one day or one week or one month with another, and see about how often in a day or in the week or in the month you have been in the habit of committing each sin. Moreover, have some system in examining yourself and in telling your sins. Follow the order of the commandments. Separate your different sins, one kind from another, and count how many you have of each. Act like a man who has a quantity of money of different denominations. He separates the different pieces according to their value, and, counting each kind, soon knows the value of the whole.
If a person cannot read let some one read the Examine of Conscience for him. Remember you must COUNT YOUR SINS before going to confession.
EXAMINE OF CONSCIENCE
I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
|I denied, or doubted my faith||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I murmured against God||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I despaired of His mercy||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I missed my daily prayers||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I went to places of false worship||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I talked against the Church, priests, or faith||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I went to fortune tellers||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I was dealing with the occult-i.e. Ouija Board||_____ Times a week, or month|
|I was guilty of superstitious practices||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I was guilty of excessive materialism||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I was guilty of malice (deliberate choice of evil)||_____ Times a week, or month|
|I read books contrary to faith||_____ Times a week, or month.|
In counting your sins, if you cannot give the exact number, average, tell as nearly as you can, about how often you have committed each.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
|I swore by name of God (Blasphemy)||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I swore by name of Jesus (Blasphemy)||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I cursed others by saying: God damn you||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I cursed my children and wife||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I cursed in the hearing of the young||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I perjured myself by swearing falsely in court||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I took rash and unnecessary oaths||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I provoked others to curse||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I did not prevent cursing when I could and should||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I spoke against saints, holy things and pious practices.||_____ Times a week, or month.|
Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath Day.
|I missed Mass on Sunday & Holydays through my fault||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I spent a great part of these days in sinful occupations||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I was late for Mass by my own fault||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I kept my wife, children or employees from Mass||_____ Times a week, or month.|
|I assisted at Mass with willful distractions||_____ Times a week, or month.|
I engaged in servile works on Sunday and
Holydays without necessity
|_____ Times a week, or month.|
Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother.
1. Duty of Children
|I disobeyed my parents/teachers/leaders in important matters||_____ Times a day, or week.|
|I caused them to be angry: I grieved them||_____ Times a day, or week.|
|I used insulting language to them||_____ Times a day, or week.|
|I kept or wasted my wages I should have given to them||_____ Times|
|I did not support them||_____ Times|
|I incited my brothers and sisters against them||_____ Times|
|I neglected to write them, or send them help||_____ Months _____ years|
|I neglected them in sickness, in death||
_____ Months _____ years
2. Duties of Husbands and Fathers
|I grieved, abused, struck my wife||_____ Times|
|I accused her wrongfully||_____ Times|
|I neglected to provide for my family||_____ Times|
|I gave my children bad example||_____ Times|
|I failed to correct their faults||_____ Times|
|I neglected to instruct them in religion||_____ Times|
|I interfered with their religious vocation||_____ Times|
3. Duties of Wives and Mothers
|I disobeyed my husband||_____ Times.|
|I caused my children to disobey and dishonor him||_____ Times.|
|I talked of his faults to my children or neighbors||_____ Times.|
|I neglected to correct my children||_____ Times.|
|I gave them bad example||_____ Times.|
|I did not instruct them in their religion||_____ Times.|
|I interfered with their religious vocation||_____ Times.|
Under this commandment masters and mistresses, employers and employees should examine themselves on their respective duties.
Thou shalt not kill.
|I was angry||_____ Times.|
|I caused others to become angry||_____ Times.|
|I was quarreling or fighting||_____ Times.|
|I desired the death of others||_____ Times.|
|I cherished hatred to others||_____ Times.|
|I've used or approved of artificial birth control||_____ Times.|
|I refused to speak or to be reconciled to others||_____ Times.|
|I caused the death of another by negligence||_____ Times.|
|I brought dishonor to family, school, community, or the Church||_____ Times.|
|I have been guilty of detraction (telling an unkind truth about another)||_____ Times.|
|I led others to commit sin, by word or example||_____ Times.|
|I Used illegal drugs||_____ Times.|
For physicians, parents, others, - caused, counseled, consented to abortion. Abortion is a case reserved by the Holy See to Bishops.
Sixth Commandment and Ninth Commandment
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
Here the penitent must seriously consider past thoughts, words, and actions against these commandments. If one had the misfortune to break them, one must tell whether one is single or married; whether thoughts, words, desires, or acts referred to single or married persons or relatives.
|I had premarital sex, including oral sex, intercourse, impure touching of another||_____ Persons_____ Times.|
|I took pleasure in impure thoughts||_____ Times a day.|
|I had impure desires||_____ Times a day|
|I spoke immodestly in the hearing of||_____ Persons_____ Times a day.|
|I boasted of sins of impurity||_____ Times a day_____ a week.|
|I sang or listened to immodest songs||_____ Times a day_____ a week.|
|I read immodest books, papers, or writings||_____ Times.|
|I was guilty of immodest looks||_____ Times a week|
|I kept, showed, looked at immodest pictures/pornographic material||_____ Times a week.|
|I went to immodest places of amusement||_____ Times a week.|
I was guilty of immodest acts
(See note above, and tell what these acts were)
|I committed homosexuals actions||_____ Persons_____ Times.|
|I committed immodest acts alone||_____ Times.|
|I was guilty of the sin of Onanism (masturbation, withdrawal method)||_____ Times.|
In the Book of Genesis Onan was commanded by his father to impregnate the widow of his slain brother and to raise the offspring of the union. In order to avoid raising descendants for his late brother, however, Onan engaged in coitus interruptus.
There are hidden sins known only to God and the sinner. These he must also tell, and the number of times.
Seventh Commandment and Tenth Commandment
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
|I stole goods to the amount of||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I destroyed property, defrauded insurance companies||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I took from my employers||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I stole $____ worth, but restored, though able to return all, only||$______ Worth|
|I wasted time for which I was paid work, value of||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I injured others in their employment or goods||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I neglected to pay my bills, just debts, amounting to||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I defrauded in weights and measures||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I defrauded those employed by me||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I unjustly deferred the payment of their wages||$ _____, _____ Times.|
|I desired to possess unjustly my neighbor’s goods||_____ Times.|
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
|I told lies||_____ Times.|
I seriously injured my neighbor’s character, by
publishing his secret faults
|I carried stories and caused trouble||_____ Times.|
|I told a deliberate lie to the injury of my neighbor||_____ Times.|
|I spoke without necessity of the known faults of others||_____ Times.|
|I've broken promises deliberately||_____ Times.|
|I am guilty of calumny-telling lies about one another||_____ Times.|
|I failed to defend my neighbor’s character||_____ Times.|
I encouraged detraction or calumny, or
listened to it with complacency
|I failed to make reparation for sins of tongue||_____ Times.|
Commandments of the Church
|I neglected my yearly confession and Easter Communion||_____ Times.|
|I attempted marriage contrary to the law of the Church||_____ Times.|
|I neglected, when able, to support the Church||_____ Times.|
|I ate meat on days of abstinence, without permission or necessity.||_____ Times.|
|I caused others to eat meat on days of abstinence||_____ Times.|
|I broke the fasts of the Church||_____ Times.|
|I caused others to break the fasts of the Church||_____ Times.|
The Seven Deadly Sins
|I was guilty of gluttony||_____ Times.|
|I was drunk||_____ Times.|
|I caused others to be drunk||_____ Times.|
|I gave liquor to those drunk||_____ Times.|
|I was slothful in religious exercises||_____ Times.|
|I was lazy and idle||_____ Times.|
|I was envious||_____ Times.|
|I was yearning for impure pleasures||_____ Times.|
|I have had an immoderate desire for earthly goods||_____ Times.|
|I have had an inordinate desire for revenge||_____ Times.|
|I was proud||_____ Times.|
The Four Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance
|Willful murder (including abortion)||_____ Times.|
|The sin of Sodom. (unnatural sex)||_____ Times.|
|Oppression of the poor.||_____ Times.|
|Defrauding laborers of their wages.||_____ Times.|
The Six Sins against the Holy Ghost
|Presumption of God's mercy-sinning and saying God must forgive me||_____ Times.|
|Despair-to believe that God will refuse to forgive you||_____ Times.|
|To attack as false or questioning the known truth.||_____ Times.|
|Envy at another's spiritual good||_____ Times.|
|Obstinacy in sin-refusing to stop known sinful behavior||_____ Times.|
|Final impenitence-refusing to accept God's mercy at moment of death (of course, it would be too late to confess this)||_____ Times.|
Nine Ways of being Accessory to Another's Sin
|By counsel-talking one into sin||_____ Times.|
|By command-telling one to sin||_____ Times.|
|By consent- agreeing with the sin||_____ Times.|
|By provocation- to pressure one into sin||_____ Times.|
|By praise or flattery- congratulating the sin committed by others||_____ Times.|
|By concealment- covering up the sin for another||_____ Times.|
|By partaking- approving sin by assisting in it||_____ Times.|
|By silence-by not speaking up against the sin||_____ Times.|
|By defense of the ill done- rationalizing the sin done or will be done||_____ Times.|
Also, don't forget to always confess all Venial sins that you might have committed-i.e., ingratitude, reckless driving, selfishness, rudeness etc.
For more information about Sin-Click Here
HOW TO GO TO CONFESSION
Having prepared yourself for Confession, go to your confessor with great humility and modesty, and remember that you are about to present yourself before Jesus Christ Himself, who sees the depths of you heart, and will one day judge you. If you are obliged to wait, renew your act of contrition. Regard yourself as a criminal bound with chains, who has been tried and convicted, and is called before the judge who he has insulted and offended.
When at the feet of your confessor, kneel with the greatest reverence and humility, and consider that you are at the feet of Jesus crucified, who desires to hear from your own lips a sincere Confession of all your sins, and is ready to pardon them if you really repent, and to wash you in His own absolution. Avoid all mention of your virtues or of the sins of others not pertaining to your own offences, except when, through necessity, you seek direction and advice.
Never mention the names of others in the confessional. We enter the tribunal to accuse ourselves of our own sins, not to declare our virtues or to blame others.
Then make the sign of the cross, saying, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”
Then humbly, and in a clear, intelligible voice, say how long it is since your last Confession, whether you received absolution, and whether you performed you penance. Confess your sins according to the Commandments; that is, tell first all the sins committed against the First Commandment, then those committed against the Second, and so on. Say if you frequently fall back into these sins, or if you have any attachment or occupation which leads you into temptation. Mention, also, if you have neglected to fulfill any serious obligation;-tell your confessor everything with sincerity and as clearly as possible, both that he may be able to apply the proper remedy, and that you may avoid making a bad Confession, which is easily done by the slothful and careless.
If, since your last Confession, you have committed no grave offence, you may mention some sin already confessed in the past, and include in your act of sorrow all the sins of your past life. This will serve to increase your humility, and will be fore the greater purification of your soul.
If you desire to make really good Confessions, imagine each Confession to be the last one you will ever make, and that, immediately after, you will be judged by Almighty God. Think that on this Confession may depend your salvation or damnation. Endeavor so to confess that at the hour of your death your past Confessions may not be the cause of any disquietude to you, but rather of consolation.
Listen with silence, attention, and humility to the instructions of your confessor; remark carefully the penance enjoined; and while receiving absolution, renew with all your heart your act of contrition and purpose of amendment
On leaving the confessional, excite in your heart the liveliest sentiments of consolation and confidence, hoping and rejoicing that God has forgiven your sins. Perform your penance as soon as possible, and thank God for the great favor He has granted you.
After Confession go before our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to make your thanksgiving for holy absolution. Spend at least a quarter of an hour in forming acts of praise, thanksgiving, and contrition. Our Lord delights to pour out His graces on the grateful soul. Many shamefully go home from Confession without saying one act of thanksgiving.
It is a sacrilege to make a bad Confession. To receive absolution after having made an unworthy Confession, and consequently without having the right dispositions, is to incur the guilt of sacrilege; that is, the violation of a sacred thing. A bad Confession hinders and frustrates the instrumental action of the Sacrament of Penance, and he who is guilty of it may be said thus to destroy the efficacy of the Blood of Jesus Christ; for it is in the precious Blood of our Lord, shed long ago, that souls are cleansed from sin.
Our Lord, instituted the Sacraments as so many channels through which His precious blood may be applied to souls, quickening them with and sustaining them in, a new and higher life. In Baptism, for instance, when the water flows over the head of the child, and the words are pronounced, at the same moment, in virtue of the Blood of our Lord, its soul is cleansed from sin, and it is awakened to the new life of a child of God and heir of heaven. In like manner, in the sacred tribunal of Penance, when the penitent comes properly disposed, as soon as the priest raises his hand over him and pronounces the words of absolution, through the Divine agency of the Blood of our Lord, the soul is laved and purified of all its sins, no matter how great they may be; for Christ has said, “Whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven.” But if the penitent has not the proper disposition there is a sacrilege, for the Blood of our Lord is in a manner destroyed – rendered ineffectual in that case. And, what is worse, a bad Confession is generally followed by a bad Communion. How great a crime is committed by unworthily receiving our Lord in Communion! They who do so, as St. Paul says, are guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. You have heard, perhaps of the unnatural mother who took her lovely smiling babe and buried it alive. Oh, how much greater is the crime of the bad Catholic who will bury the living Son of God in a heart foul with every crime, worse than any grave, however horrible! How will such a wretch one day answer an enraged Father for what may be called the murder of His adorable Son?
What has been said was not to terrify or keep you away from the Sacraments. God forbid! The priest does not desire to frighten people away from the table of the Lord, but to press them to come to the Feast. You know, that if you do not approach and receive Holy Communion, “you cannot have life in you;” that is, the life of the soul, the life of the children of God. Yes, go to Communion – go frequently. It will nourish and strengthen your soul. Our Lord will dwell in you; He will support you. He will sustain you in your conflicts with the devil. Remember that what has been said was only to guard you against that carelessness with which too many, alas! approach the Sacraments
It is not necessary to make a general confession during the Mission. For some, it would be profitable, and there are some to whom a general Confession is absolutely necessary; but there are others to whom it would be hurtful. First: a general Confession is useful to those who have been leading a tepid, careless life. To such persons it is often the beginning of a life of fervor. Secondly, Perry in his “Instructions.” gives eight classes of persons who are under the necessity of making a general Confession:-
1. All those who, in some past Confession, willfully concealed a mortal
sin through shame, fear, or indifference.
2. Those who, instead of having used sufficient diligence, having been grossly negligent in the examination of their conscience.
3. Those who have lived in gross and culpable ignorance of the necessary points of faith and practice.
4. Those who have confessed without sincere repentance for the past, and a firm resolution of avoiding sin, and the occasions of sin, in the future.
5. Those who continue to go to Confession while they live in the immediate occasions of sin, which they can, but will not, avoid.
6. Those who have deliberately neglected restitution when they had the power and opportunity of making it.
7. Those who lived in vicious habits without earnestly trying to overcome them.
8. Those who have (after their Confessions the same as before) continued to live in enmity, hatred and malice.
Thirdly, scrupulous persons and those who have often made general Confessions should not attempt to make a general Confession. Such persons worry the priest. They say to themselves, “Well, if I am allowed to make a general Confession now, I shall be satisfied.” But if they are allowed to make it, they will be as dissatisfied as ever.
The best proof of true sorrow is a change of life. When a man immediately falls into the sins which he has just confessed, almost without a struggle to guard against such a fall, there is reason to fear that he had no true sorrow. But when a man carefully watches over himself, tries to shun the dangerous occasions of sin, and prays fervently for graces to keep from sinning, we can reasonably hope that his was true sorrow such as God accepts.
PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT
There can be no true contrition, and therefore, no good Confession, unless there be a purpose of amendment. It is an act of the will by which you firmly resolve to commit sin no more, to change your lives, and to do penance for the past. If you are really sorry for what you have done, you shall also be firmly resolved to avoid the same and other offenses in the future.
This purpose of amendment ought to be firm, that is, you must have a fixed will never again to commit sin, no matter what temptations may arise, no matter what you may have to endure in proving your fidelity to God; you must be determined to use the means necessary to avoid sin, such as shunning its occasions and following the directions of your confessor; it must extend not only to those mortal sins which you have committed, but to all mortal sins. In this respect, your purpose of amendment must be like your contrition. You should set no limit to it. You must hate and determine to avoid sin. You should have no pet sin held in reserve. Unless all be renounced, none will be forgiven: for the love of God cannot exist in the same heart with mortal sin, nor will God take up His dwelling in the same house with His enemy.
If you are weak, do not imagine that you cannot promise to be faithful. God is our strength. Grace will conquer nature and sin. “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me,” says St. Paul. Do not hesitate, therefore; your present will is what you must regard. Are you here and now determined, with God’s grace, to do all you can to avoid sin in the future? If so, take courage; God will strengthen you.
If you fall at the first attack, if you make no struggle against temptation, if you employ none of the means given you to avoid sin, then you may judge that you were not sincere. But if you cannot in any of these ways reproach yourself, only learn from your weakness, lessons of humility, and begin again. Oh, yes! no matter how often you fall, never cease to trust in the mercy of God, even while you keep before your eyes the strictness of His justice.
HABITUAL SINNERS AND SINS OF HABIT
It is easy to account for some who become slaves to their passions. In the first place, we are all, because of your fallen nature, prone to sin: “The life of man upon earth is warfare,” says holy Job. We must all fight, and no man, St. Paul declares, will be crowned “except he strive lawfully.” “Strive,” says our Lord, “to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able,” because they do not strive hard. Again, “the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.” One of the holy Fathers compares the heart to a rich garden. This garden, if neglected, is soon filled with noxious weeds. Foreign seeds will be carried there by the wind, and unless you pluck up the young plants by the roots, you will soon have a forest to contend with. Another Father compares our passions to the lion’s whelp. You can easily strangle it when young; but if you nourish it a little, it will become a wild beast, which will one day devour you. There was a time, when the miserable man who dies a victim of his intemperance could have said, “I can drink and I can let it alone.” A little later he acquired the habit of drink, and could no longer let it alone. He fed the wild beast of his passion until it became strong enough to devour him. So it is with every other sin.
When passions become strong, or when bad habits have been fostered for a long time, it is hard to overcome them. When you indulge in any passion, it becomes strong, a second nature, and therefore very difficult to overcome. No matter how bad you may be, how long you may have been given to the worst kinds of sin, if you do your part, God can and will lift you up and will break all the fetters that bind you.
In order to break off bad habits, such as those cursing, drinking and impurity, you must be fully determined not to commit those sins again. Without that determination, your conversion would be a mockery. You must realize that your habit of cursing or drinking or impurity was formed by repeated acts. You are bound to overcome such a habit. Nor can you excuse yourself, as many do, by saying that you have the habit. By willfully placing yourself in such a state you are responsible for the many crimes it leads you to commit. A mere desire to do better is not sufficient. You must have a strong will to do better. You must then vigorously and watchfully labor to destroy your bad habits. But how many show by their lives that they are never in earnest, that they never sincerely and courageously strive to overcome themselves! They are satisfied with wishing to change their lives, but they never make a real effort to do so. Hence you will often see people make the Mission, but alas! you will also see them in a few days returning to their old haunts of sin, committing the same crimes that but a short time before, they had solemnly promised God to abandon forever.
This happens because they are not fully determined to keep from falling into their old habits. When you have a firm will not to return to your former sins, you will endeavor to avoid the occasions of them. What would you think of a man who would throw a dry log into a burning furnace, and yet declare he did not wish the log to burn? If you say you do not wish to sin, and yet go into places, or associate with companions who, you know, will drag you back into sin, you are equally senseless. Oh, how true it is, “He that loveth danger shall perish in it!” Not only must you have a firm resolution not to return to your old ways, not only must you avoid as far as you can every occasion of sin, but you must also pray earnestly to God for strength to keep your good resolutions. “Ask and ye shall receive,” says our Lord. Pray earnestly, fervently and constantly for grace to overcome your temptations. You are tempted. Who is not? But, in the language of St. Paul, “God will make issue with temptations,” that you may overcome them. You must remember that our Lord knows your weakness. He shed His Blood for us. By its virtue the soul is cleanses and its wounds healed in Confession, and He gives Himself to us in Holy Communion to be our soul’s food and nourishment. Men are wounded, but they will not come to the Divine Physician. They are weak, but they will not come to the Divine Table to obtain strength! Is it not evident that they desire to remain slaves to their passions when they do not make use of the proper means to overcome them. Remember what has been said: “Let your Confession be supplemented by a firm resolution of never again offending God, and a strong determination of avoiding all occasions of sin. Go to the Sacraments to obtain strength to keep those resolutions, and pray fervently to our Lord for grace, lest the enemy should overcome you. Lastly, be devoted to our dear Immaculate Mother, the refuge of sinners, the help of Christians. Beg of her to shield you under the mantle of her protection from all the fiery darts of your bitter enemy; and be assured that, no matter what may have been your habits, you will overcome them. God will one day crown you with victory.
PRAYER BEFORE CONFESSION
Most merciful God, Father in heaven, relying on Thy goodness and mercy, I come to Thee with filial confidence to confess my sins and to implore Thy forgiveness. Thou wilt not despise a contrite and humble heart. Bless me and receive me again into Thy favor; I acknowledge that I have been most ungrateful to Thee, but I sincerely repent and detest the wrong I have done, and I desire henceforth to walk in the way of perfection, in accordance with Thy holy will.
O Jesus, my Saviour, my good Shepherd, I have strayed far from the path Thou hast marked out for me; I did not follow in Thy footsteps; I wandered into forbidden places. Repentant and sorrowful, I beg to be admitted again into the fold of Thy faithful followers. I want to confess my sins with perfect sincerity, as if I were at the point of death. My Jesus, I look to Thee with confidence for the grace to examine my conscience well.
O Holy Spirit, come in Thy mercy; enlighten my mind and strengthen my will that I may know my sins, humbly confess them, and sincerely amend my life.
Mary, my mother, immaculate spouse of the Holy Ghost, refuse to sinners, assist me in Thy intercessions.
Holy angels and saints of God, pray for me. Amen.
Invocation of the Holy Ghost
O Holy Spirit, Source of all light, Spirit of wisdom, of understanding and of knowledge, come to my assistance and enable me to make a good confession. Enlighten me, and help me now know my sins as one day I shall be forced to recognize them before Thy judgment seat. Bring to my mind the evil which I have done and the good which I have neglected. Permit me not to be blinded by self love. Grant me, moreover, heartfelt sorrow for my transgressions, and the grace of a sincere confession, so that I may be forgiven and admitted into Thy friendship. Amen.
Act Before Confession
I thank Thee o my God! For having waited for me until now! I hope, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for the pardon of all my offenses against Thee! I am sorry for them, and repent of them with my whole heart, because by them I have lost heaven and have deserved hell; but, above all, I am grieved to my inmost soul, and hate and detest my sins more than all evils, because they have offended Thy infinite goodness. I purpose in future rather to die than to offend Thee any more. Amen.
AN ACT OF CONTRITION
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
Act After Confession
My dear Jesus! how much do I not owe Thee? By the merits of Thy blood I hope that I have this day been pardoned. I thank Thee above all things. I hope to reach heaven, where I shall praise Thy mercies forever. My God, if I have hitherto lost Thee so often, I now desire to lose Thee no more. From this day forward I will change my life in earnest. Thou dost merit all my love; I will love Thee truly; I will no longer see myself separated from Thee. I have promised Thee this already; now I repeat my promise of being ready to die rather than offend Thee again. I promise also to avoid all occasions of sin, and to use such means as will prevent me from falling again. My Jesus, Thou knowest my weakness: give me grace to be faithful to Thee till death, and to have recourse to Thee when I am tempted. My most holy Mary, help me! Thou art the mother of perseverance; I place my hope in thee.
Prayer of Petition
May this confession, O lord, by the merits of Blessed Mary ever virgin, Thy Mother, and of all the saints, be pleasing and acceptable in Thy sight. Let Thy goodness and mercy supply for whatever has been wanting in my contrition, and in the purity and integrity of my confession. Deign Thou mercifully to regard me perfectly and entirely absolved in heaven; Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.
Prayer for Perseverance
O Almighty and most merciful God, Who, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, hast vouchsafed once more to receive Thy prodigal child, after so many times going astray from Thee, and to admit me to this Sacrament of reconciliation; I give Thee thanks with all the powers of my soul for this and all other mercies, graces, and blessings bestowed on me; and prostrating myself at Thy sacred feet, I offer myself to be henceforth forever Thine. Oh! Let nothing in life or death ever separate me from Thee. I renounce with my whole soul all my treasons against Thee, and all thee abominations and sins of my past life. I renew my promises made in Baptism, and from this moment I dedicate myself eternally to Thy love and service. Oh! Grant that for the time to come I may abhor sin more than death itself, and avoid all such occasions and companies as have unhappily brought me to it. This I resolve to do, by the aid of Thy divine grace, without which I can do nothing. I beg Thy blessing upon these my resolutions, that they may not be ineffectual, like so many others I have formally made; for, O Lord, without Thee I an nothing but misery and sin. Give me grave to be now and always a true penitent, through the same Christ Thy Son. Amen.
THANKSGIVING AFTER CONFESSION
Eternal Father! I thank Thee, I bless Thee, for Thy goodness and mercy. Thou has had compassion on me, although in my folly I had wandered far away from Thee and offended Thee most greviously. With father love Thou has received me anew after so many relapses into sin and forgiven me my offenses through the holy sacrament of Penance. Blessed forever, O my God, be Thy loving-kindness, Thy infinite mercy! Never again will I grieve Thee by ingratitude, by disobedience to Thy holy will. All that I am, all that I have, all that I do shall be consecrated to Thy service and Thy glory. Amen.
“Heart of Jesus, I put my trust in Thee!”
Indulgence of 300 days. – Pius, June 27, 1906.
“Jesus, my God, I love Thee above all things.”
Indulgence of 300 days, each time. – S.P. Ap., July 28, 1932.
O divine spirit! penetrate my soul with true horror and loathing of sin. Grant that I may be more exact in the fulfillment of all my duties, and strengthen me by Thy grace, that I may not again yield to temptation.
“Sweet heart of Mary, by my salvation.”
Indulgence of 300 days, each time. – Pius IX, Sept. 30, 1852.
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.”
Indulgence of 300 days, each time. – Leo XIII, March 15, 1884; S.P. Ap.,
April 15, 1932
My queen! My mother! Remember that I am thine; keep me, guard me, as thy property and possession.
“O Mary, our hope, have pity on us!”
Indulgence of 300 days. – Pius X, January 8, 1906.