What should I do first before going to confession?

Special to Catholic Times 

From my experience as a confessor and one who also goes to confession regularly, a good preparation before confession is the key to making a good confession. Think about any time you have had to have a serious conversation with somebody, especially one that might be difficult. There is no way you would go into that conversation unprepared. The anxiety of the situation could seriously compromise your ability to get your points across. But, if you prepare ahead of time, even though the nerves are there, you will be in a much better position to communicate your message.  We all know how nervous we get  when we go to confession, so preparing ahead of time will enable us to better confess our sins despite our anxiety. Furthermore, the Church asks us to make an integral confession, which means making as complete of a confession as possible.  Just trying to think of some sins a minute or two before confession is not sufficient.

So how does one prepare? The first thing to do is to say a prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to shed light on those areas of your life where you need forgiveness. Then, it can be helpful to use an Examination of Conscience guide. See one below this article or search one online. These guides generally ask questions related to the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Church, though some use the Seven Deadly Sins for their guide. With more experience, you will be able to prepare without a guide, but this is a good place for many to start, especially if it has been a while since your last confession.

Make a good preparation and come receive God’s mercy in your nearest confessional!

Father Brian Alford is rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield and Vicar for Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. 

Do an examination of conscience based on the Ten Commandments to help you prepare for confession so you can identify your sins to confess

I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
Have I treated people, events, or things as more important than God?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church, or people made in His image and likeness?

Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Do I go to Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation? Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship of God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body? Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?

Honor your father and your mother.
Do I show my parents due respect? Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents where possible? Or do I criticize them needlessly, perhaps for lacking skills I think they should have?

You shall not kill.
Have I harmed anyone through physical, verbal, or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?

You shall not commit adultery.
Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others, and of myself?

You shall not steal.
Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another?

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of another?

You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse.
Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?

You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. 
Am I content with my own means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?