Examine your conscience – Before you go to confession you MUST examine your conscience; it’s vitally important to make time for this. Pray for enlightenment to your sins and true contrition (true sorrow) for each and every sin. Pray that God sends you grace to honestly hate all of your sins and to give you a sincere resolve to change your life so you can work towards stopping all of your offenses against God. (CCC #1451).

Introduction – After you enter the confessional, either kneel down or have a seat. As you make the sign of the cross, pray out loud: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” Then say, “Bless me, Father for I have sinned. It has been (mention how long) since my last confession.”

Confess your sins – You then tell the priest your sins, reading them from the list you prepared ahead of time.

Guidance – The priest may or may not give advice on how you can avoid committing your sins again. You can also ask questions at this time too. However, this isn’t the time for counseling—just guidance.

Penance – The priest will ask you to do something to help you avoid your sins in the future, or to make your wrongs right or to pray certain prayers. Pay attention to what the priest says, you will need to remember this.

Contrition – At this point the priest will ask you to pray an “act of contrition” or to express sorrow for your sins. Some priests might insist you pray the act of contrition in accordance with one of the two following examples, but if you prefer you can express your sorrow in your own words as long as it professes actual sorrow–hate of ones sins and the desire to work hard to sin no more–for the love of God (perfect contrition).

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against You whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy. Amen

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 they offend 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 sin no more. Amen

Absolution – Then the priest will absolve you (forgive you) of your sins which is when God sends the Holy Spirit among us (into your soul), through the miraculous power God gave to His priests, for the forgiveness of your sins. After the priest prays the prayer of absolution, then you respond, “Amen”. ”. If you were outside of grace and sincerely sorry for all sins, your soul will be restored to life. *However, even if the priest says the words to absolve you of your sins but if true sorrow isn’t present in your heart for all of your offenses, you will still reject God’s forgiveness. Fortunately, much actual grace, God’s help, will be sent to you based upon the true sorrow you do have for the sins you are sincerely sorrowful for, which can help move you into being truly sorry for every sin.

Conclusion – The priest might say “You have been forgiven from your sins; go in peace.” You can reply, “Amen”.

Don’t forget to do your penance. If you were asked to pray, make sure to do it before leaving the Church. If you were asked to do some form of work, before you leave the church, plan and schedule a specific time in which to do that work. Also, even if the priest doesn’t offer your suggestions on how you can make right the wrongs your sins have caused, or how you can avoid that sin in the future you should do your best correct the damage your sins have caused and resolve your life to amend them.

Please understand it doesn’t matter if you forget all of the words you are supposed to say in confession and you think you did everything wrong or if the priest didn’t offer any helpful advice. None of that really matters. What really matters is if you are truly sorry for your sins and will put forth effort to stop your sins. Then God who reads your mind and probes your heart will flood your sorrowful soul with His healing grace, mercy and forgiveness in this beautiful sacrament.