Penance for venial sins

Q. I am afraid that I commit a lot of venial sins, but I can never remember half of them when I go to confession. Will God hold this against me on the Day of Judgment? Does the penitential rite at Mass forgive my venial sins? 

A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:

According to the moral theology of the Church, sacramental confession is only necessary for serious, or mortal, sins (though the Church encourages us to confess all our sins in the Sacrament of Penance). If we commit lesser sins and do not remember them, God will certainly not hold these against us. 

There are many means by which venial or lesser sins are forgiven. One of these is the penitential rite. When the priest invites the congregation to call to mind its sins, a real pause should be allowed so that we can call to mind our lesser sins. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayers, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (No. 1434). 

The Catechism continues: “Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance” (No. 1435). 

The Eucharist is an important way of seeking forgiveness from lesser sins. “Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened” (No. 1436). Quoting the Council of Trent, the Catechism states the Eucharist “is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.”