Has it been some time since your last Confession? You might grasp the significance of this sacrament but feel uncertain about how to approach it after an extended hiatus. If it’s been a while, you may have some lingering questions. Fr. Mike addresses the most frequently asked questions from individuals who haven’t participated in the sacrament of Reconciliation for a while.
How Am I Supposed to Remember All of My Sins in the Course of My Life?
The Holy Spirit plays a role in bringing our sins to light, revealing what we should confess. Fr. Mike encourages individuals to set aside a notepad, notebook, or their phone a few days before their Confession for a dedicated time of prayer. During this examination of conscience, they should ponder, ‘In my current stage of life, where have I transgressed against these Commandments?’ and make a written record of their reflections.
Fr. Mike recommends utilizing the Pocket Guide to Reconciliation, co-authored by him and Fr. Josh Johnson. This guide facilitates the practice of reviewing your life through the Ten Commandments. Fr Mike suggests we “Focus on periods of our lives.” You need not scrutinize every day of second grade but rather contemplate cases in which we may have disobeyed our parents during that period. As Fr. Mike explains, “It involves revisiting our life experiences and asking, ‘Lord, where did I stray from your will during this phase of my life?'” The Pocket Guide to Reconciliation is especially valuable because it presents a list of the Commandments and various ways in which we can break them.
“Don’t worry about remembering every single sin you have ever committed,” Fr. Mike says. It’s about repairing your relationship with God and taking note of your common failings, what areas need particular healing, and preparing for a new life in Christ.
Is it Okay if I Have My Phone in Confession?
Fr. Mike says, “If your phone will help you in Confession, bring it in. Don’t worry about that.” He goes on to mention that he himself occasionally brings his phone into Confession, finding it a useful tool to recollect his sins and avoid overlooking any.
He reminds us, “It’s all about your preparation and how the Lord is calling you to prepare for this sacrament. If you feel well prepared using your phone, use it. If you would rather write your sins down in a notebook, write them!”
Want to know the secrets to a powerful confession?
The Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a beautiful, prayerful book by Fr. Mike Schmitz & Fr. Josh Johnson which helps Catholics enter into the Sacrament of Reconciliation more deeply.
Will Confession Take a Very Long Time?
If you haven’t been to Confession in a long time and you’re worried about how long it will take, Fr. Mike says it shouldn’t be longer than about 15 minutes. He says he can remember a time he was going to make a General Confession and he thought he would need weeks and multiple notebooks. His spiritual director told him, however, that when you make a General Confession, there are usually a few particular areas in your story you want to bring back to the Lord.
Fr. Mike explains this is about “Discussing the areas of your life that you need to bring to the Lord and ask forgiveness.” He says, “You don’t usually need to pull on too many threads to find those areas.” Will it take hours? Usually no. Fr. Mike says, “Unless you want lots of feedback from the priest, you can have a thorough and beautiful Confession in 15 minutes.”
Do I Go to Saturday Confession, or Should I Call the Priest and Make an Appointment?
Fr. Mike says, “I would recommend you talk to the priest at some point and say, ‘Father, it has been a long time since my last Confessions. Do you want me to go to the normal Confession time, or should I schedule time with you?'” You can email him, call him, or ask after Mass sometime. This way, your priest can guide you and make sure he can offer you the time and attention you need.
What if I Forgot Something?
“This is a question everyone asks,” Fr. Mike says. It doesn’t matter whether you go to Confession every week or it has been a while; everyone forgets to confess something at some point. Am I still forgiven? If you forgot a sin unintentionally, Fr. Mike says the quick answer is yes, God forgave all your sins. You may receive Communion. This is because “you intended to lay everything at the foot of the Cross.”
However, when you go to Confession next time, mention this sin you forgot to confess. Fr. Mike explains that we do this not because the sin isn’t forgiven but “Because this is about repairing a relationship.” This sin once divided your relationship with God. You are truly sorry for it and want to repair that relationship as best you can. While God did forgive it, you can still feel it on your heart. Recognizing this sin for what it is can restore this relationship and allow you to move on fully into a deeper and stronger friendship with the Lord.
“If you intentionally withheld saying a sin, that’s a different story,” Fr. Mike says. In that instance, you should avoid receiving Communion until you confess it in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
For his last piece of advice, Fr. Mike says it’s an incredible gift to make going to Confession a habit. Regular devotional practice is a beautiful way to draw closer to the Lord, and it’s “an incredible practice to get into.”
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