Since many people are getting their kids to their first confession after covid cut things short last spring, I thought I’d share the cheat sheet I made for my class. I’ll paste it in at the end, but here’s a printable pdf: how to make a good confession. The class brought these cheat sheets into confession with them.
My child’s first confession was this morning, and it went great. Last night, we did some practice runs with silly sins, just so my kid would know the basic routine; and we reminded her repeatedly that it’s fine to tell the priest if she’s not sure what she’s supposed to do next. Here she is confessing to Fr. Bigsister that she polished off the last of an endangered species.
She was assigned three Hail Marys and 20 push ups for a penance. This is a good example of one of my best tips for confession preparation: Normalize, normalize, normalize. Make it just a regular thing your family does, and not something dark, weird, or rare.
Here is an essay I wrote about 17 ways to make an anxious kid’s confession experience easier (and most kids, and many adults, are anxious about it!).
And here’s the confession cheat sheet (or click here for the printable pdf):
HOW TO MAKE A GOOD CONFESSION
At home or before you go in:
1. Examine your conscience. Think over your life and ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember your sins, the things that keep you away from God and hurt you and other people. Write your sins down if you like.
2. Be sorry for your sins and tell God in prayer that you are sorry.
3. Make up your mind not to do them again. At least decide you will try!
In the church:
When it’s your turn, go into the confessional. You can sit face to face or kneel behind the screen. Remember Jesus loves you and wants to help you!
4. Say: BLESS ME, FATHER, FOR I HAVE SINNED. THIS IS MY FIRST
CONFESSION. THESE ARE MY SINS . . .
SAY YOUR SINS clearly and simply.
Finish up with: FOR THESE AND ALL MY SINS, I AM TRULY SORRY.
Listen to whatever the priest tells you, including your penance. When he tells you to say your act of contrition, say:
O MY GOD, I AM HEARTILY SORRY FOR HAVING OFFENDED THEE.
I DETEST ALL MY SINS BECAUSE OF THY JUST PUNISHMENTS,
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 SIN NO MORE, AND TO AVOID THE NEAR OCCASION OF SIN.
LORD JESUS, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER.
LISTEN while the priest says the words of absolution. He will say:
[God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sen the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God give you pardon and peace, and] I absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now you are forgiven and your sins are gone forever! Say “thank you” to the priest and leave the confessional.
5. DO YOUR PENANCE right away if you can. If you have written down your sins, tear up the paper and throw it away! Those sins are gone forever!