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 are 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.
Longer Act of Contrition
Forgive me my sins, O Lord, forgive my sins of my youth, the sins of my age, the sins of my soul, the sins of my body, my idle sins, my serious voluntary sins, the sins I know, the sins I do not know: the sins I have concealed so long, and which are now hidden from my memory.
I am truly sorry for every sin, mortal and venial, for all the sins os my childhood up to the present hour.
I know my sins have wounded Thy Tender Heart, O my Saviour, let be freed from the bonds of evil through thy most bitter passion, death and resurrection, Jesus my precious Lord, forget and forgive what I have been. Amen
Prayer Before Confession
Before Confession (by: Saint Alphonsus Liguori, one of the Doctors of the Church)
O my God, help me to make a good confession. Mary, my dearest Mother, pray to Jesus for me. Help me to examine my conscience, enable me to obtain true sorrow for my sins, and beg for me the grace rather to die than to offend God again. Lord Jesus, light of our souls, who enlightens every man coming into this world, enlighten my conscience and my heart by Thy Holy Spirit, so that I may perceive all that is displeasing to Thy divine majesty and may expiate it by humble confession, true contrition, and sincere repentance.Saint Benedict Press - The Source for Catholic Bibles
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.
O Most merciful God ,who according to the multitude of Thy mercies dost so put away the sins of those who truly repent that Thou rememberest them no more: look graciously upon me, Thine unworthy servant, and accept my confession for Thy mercy’s sake; receive my humble thanks, most loving Father, that of Thy great goodness Thou hast given me pardon for all my sins. O may Thy love and pity supply whatsoever has been wanting in the sufficiency of my contrition, and the fullness of my confession. And do Thou, O Lord, vouchsafe to grant me the help of Thy grace, that I may diligently amend my life and persevere in Thy service unto the end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.For a sin to be mortal, it has to meet three conditions:
- Grave matter: does it involve breaking one of the 10 Commandments, committing one of the Sins that Cry out to Heaven, or failing to uphold the 6 Precepts of the Church?
- Full knowledge: did you know or should you have known that the act was sinful?
- Deliberate consent: was your consent to this act sufficiently deliberate so as to be a choice? Were conditions present that influenced your ability to choose?
If you are unclear as to whether a sin meets all of the requirements above for a mortal sin, be safe and confess it, telling the priest of your lack of clarity.
As to venial sins (sins that don't meet the above requirements), you are free to confess them or not. Confessing them is definitely encouraged. If your Confession is before Mass, time is running short before Mass begins, there is a long line behind you, and you are wanting to confess venial sins only, you might want to hold off so that others who might have mortal sins to confess can see the priest before Mass starts.
If you are plagued by feelings of "not being forgiven" or being "unworthy" of the Sacrament of Penance, don't confess venial sins that you are doubtful about lest you find yourself with a case of "the scruples." A "scrupulous" person is one who has "an unfounded apprehension and consequently unwarranted fear that something is a sin which, as a matter of fact, is not" (Catholic Encyclopedia). This doesn't refer to isolated incidents, but to a habitual way of feeling or thinking, an unwarranted fear, a sort of emotional obsession; it doesn't refer to true questions as to whether such and such a behavior is a sin or not. Anxiety is involved, and often a felt doubt as to the power of confession, the genuine-ness one's contrition, and the extent of God's mercy. If you have a good, orthodox Confessor, trust him and his advice, and tell him about any scruples you needlessly suffer from; he may be able to help you! And pray to St. Alphonsus Liguori, the great moral theologian who suffered from scruples himself and is now the patron saint of the scrupulous.
Below are some questions to ask yourself regarding our duties in life, the answers to which might help you in examining your conscience and deciding what to confess. At least, the answers might help you to know where to focus your energies so you can become a better servant of God:
Duties to God and to Church:
Do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Have I given God the honor and time that is His due?
Do I pray?
Do I express my gratitude to God?
Does something or someone -- a material thing, a person, a behavior, an attitude -- come between me and God?
Have I used God's Name as a curse word or cursed God?
Have I broken promises, oaths, or vows to God?
Have I failed to treat sacred things and places with respect?
Have I received the Eucharist while not in a state of grace?
Have I kept Sunday holy by attending Mass and refraining from servile work?
Have I lied to a priest during the Sacrament of Penance or intentionally failed to confess a sin I should have confessed?
Have I defended God and His Church when it was necessary?
Do I study my faith, according to my abilities, so I can defend the Church when necessary?
Do I properly value the Church's disciplines and heritage?
Do I pray for the Holy Father and the Church, including those in Purgatory?
Have I experimented with magic, the occult, spiritism, willful psychic phenomena, ouija boards, etc.?
Do I keep Sundays and Holy Days of obligation?
Have I failed to go to Confession, at least once a year during Lent?
Have I failed to do my Easter Duty (i.e., receive the Eucharist at least once during the Paschal Season)?
Have I failed to follow the laws of fasting and abstinence?
Have I failed to support the Church as my means allow?
Have I obeyed the Church's marriage laws?
Do I belong to a secret society such as Freemasonry, Skull and Bones, etc.?
Duties to Family:
Have I failed to perform my duties to my parents, spouse, or children -- as (mother/ father, daughter/son, wife/husband) and as a Christian whose duty it is to lead them to Christ and to pray for them and, if possible, with them?
For husbands: Do I treat my wife with the respect and tenderness I would give to Our Lady? Do I treat her as less than my queen, bride, and friend? Do I strive to provide for her, protect her, and help her to feel cherished and needed without condescension or treating her as a child? Do I undermine her in her role as mother? Do I try to make her happy within the boundaries of God's laws? Do I use my headship as an excuse for laziness, cruelty, arrogance, or in any manner inconsistent with the way in which I would treat Our Lady or the manner in which Christ treats His Church?
For wives: Do I treat my husband with less than the respect and tenderness I would give to Christ? Do I treat him as less than my king, groom, and friend? Do I strive to obey him, nurture him, and help him feel cherished and needed? Do I undermine him in his role as father? Do I try to make him happy within the boundaries of God's laws? Do I nag or provoke him?
Is Christ the King of my household?
Do I pray for my dead ancestors, family members, and friends, and for the souls of those in Purgatory who have no one to pray for them?
Have I helped cause members of my family to sin?
Do I try my best to empathize with the members of my family and to love them with a love grounded in Truth?
Do the members of my family know they are loved? If not, is this my fault?
Have I caused any member of my family to get unrighteously angry or to be unjustly hurt?
Have I failed to apologize to and seek forgiveness from members of my family if there was need?
Have I forgiven my parents, spouse or children for past faults?
Do I give my family my time and undivided attention when possible?
Do any of my habits -- spending habits, gambling, etc. -- deprive my family of support?
Have I used contraception and failed to keep my marital acts open to life? Have I used N.F.P. (Natural Family Planning) for frivolous reasons?
Am I too lenient with my children? Do I set standards and boundaries? Do I use fair, reasonable, and consistent discipline?
Am I too harsh with my children? Do I squelch the joy out of my children's lives with needless rules, "Pharisaic" attitudes, a lack of mercy, and an authoritarian -- as opposed to an authoritative -- approach to discipline? Do I discipline them in a way that humiliates them?
Do my spouse and I sabotage each other with regard to disciplining our children? Do I "force" my spouse to play the role of "mean parent" while I play "nice parent"?
Have I been a good example for my children and/or the children of others?
Do I have high enough and age-appropriate expectations of my children?
Do I over-praise or under-praise my children?
Do I prize goodness and grace in my children above anything else I prize in them?
Do I teach my children the fullness of the Faith, encourage them to pray to their Guardian Angels, to their patron Saints, and for the dead?
Do I protect my children's innocence, inspire their imaginations, and do all I can to encourage healthy curiosity and the ability to marvel by teaching them about God, His Church, His creation, the lives of the Saints, etc., and by exposing them to good books, music, and art?
Have I found a good balance between protecting my child's innocence and teaching him about the world, in an age-appropriate way, so that he is not ignorant and naive or made to feel stupid or ridiculous about himself when in the company of those who are "of the world"? Have I given him good weapons with which to fight the evils of the world while understanding and nourishing his social needs?
Do I treat male children and female children with equal dignity, with respect for their God-given individual talents and vocations, but also with respect for Natural Law and their God-given differences as male and female?
Do I allow my children appropriate expression of their emotions and help them to understand and become masters of their negative emotions?
Do I help my children come to a humble, healthy, true sense of themselves as children of God, as individuals with unique vocations, and as possessing both virtues and faults?
Do I instill in my children a sense of duty to God, to family, to others, and to themselves?
Do I nurture the possibility of religious vocations in any of my children?
Have I taught my children good manners and to be aware of the needs of the elderly, the infirm, the pregnant, the otherwise challenged?
Are my spouse and I consistent in our discipline of our children?
Duties to Society:
Do I love others as I love myself, with a love grounded in Truth?
Do I evangelize with prudence and intelligence, and without being annoying and judgmental?
Do I pray for others, including those in authority and for my enemies?
Have I taken anything I had no right to take? Have I failed to return anything I may have stolen in the past or otherwise make restitution?
Have I cheated anyone out of anything that is rightfully theirs?
Have I been honest in business, including paying my employees a fair wage?
Do I treat my employees or those I supervise with dignity, respect, and consideration? ~and/or~ Do I give my employer his due and perform my job satisfactorily?
Do I treat service personnel (waitresses, waiters, clerks, busboys, maids, doormen, etc.) with dignity, respect, and consideration, and without condescension? Do I consider their time and feelings? Do I tip well, given my means, in cultures where tipping is considered the norm and, in essence, "wages"?
Have I engaged in illicit usury?
Have I given to the poor as my means allow?
Do I betray others' secrets that I had no right to betray?
Have I spoken anything untrue about another (calumny or slander) or, for no good reason, said things that were true but maliciously or needlessly or unjustly spoken and that were damaging to another's reputation (detraction)?
Do I engage in malicious gossip?
Do I make promises I do not intend to keep?
Have I cheated on tests or homework at school or otherwise plagiarized the work of others?
Am I greedy and selfish?
Am I envious of what others have?
Am I too materialistic?
Have I cursed another (i.e., called down physical or moral evil on a rational creature, not for the sake of a good, such as justice or punishment, but out of malice or for personal gain)?
If possible, if candidates are available, do I vote responsibly, with the Kingship of Christ, the dignity of human life, and the principle of subsidiarity in mind?
Given my station in life, my gifts, and vocation, do I care enough for the sick, hungry, thirsty, poor, and imprisoned?
Do I show good stewardship by treating the earth as God's creation?
Do I treat animals with care and appreciation and refrain from needless cruelty toward them?
Do I show reasonable patriotism for my country (that is "country," not necessarily "government," and doesn't mean "blind patriotism")?
Do I use my God-given talents in a wholesome way and for the benefit of others?
Am I mindful of how my behavior or passivity influences others and conditions around me?
Do I love the sinner while remaining truthful about sin?
Am I forgiving to the contrite?
Have I nurtured unrighteous anger in my heart?
Am I vengeful?
Am I a good, reliable friend to others?
Do I exhibit any racist behaviors or hold any racist thoughts (i.e., thoughts and behaviors rooted in the idea that God's love and our love for others is or should be conditioned by ideas of race or genetics)?
Have I murdered anyone, including having an abortion, helping someone have an abortion, or failing to do my best to encourage someone not to have an abortion (abortion includes in vitro fertlization)? Have I participated in euthanasia? Have I encouraged embryonic stem cell research? Have I encouraged unjust war?
Have I intentionally and unjustly physically harmed someone?
Have I participated in the sins of others by counseling them to sin, by commandmanding them to sin, by consenting to their sin, by provoking them to sin, by praising or flattering them in their sins, by concealing their sins that others have a right to know about, by partaking in their sins, or by silence even when the cause of charity demands I speak out?
Have I used alcohol or any other drug recreationally to to the point where my judgment and will were affected?
Have I been chaste according to my station in life (been faithful to my spouse, honored promises or vows as a religious or priest, not engaged in fornication if unmarried, etc.)?
Have I willfully looked at pornography for no legitimate reason (e.g. law-enforcement) or supported it financially?
Do I dress and behave immodestly or without concern for how my appearance and behavior may lead others to the sin of lust?
Have I engaged in solitary sexual sins?
Have I engaged in homosexual/lesbian acts? Have I been kind and charitable to those who are struggling to overcome homosexual/lesbian temptations?
Have I intentionally lusted after someone? (Note: random thoughts that come to the mind are not sinful. My priest described them once in a sermon as mere flies that should be shooed away. What is sinful is deliberately cultivating these thoughts, deliberately giving them your salacious attention, etc. Know that many great Saints had thoughts like these -- and even worse: it is quite common as one proceeds in holiness for extremely blasphemous thoughts and thoughts of despair to flash in the mind. Shoo them away, and know that it is the Evil One trying to make you feel hopeless. It is good at times like these to call on the Name of Jesus and fall back on the short aspirations to replace those thoughts with holy ones.)
Duties to Yourself:
Do I trust in God's mercy and love for me as a beloved child, or do I wallow in guilt for sins I've been absolved of?
Am I too scrupulous and hard on myself, treating myself much more harshly than I would others I love?
Am I too easy on myself?
Am I honest with myself about my gifts and limitations?
Do I overestimate or underestimate my importance?
Do I treat myself as an icon of God, made in His image?
Do I trust that God is in control or do I worry needlessly?
Am I able to appreciate the fruits of His Goodness?
Do I stand up for myself and my wholesome needs?
Apologetics on Confession
Can sins be forgiven by confession to men? The Bible teaches us that only by confessing our sins can we achieve forgiveness from God. How do we know this? Again, the Bible tells us these facts. Let's start with the Old Testament. In II Samuel 12:13, David confesses his sins to Nathan and was given assurance from Nathan that his sins were forgiven. From the New Testament we see many verses regarding confessing sins, however, we will stick to only the verse pertaining to the authority that God gave man. Look at John 20:22-23 it states that Jesus "breathed" on them and said:
(John 20:22-23) Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
How can anyone take this out of context, this passage is as clear as day? God has given man the authority, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive sins. It is interesting to note that there is only two places in the Bible that the term "breathe" is found as an action performed by God. The first, of course, is in the Old Testament Genesis 2:7 when God "breathes" the breath of life into man. In John 20:22, God again "breathes" the gift of life into man (the gift of Eternal Life) in that He is giving His representatives the authority to assist in purifying the souls of men, thus giving them life. Let us look at verses to support confession:
(Acts 19:18) - And many that believed came (to the Apostles), and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
(Matt. 18:18) Again, Jesus gives the apostles authority by stating: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever y shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.
(2 Corinthians 2:10) Paul said: If I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave it I in the person of Christ."
( 2 Cor. 5:18-20) Paul states; (read the whole verse) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation (the ministry of forgiving sins); to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
It is easy for us to say in our head "Jesus I am sorry for the sin I committed" however, this type of confession is hardly the type of confession Jesus intended for us--especially when the Bible states otherwise! To stand in front of a representative of Christ, whom God has given the authority to be His stand-in, and actually state aloud the sin, which was committed with true contrition, is not an easy thing to do--think about it? Once an individual goes to confession and actually states the sin aloud with true contrition, it is guaranteed that a relief and cleansing will immediately follow, as well as a strong sense of forgiveness--there is no doubt that you are forgiven--you know! Confession gives the penitent a fresh start to perhaps work with a strong passion to never commit the sin. Not only does confession cleans the soul, it is pleasing to God and He fills the soul with graces.