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Stressed out over confession? Maybe you’re over-complicating it

© Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA
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Don't make the sacrament of confession more difficult than it has to be.

Confessing sins to a priest can sometimes feel overwhelming. Especially if you haven’t been to confession for many years, it might seem daunting to list your sins to a priest.

However, one of the issues that might make confession seem daunting is actually a misconception: You are not required to give the priest every embarrassing detail about your sins. In fact, it’s better not to.

In most cases, you don’t have to give lengthy explanations. One priest suggests that you keep it as simple as possible.

He said that some people feel they have to go into all sorts of details about their particular sins. There’s nothing wrong with that, he said, but it’s not essential. One can merely mention the category of sin, and be completely absolved of all venial sins.
He offered this list as a guide to use, saying it contains 90% of the things that 90% of people can confess 90% of the time. You can bring this list with you to confession, and add any other sins that come to mind.
I have not loved God with all my heart, and all my soul.
I have placed people or things in my life as taking priority over God.
I have been disrespectful to my parents or legitimate authorities. 
I have used the name of God carelessly. 
I have brought scandal upon God or the Church through my bad example as a Christian. 
I have been prideful. 
I have not been kind to everyone in my life. 
I have been impatient with people in my life. 
I have let anger get the best of me.
I have judged others. 
I have dwelled on impure thoughts. 
I have artificially impeded God’s desire to create life. 
I have dwelled on impure thoughts or images that objectify men or women. 
I have overindulged in food or drink. I have abused drugs. 
I have told lies. 
I have been envious of what others have. 
I have not been thankful for all the gifts I have been given. 

At the same time, the Code of Canon Law states that “a member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and number all grave sins committed after baptism and not yet remitted directly through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which the person has knowledge after diligent examination of conscience.”

What this means is that when you are knowledgeable of a mortal (grave) sin, then you must name that sin and how many times you committed it. For example, if you have committed adultery, you must tell the priest how many times. If you have committed a grave sin multiple times and do not know the number, then you can simply say “many,” “several,” or “too many to count.”

Confession is not meant to be complicated, and if you are getting overly stressed about it, try simplifying it and not worrying about the exact details when it comes to venial sins. Even with mortal sins, if it is a habitual sin that you committed numerous times, only give an estimate of the amount of times.

Reconciliation is a beautiful sacrament, one where the soul is set at peace through the mercy of God. If a perceived complexity of it is holding you back, make it simple. Don’t let something trivial prevent you from being embraced by the loving arms of God.

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