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Want to go to Confession, but it’s been a long time?



Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 12/22/23

If it’s been a long time since you’ve been, Confession can feel really intimidating. Let’s walk through what to expect.
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Standing in line for Confession at my parish last week, I slowly noticed that everyone in front of me came out with a big smile, an almost visible sense of burdens lifted.

Going to Confession (or Reconciliation, or Penance—pick your favorite name for the Sacrament) brings such peace and joy that it’s hard to describe. My dad used to describe it as “taking a shower for your soul,” and sure enough it leaves you with that fresh new feeling inside. 

But if it’s been a long time since you’ve been, Confession can feel really intimidating and anxiety-inducing. 

It’s completely understandable if you feel that way; things always feel harder when you’re not used to them or they’re unfamiliar. Let’s walk through what to expect.

Before getting started, I want to point you to an inspiring Reddit thread that will just about restore your faith in humanity. An anonymous commenter shares his anxiety about going back to Confession after many years, and the many replies are so supportive and encouraging. 

Do you want to go to Confession, but you’re nervous or scared? I hope this information can be helpful for you.

The priest will be so glad you are there

The Reddit commenter mentioned above was worried that the priest would be horrified at how long it had been since he’d been to Confession, but other commenters assured him that the exact opposite would be true.

“I know my priest is a great guy but surely it must be hard for him to hear a confession from someone who’s gotten so lost in their ways,” he wrote. 

The best reply was this: “Are you kidding? This is literally why he got into the business. You’re going to make his day… Confession is where Christ triumphs over sin. It’s a place of victory and hope. You don’t have anything to be afraid of.”

You can read more about how much priests love seeing people come back to God in Confession here, in a priest’s own words.

Not only the priest but Christ and his whole Church, with all the saints and angels, will be thrilled you’ve come. Don’t let fear of what anyone might think hold you back: All of Heaven is cheering you on!

Make an examination of conscience

Once you’ve decided to go for it, you’ll want to examine your conscience. Here are a few options from the USCCB. You can do this in the church right before going into the confessional, but if you’re worried about forgetting something, you might want to do it ahead of time and write down a list to take with you. 

Look up Confession times

I like to use the Mass Times app or website to find Confession times near me. Typically weekday evenings are my preferred time slot, but figure out what makes the most sense for you and put it in your calendar. You can also call a nearby church to schedule an appointment with a priest if you prefer.

Try not to overthink it

Easier said than done, right? But like a friend once said, “Once a month I pick a day to go to get a haircut, get the oil changed, and go to Confession.” For a lot of people, that “part of the routine” approach really helps.

Try to see it as something that just needs to be done regularly instead of as some giant intimidating mountain to be climbed only when you can steel up your nerve enough.

Get on in there

Ok, so you’ve got your Confession time figured out, you’ve examined your conscience, you know we’re all cheering you on… time to get on in there. Take a deep breath… you’ve got this!

Complete your penance … and rejoice!

Are you ready to come out of there with a giant smile on your face? After Confession, God has completely forgiven and forgotten your sins. What an incredible feeling. I hope you feel so proud of yourself for going, and may the graces of the Sacrament bring you deep peace and joy.

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