One of the precepts of the Church is that we must go to confession at least once a year. Once a year is good, that is, if you are going for the bare minimum award. Most priests recommend that souls go to confession at least once a month or once every two weeks. So, what should a person confess when they go to confession? Below I will look at mortal sins, venial sins, and imperfections.
Mortal sins must be confessed (the sooner the better!). "[Mortal sin] results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices forever, with no turning back" (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1860). Three things are required for a sin to be mortal: grave matter, full knowledge, and complete consent. For example, if you didn't know that missing Mass on Sunday was a mortal sin then the sin is only venial (but now you know!). Likewise, if you are ill or have no way of getting to Mass or someone refuses to bring you, then you are also free from sin. Sleeping in too late or watching the football game does not count. When it comes to thinking of what to confess, thinking of our mortal sins in the most obvious. But what should we confess if we have not committed any mortal sins since our last confession? We will now look at venial sins and imperfections.
Venial sins: "One commits a 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" (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1862). You may remember that venial sins do not need to be confessed. Many things remove the effect of venial sins such as blessing oneself with Holy Water or saying the "Confiteor" (I confess...) at Mass. However, it is always good to mention venial sins in confession in order to gain grace and strength against future temptations. Some examples of venial sins include: spending too much time on the TV/ phone/computer, procrastination, getting angry when someone cuts you off in traffic, dressing somewhat immodestly, etc.
It is also good to mention some general imperfections in order to help the priest make better judgments about the gravity of your sins. Some examples of imperfections include: a lack of punctuality, tendency to gossip, attachments to possessions, complaining, negativity, scrupulosity, impatience, etc. Again, these do not need to be confessed, but may be of assistance to the priest hearing your confession. You can say "I have tendency to…." However, if you are going to mention imperfections, you must also confess a mortal sin or venial sin too.
As Catholics we are required take time and learn our faith and morality. Through this process we naturally become more aware of sin and things that are sinful. Through confession we gain grace to begin overcoming our attachments to sin and other imperfections. Each evening we should review our day and consider where we failed or where we could have done better. We can then bring these things to the confessional where, through the power and mercy of God, our sins are forgiven.
If you have not been to confession in a while or do not know how, do not hesitate to call me or talk to one of the priests or deacons. We would love to walk you through it and explain it in more depth.
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