The following is an excerpt from What Catholics Believe (OSV, 2012) by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Kris D. Stubna.

Confession is not a difficult matter, but it does require some preparation. As with all things, we should begin with prayer, placing ourselves in the presence of God. Then we should try to review our lives since our last confession, searching out our thoughts, words, and actions that did not conform to God’s love, to His law, or to the laws of the Church. Reviewing our life this way is called an "examination of conscience," and it is a good practice for every day of our lives.

We should not let too much time pass between our visits to the sacrament of reconciliation. The Church asks us to go at least once a year, but suggests that we go regularly, perhaps once a month. If we go more often, we can more often receive the graces to improve our lives.

Once you are there for the sacrament, follow these four steps to a good confession:

1.     Tell all. Try not to leave any serious sins out. Start with the one that is toughest to say.

2.     Be clear. Try not to be subtle or euphemistic.

3.     Be sorry. Remember, it is God you have offended, and His forgiveness you seek.

4.     Be brief. No need to go into detail. Often when we do, we are just trying to excuse ourselves.

If you have not been to confession in a while, this is not a reason to worry. The Church loves to welcome prodigal children home. But please do not delay any longer — just go. You might even want to make an appointment with your parish priest so you can spend a little more time without worrying about delaying others who might be waiting in line. Let the priest know at the start that it has been a while since your last confession, and that you are not sure how to proceed. And if you are nervous, say so. The point of the sacrament is repentance and mercy; so the more mercy the priest can dispense in the name of God, the more joyous the occasion should be.

Copyright © 2012 Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.
Excerpted from What Catholics Believe by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Kris D. Stubna