“Ask a Priest: How Could I Improve My Confessions?”

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Q: My question is about preparation for confession. I review the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. I feel I make my confession as I did as a child. I confessed my mortal sins years ago for which I received absolution. I sometimes have uncharitable and unkind thoughts — should these be confessed? I feel my confessions aren’t as they should be, but maybe I’m being scrupulous. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. – J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you are trying to take advantage of the sacrament.

A quick suggestion is this: If you don’t have any mortal sins to confess, you might try focusing on one or two areas of venial sins (the uncharitable thoughts could be in this realm, so yes, feel free to confess them) and explain a bit about why you commit them habitually.

In other words, try to get to the root of the problem.

By reflecting on what causes you to have the uncharitable thoughts, you will be better able to take concrete steps to uproot the sin from your life.

For instance, with the uncharitable thoughts you might find, after a bit of reflection, that you are doing it because you feel underappreciated or because you have a bad habit of judging others without knowing all the facts. Or perhaps you nurture grudges.

That kind of in-depth analysis might help you come up with a strategy to fight the vices.

If you bring up this issue, try to be very concise. It might not be convenient to be in the confessional for 20 minutes while other penitents are waiting. With good preparation you can say things succinctly.

The confession might sound something like this: “I nursed uncharitable thoughts about a half-dozen times in the past two weeks, and I think it’s because I feel unappreciated at home. I need to ask for the grace to embrace the crosses that God allows in my life daily, and to learn to unite my suffering with that of Jesus.”

For the more technically tuned in, there is an app called “Reimagining the Examen” (iPhone version: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/reimagining-the-examen/id1065042173 ) that has many good models of examens.

It might be worth exploring these. Some focus on the deep motivations, others on other ways of analyzing sin (the seven deadly sins, etc.). It can be helpful to use one of these for preparation of confession.

I hope some of this is helpful.


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