If you haven’t gone to confession in a while, Lent is the perfect time to reconcile yourself with God and the Church. Most parishes have communal penance services with prayers and Scripture readings, followed by the opportunity for individual confession (a necessity for absolution of mortal sins). Or you can also make a private appointment with a priest.

Preparation for confession should include an examination of conscience, which means you think back on sins you have committed since your last confession.

What happens during confession depends on the priest and the person. Most people still start with the formula: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been (state the number of months or years) since my last confession.”

If you can’t remember the words or you don’t recall how long it’s been, don’t worry. Just tell the priest it’s been a long time, and he will guide you through the process.

What you will experience is the healing gift of God’s love, the chance to start over with a clean conscience, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Examination of Conscience

Recall your sins. Calmly and honestly ask yourself what you have done with full knowledge and full consent against God and the Church’s commandments.

Do I pray to God every day? Have I thanked God for His gifts to me?

Did I put my faith in danger through reading material that is hostile to Catholic teachings? Have I been involved in non-Catholic sects? Did I engage in superstitious practices, such as palm-reading or fortune telling?

Did I take the name of God in vain? Did I curse, or take a false oath?

Did I miss Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation through my own fault? Am I attentive at Mass? Did I fast and abstain on the prescribed days?

Did I disobey my parents or lawful superiors in important matters?

Did I hate or quarrel with anyone, or desire revenge? Did I refuse to forgive? Was I disrespectful?

Did I get drunk? Did I take illicit drugs? Did I consent to, recommend, advise, or actively take part in an abortion?

Did I willfully look at indecent pictures, watch immoral movies, or read immoral books or magazines? Did I engage in impure jokes or conversations? Did I willfully entertain impure thoughts or commit impure acts, alone or with others? Did I use artificial means to prevent conception?

Did I steal or damage another’s property? Have I been honest in my business relations?

Did I tell lies? Did I sin by gossiping about others? Did I judge others rashly in serious matters?

Have I envied other people?