Instructions for Making a Good Confession
Source: THE SCHOOL OF JESUS CRUCIFIED, Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus, TAN BOOKS,
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1895
MANY Christians regard Confession in the light of an unimportant act of piety, if not a mere ceremony. They imagine that it is sufficient to strike their breasts, relate their sins to their Confessor, recite with their lips the slight penance enjoined them, and do nothing more. Hence it is that so many go even frequently to Confession, but so few amend, and consequently derive little or no benefit from the Sacrament.
Whoever fails to make a good Confession [i.e., makes a bad Confession] after having committed mortal sin, has closed to himself the two gates of Paradise---Innocence and Repentance---and therefore will be lost (unless he repairs the evil done by a second, good Confession. See note in brackets below ---Publisher, 2002). Be, then, most thoroughly convinced of the immense importance of this Sacrament, and be filled with an earnest desire of approaching it worthily, bestowing the utmost care and attention upon your preparation for this great duty, if you desire to obtain eternal salvation. Confession is one of the seven Sacraments instituted by Christ; it is called the Sacrament of Penance, and by its means alone can he who has committed mortal sin after Baptism hope to save his soul: [Note: "A person in mortal sin can regain the state of grace before receiving the Sacrament of Penance by making an act of perfect contrition with the sincere purpose of going to Confession." (Baltimore Catechism, Official Revised Edition, no. 403). "Our contrition is perfect when we are sorry for our sins because sin offends God, Whom we love above all things for His Own sake." (no. 399). "Our contrition is imperfect when we are sorry for our sins because they are hateful in themselves or because we fear God's punishment." (no. 400). "To receive the Sacrament of Penance worthily, imperfect contrition is sufficient." (no. 401). ---Publisher, 2002]; therefore it is called by the holy Council of Trent: the second plank after shipwreck.
In this Sacrament Jesus Christ has deposited His Precious Blood, that it may be to our souls as a salutary bath wherein they may be cleansed from all the stains of sin, their wounds closed, their maladies cured, their weakness strengthened, and grace unto salvation imparted to them. This Divine Blood is dispensed to us by the priest in the holy absolution, and is abundantly poured forth upon all souls approaching the tribunal of Confession with proper dispositions. Oh, how blessed is our lot in being able at so low a cost to regain Heaven, which we have lost through our own fault! What does it cost you, O Christian, to receive this Sacrament, in which the soul is cleansed from all its stains, even were it defiled by all the sins that have ever been committed from the creation of the world? Far more did its institution cost Jesus Christ, for it cost Him scourges, thorns, nails, a Cross---in one word, His Passion and Death. But for you to reap the whole fruit of the Passion and Blood of your Redeemer, you need but make one act of true contrition, "shed but one tear" of true repentance, and, in short, make a good Confession. And yet Christians are so negligent and indolent in approaching this Sacrament of reconciliation, pardon, and peace! They prove, indeed, how little they care about their own salvation, or value the most Precious Blood of Jesus, which was shed for their salvation.
Go often to Confession, dear Christian; and if you have incurred the dreadful misfortune of falling into mortal sin, go to Confession without any delay. Do not have the presumption to live one single moment in a state of mortal sin, because death might surprise you in this state, and precipitate you into Hell forever. By means of a good Confession your soul is released from the slavery of the devil; the chains of sin are burst asunder, and your name is effaced from the gloomy records of Hell, where it was written. You are in one instant transferred from the enemy into the child of God, the co-heir of Christ, the heir to Heaven; you become the beloved of blessed Mary, the friend of the Angels, the companion of the Saints. You, become once more capable of acquiring merits for life eternal; you regain that grace and those blessings which you had lost by sin, and fresh and ever increasing strength is imparted to you, to preserve you from falling anew. All Heaven is glorified when the sinner confesses his sins and is converted to God with his whole heart.
Often go to Confession, even when your soul is not burdened with mortal sin, because by good and frequent Confessions the soul is still more strengthened to keep at a distance from sin, is enlightened, filled with ever-increasing graces and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, is in better disposition for receiving the favors of God, acquires new light to discover the temptations of the devil and strength to overcome them; she is cleansed yet more and more from her daily stains, and approaches nearer to the sanctity required of a true Christian. St. Catherine, St. Bridget, St. Charles and St. Ignatius confessed every day; St. Francis Borgia confessed twice a day, once before saying Mass, and once before going to bed.
It would be a very excellent thing for you to make a rule to go to Confession once a week.
On the other hand, whenever you go to Confession, exert the utmost care and diligence that you may well and worthily approach this Sacrament.
To make a good Confession, five things are required, viz.: Examination of Conscience; Contrition (sorrow for sin committed); Purpose of Amendment (determination never more to commit sin); Confession (a declaration of your sins to the priest), and willingness to perform the Penance enjoined.
Examination of Conscience
The examination of your conscience should be made with the same degree of care and attention with which you would set about an affair of the greatest importance. In order, therefore, that your efforts may be crowned with success, you must beg Almighty God to bestow upon you light and grace, through the merits of Jesus Christ. In proportion to the length of time which has elapsed since your last Confession, and to the nature of your employments and the duties of your calling, you should devote more or less time to your examination.
Examine, in the first place, what length of time has passed since your last Confession---whether you have performed your Penance, and whether or not you have put in practice the advice given you by your confessor. Then read through, one by one, the Commandments of God and of the Church, to see whether you have transgressed any of them by thought, word, deed, or omission. Examine yourself upon the seven capital sins, and upon the obligations of your position and state of life. To assist your memory, you may likewise call to mind in what places you have been, with whom you have conversed, or upon what business you have been engaged. When you have remembered your sins, bear in mind their number, that you may be able to tell your confessor. [Note: A good Examination of Conscience is to be found in the book: Confession: Its Fruitful Practice, TAN, Rockford, 11, 2000. -Publisher, 2002.]
When you have concluded your examination, you must proceed to excite contrition---the most important part of this Sacrament.
For want of contrition, innumerable Confessions are either sacrilegious or invalid; the penitent so often breaks his promises to God, and falls again so easily into the same faults, and many souls are eternally lost. Contrition is that true and lively sorrow which the soul has for all the sins it has committed, with a firm determination never to commit them any more.
1. It must be sovereign, for sin must be more hateful to the soul than any other evil. Therefore, if you wish to make a good Confession, you ought to hate sin above every evil, and be in the disposition to accept any suffering or trial rather than return to your sins and offend God, the Fountain of Justice and all True Good.
2. It must be universal---that is to say, you must detest and repent of all the sins you have committed---at least of all that were mortal sins.
3. It must be supernatural---that is to say, proceeding from the grace of God, and conceived through a motive revealed by the light of faith, such as having deserved Hell, lost Heaven, etc. If you repent of your sins because by them you have offended God, the Sovereign Good---because you have displeased a God infinitely worthy of being loved---your sorrow will be perfect contrition---it will be that of a son who is deeply grieved at having offended his good Father. Happy will you be if your sorrow be of this exalted kind!
Many Christians spend a long time in examining their consciences, and in making long and often unnecessary narrations to the confessor, and then bestow little or no time upon considering the malice of their sins, and upon bewailing and detesting them. Christians such as these, says St. Gregory, act like a wounded man who shows his wounds to the doctor with the utmost anxiety and care, and then will not make use of the remedies prescribed. It is not so much thinking, nor so much speaking of your sins that will procure their pardon, but heart-felt sorrow and detestation of them. And since the most difficult, and, at the same time, most necessary part of Penance is to conceive this true sorrow for sin, I will lay before you, in the following Preparation for Confession, various considerations composed of motives and acts, which you must read slowly and attentively, meditating upon them one by one, so that each may sink deeply into your heart, and thus excite you to repentance.
Purpose of Amendment
Purpose of amendment is a firm and fixed resolution never more to offend God. Many fail in the purpose of amendment, especially habitual and relapsing sinners, and in consequence fall again so speedily into the sins they have confessed, and offend God.
Your purpose of amendment must be:
1. Firm---that is to say, you should have an earnest, strong, resolute, lively, and true determination never more to commit sin. Confession does not mean the mere relation of your sins to your confessor, as a narration, but it means an entire change of will, a change of affections, a change of desires, a hatred of the sins that you have hitherto loved---in short, a change of life. And after so many Confessions, have you changed your life?
2. Universal---that is to say, you must resolve never again to commit sin.
3. Efficacious---that is to say, you must not only resolve that, with God's grace, you will never again commit sin, but you should also consider what would be the proper means of preventing a relapse; you must plan to avoid all voluntary near occasions of sin, and you should endeavor most earnestly to eradicate your evil habits. If you do not resolve in this manner, your purpose of amendment will be in words only.
Confession or Accusation of Sins
Confession or Accusation of Sins is the declaration to an authorized confessor of the sins which you have committed. It must be:
1. Entire. You must accuse yourself of all the mortal sins which you are certain of having committed---and you should also confess any mortal sins you are doubtful of having committed---exactly as you see them in your conscience to be, and which you have not as yet duly confessed. You must confess your mortal sins with their kind and number, neither more nor less, if you can, or at least as nearly as you can remember. It is good to confess your venial sins also.
2. Sincere---That is to say, you must not excuse, disguise, or justify your sins. How many Christians, in the very act by which they think to unburden their conscience, load it still more heavily, because they do not sincerely accuse themselves of their sins, and after Confession are more guilty than before? What does it avail you to deceive the confessor into giving you absolution, by confessing a smaller number of sins, concealing the others through shame, or by not telling them such as they truly are? Acting thus, you only draw down upon yourself the anger of God. For the sake of not saying a few words to your Confessor, who is bound to inviolable secrecy, who is your spiritual Father, who loves your soul, who pities your weakness, who is the minister of Jesus Christ, and who has been by Him entrusted with this office to hear and assist poor sinners, you are willing to go to Hell, and be lost for all eternity. What madness!
The Sacramental Penance
The sacramental penance is a satisfaction imposed by the Confessor, after hearing in Confession the sins of the penitent. In the ancient canons of the Church, very severe penances of years and years were imposed for one single mortal sin. The Church has most wisely moderated such excessive severity, and confessors usually impose very slight penances. Nevertheless, if the fervor of Christians has grown cold, sin has not lost its malice, or grown less reprehensible, neither has Divine justice become less rigorous; therefore, besides accepting and performing the penance enjoined you by your confessor, you should endeavor to add some voluntary ones, to satisfy the justice of God, or you should at least seek to gain some of the indulgences which are so plentiful in the Church. Be not of the number of those who are dissatisfied, and even refuse to accept the penance enjoined by the confessor, from the mere apprehension of its being too severe. Is it much, indeed, after having committed so many sins, and having repeatedly merited the bitter torments of Hell, to have to perform a short penance? If Christians possessed true faith, they not only would never refuse or neglect to perform the penances enjoined them, but would even ask for more. For it must be remembered that the sacramental penance is of far greater value, and releases you from much more temporal punishment, than any that is performed through your own choice, because it derives peculiar value and virtue from the Sacrament, and from the merits of Jesus Christ. Humbly accept then the penance imposed upon you, and perform it as soon as possible in a spirit of devotion and sincere contrition.
PREPARATION FOR CONFESSION
On the day when you are to go to Confession, hasten, if possible, to the church before entering upon any other business, and there retire on one side to the foot of some Crucifix, or before the most Blessed Sacrament, and placing yourself in a particular manner in the presence of God, implore of Our Lord light and grace to prepare yourself worthily for the reception of this Sacrament. The prayers given here below may serve you as a guide and rule.
What I most particularly recommend is that you should not merely glance at them, or hastily run through them, as is often done with spiritual books, or with other vocal prayers, which, precisely because they are frequently repeated over, are recited by many persons carelessly and through custom. Read attentively, and let your heart feel all that is expressed in the acts and prayers which you are reciting, endeavoring to excite within your soul those affections of the will signified by the words. And if from time to time you stop to make a short but devout pause, you will find ample subject for meditation both in the Preparation and in the Thanksgiving.
Prayer Before Beginning The Examination of Conscience
BEHOLD at Thy feet, O my sweet Jesus, a new prodigal son, terrified at the sight of his sins, who can find no other remedy for them but to confess them at Thy sacred feet, and trust in the immensity of Thy mercy. Thou knowest me, O my Jesus: I am unhappily that ungrateful son who has so ill corresponded with all Thy love and tenderness, and has so shamefully outraged and offended Thee, the best of Fathers. I am no longer worthy to be called Thy child, but yet my poor heart cannot live at a distance from Thee. I should deserve, my sweet Jesus, to behold Thee now as my severe judge; but, most happily for me, I behold Thee hanging on the Cross, with Thy arms stretched forth to clasp me once more to thy loving Heart, and Thy Wounds are as so many mouths calling me to repentance, and tenderly whispering to my heart, "Return to me, O My son, return and repent; doubt not My love for thee." O my Crucified Jesus, complete then the work which Thy immense charity has begun; bestow upon me some small portion of that knowledge and sorrow which Thou hadst for my sins, when through horror at, and contrition for them, Thou didst sweat blood in the Garden, and fall almost fainting on the ground, that I might thereby comprehend their gravity and malice, and conceive a proper degree of sorrow for them! Enlighten my mind, and strengthen my memory, that I may remember all my sins, as also their number and attendant circumstances; inflame my will with an eternal hatred of sin, and with an ardent love of Thee, O my Crucified Love. O Mary, most sorrowful Mother, assist me now in this my great spiritual necessity. And thou, my holy Angel Guardian, lend me now thy special aid, that I may worthily prepare myself for Confession.
Having made this prayer, you should recollect yourself, and begin your examination with the I utmost diligence and application of mind. Examine yourself particularly upon that passion to '. which you are most inclined, and that virtue against which you are most frequently tempted. Mark down in your memory the sins you find you have committed, their kind and number; and when you cannot exactly be certain of the number, at least remember for how long a time you continued to commit that sin, and as nearly as possible how often you committed it in the course of a week or month, that you may tell your confessor.
When you have finished your examination, before going to Confession you should excite yourself to contrition, and make a purpose of amendment; and as these acts are of the utmost importance, and, in fact, absolutely necessary, endeavor to make them, not in a mere cursory manner, but several times over, repeating the act of contrition as well as that of attrition [See Note above also; By contrition and attrition are meant perfect contrition and imperfect contrition, respectively. The traditional Act of Contrition includes both an act of imperfect contrition and an act of perfect contrition. ---Publisher, 2002], for greater security, although either act, well made, is sufficient for forgiveness in Confession. Whether you make them out of your own head, or read them from a book, take care to accompany the words uttered by your lips with the inward feeling of your heart [Contrition (perfect or imperfect) is essentially an act of the will, by which one chooses to regret and renounce his sins. An emotional feeling of sorrow, while good, is not required for contrition. ---Publisher, 2002], otherwise they will avail you nothing. That you may make these acts well, reflect seriously upon the motives which should excite you to them, and which I here propose to you in the form of short considerations.
Considerations and Motives to Excite in Our Souls a Lively Sorrow for Our Sins
One or more of these considerations may be read, according to the time and circumstances, and the disposition of the penitent.
1. You have deserved Hell. Consider, my soul, how great is the evil which thou hast committed by falling into sin. Thou hast deserved Hell. If God had struck thee dead when thou wert in a state of sin, where wouldst thou be now? That pleasure, that interest, that point of honor, or that revenge, has made thee a child of perdition. Oh, how many souls are burning in Hell for one single mortal sin! And how many hast thou committed? How often hast thou deserved Hell? How long wouldst thou already have been burning in Hell, if Divine mercy had not awaited thy repentance? Ungrateful soul, what is thy conduct with regard to so good a God? This: thou makest use of His very mercy to outrage Him. Ah, begin from this moment to bewail thy sins. Descend in spirit into Hell; look at those flames, those torments, and those devils awaiting thee. There thou wouldst now be weeping in despair, if I thou hadst died in thy sin. There thou wilt weep for all eternity if thou diest in thy sin. My soul, how sayest thou?---what are now thy resolutions? With one tear of repentance thou mayest extinguish those flames, close up the abyss of Hell and gain Heaven. Oh, how much am I indebted to Thee, my God, for having waited for my repentance even until now, and for haVing saved me from Hell! How much do I owe Thy loving mercy? Behold, I yield. I detest my sins above every other evil, because by them I have deserved Hell and lost Heaven, but more, far more, because I have offended Thee, my God, my Sovereign and Infinite Good. Never more will I commit sin, O my God, never more.
2. You have lost Heaven. Consider, my soul, what an inestimable good thou hast lost by sin. Raise thy eyes to Heaven, contemplate that blessed country, where God, the Fountain of all happiness, is possessed forever. Before thou didst fall into sin, Heaven was thy home, thy inheritance, thy country, thy blessed abode. There was written thy name---there was to be thy place of eternal repose. But no sooner, unhappy soul, didst thou fall into sin, than thou didst forfeit all this happiness, and deserve every evil. Thy name was erased from the Book of Life. Thou didst become an enemy of God. Thy Saviour became a Judge, breathing vengeance. Thou didst cease to be a faithful child of Mary. Thou didst become the slave of Satan. Thou didst renounce thy right to eternal glory. Thou didst lose Heaven. Oh, how great, how inconceivable a loss! And that for the sake of a foolish pleasure, a shameful outburst of anger, or some momentary gratification! Rouse thyself, O my soul, there is yet time to remedy so many losses. By one tear, one sigh, one good Confession, God will be appeased. Yes, God will pardon thee, and render thee once more worthy of the glory thou hast lost. O Heaven, would that I had never lost thee! O sin, would that I had never committed thee! O my God, would that I had never offended Thee! Behold me at Thy feet, penitent and sorrowful. I wish I could efface the evil I have done. I wish I could wash it away in my own blood. I detest my hateful sins. I abhor my guilty pleasures. I renounce inordinate attachment to creatures. I bitterly bewail having lost a Paradise of delights, but far, far more do I weep and lament for having displeased a God so good, so amiable, so worthy of being loved. My Father and my God, allow me to be reconciled to Thee, now and forever; deprive me of life rather than let me live to offend Thee more. Let me love Thee, or die.
3. You have crucified Jesus anew. Behold, O my soul, the great evil thou hast done in committing sin. Look at Jesus on that Cross; look at His torn and mangled limbs; look at the streams of Blood flowing from His Wounds. All that is the work of thy sins. Thy evil thoughts have crowned His Head with sharp thorns. Thy immodesty has defiled His face with bruises and spittle. Thy impurity has cruelly scourged Him from head to foot. It is thou who hast inflicted all those wounds, mangled those hands, transfixed those feet, torn that innocent flesh by thy sins. It is thou who hast displayed such wanton cruelty against that adorable Body, sacrificing and drawing forth from it streams of Blood, without one thought of pity, where the gratification of thy unworthy passions was concerned. It is thou who hast drenched that Divine mouth with vinegar, by so many evil words, and so much licentious conversation. It is thou who hast afflicted and grieved that loving Heart by thy hatred, aversions, and rancor toward thy neighbor. It is thou who hast barbarously pierced that sacred Side, when thou didst give entrance into thy heart to that illicit love. It is thou who hast overwhelmed thy Lord with shame and ignominy by thy pride and vanity. It is thou who hast by thy execrable sins put thy Father, thy Creator, and thy God, to a cruel death. It is thou who hast trampled His adorable Blood underfoot each time that thou hast returned to thy sins. Read, cruel soul, read in the Wounds of thy Jesus, the greatness and malice of thy sins. Measure the enormity of thy crimes by the greatness of the torments and sufferings of thy loving Redeemer. My suffering Jesus! How, oh, how could I ever have had the heart thus cruelly to torture Thee? How was it that I did not fall down dead through alarm and horror at the sight of my own impiety? And what evil hast Thou done me, O my sweet Jesus, that I should treat Thee with such horrible inhumanity? Ah, hast thou ever ceased for a moment to love me and load me with blessings? Even on the Cross Thou didst pray for me, invite me to repentance, offer me pardon, and satisfy Divine justice for my sins at the price of Thy own precious life. My Crucified Redeemer, behold me humbled, penitent, and sorrowful at Thy feet; ah, do not cast that soul which cost Thee so dear into eternal flames! My sweet Jesus, receive me into Thy tender embraces, hide me in Thy opened side, press me to Thy loving Heart! I confess that it is I who am Thy crucifier, that it is I who have nailed Thee to the Cross, by my sins. I do not deserve pardon for such shameful impiety. But those Wounds speak for me, that Divine Blood pleads in my behalf, and they obtain mercy for a traitor who deserves it not. Mercy, O my Jesus, mercy and pardon! I detest all my sins from the very bottom of my heart; I hate and abhor them, because they have inflicted on Thee so many sufferings and so painful a death. Wash my soul in Thy Precious Blood, let my heart break with sorrow, and make me fully comprehend what mortal sin is---mortal sin, which has put to death the Son of God---that so I may never cease while I have life to bewail the great evil which I have done in committing it.
4. You have offended God, the Sovereign Good. Consider, my soul, how, by committing sin, thou hast offended, insulted, and maltreated thy Benefactor, thy Sovereign Good---thy God, the fountain of love and infinite goodness. Tell me what evil has thy God ever done thee? In what has He offended thee? Answer me. Why hast thou grieved that loving Heart? Thy God created thee, adopted thee for His child, and redeemed thee by His Blood; He has so often fed thee with His most precious Body, loaded thee with blessings, bestowed on thee so many graces, and prepared Heaven for thy eternal abode. Why hast thou betrayed so amiable a Benefactor? Why hast thou turned thy back upon the best of Fathers? Is this, then, the gratitude, love and fidelity thou dost owe thy God? Ah, my God! I ought indeed to die from sheer grief at the thought of my monstrous ingratitude. What! did I proudly turn my back upon Thee, and didst Thou pursue me, inviting, nay, even imploring me to return to Thy arms? I hated Thee, and Thou didst love me! I rebelliously offended Thee, and Thou, my loving Father, didst continue loading me with benefits! I refused to acknowledge Thee as my God. I wished to hurry on to my own perdition, and Thou didst preserve my life, offer me pardon, and breathe to me in loving accents, "Son, why dost thou fly from Me? What evil have I done thee?" My most beloved God! How, oh, how could I have the heart to offend so good a Father? How could I live so long at a distance from Thee, a rebel to Thee, and Thy enemy? Great has been my misfortune, my God, in losing Heaven and meriting Hell, but far greater evil have I done in displeasing Thee, the Sovereign, Infinite Good! I lament the evil I have done myself; but infinitely more do I lament the displeasure I have caused Thee, my God, who art worthy of all my love. Ah, would that I could cancel the evil I have done, at the expense of every drop of my blood! O God of compassion and of infinite goodness, since Thou dost so mercifully offer me pardon upon the sole condition of my repentance for having offended Thee, behold me prostrate at Thy feet; I repent with my whole heart and soul of all the offenses I have committed against Thee, my Father, my God, and my Sovereign Good! Now do I begin to love Thee with all my strength, above all else, O God of Love. I renounce every inordinate love, I renounce the world, the devil and sin, in order to love Thee above all things. Never more, O my Heavenly Father, never more will I renew my offenses against Thee, never more will I commit sin. I will ever bewail that unhappy moment in which I offended Thee, my Sovereign Good; do Thou grant that my tears of repentance may cancel my sins.
An Act of Contrition and Purpose of Amendment
O MY Crucified Lord, behold me prostrate at Thy feet with the deepest feelings of humility and confusion, acknowledging myself guilty of so many grievous offenses against Thee. Have mercy, O tender Father, have mercy upon this my soul, which Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood. Have mercy upon this Thy prodigal child, who now returns to Thee weeping and penitent. I acknowledge and confess, O my God, that I am guilty of innumerable faults, and of the malice pertaining to each one of them. I am guilty of having outraged Thy goodness. I have a thousand times deserved Hell, and should be already burning in its flames, had not Thy mercy waited for my repentance. I am deeply penitent, O my God, for having done so much evil to my soul by my shameful sins, but far more do I grieve, and does my heart reproach me, when I reflect that in sinning I have offended Thee, my Sovereign Good. Oh, how dreadful is it to behold my Jesus nailed to a Cross by my hands! O Jesus, have my sins then rendered Thee the Man of Sorrows? I see those sharp thorns which are the unhappy fruit of my proud and impure thoughts. I see those painful Wounds which my guilty pleasures have inflicted on Thy virginal Body. I see that Heart pierced through and through, in consequence of my sinful affections. Ah, my sweet Jesus, since Thy mercy has led me to Thy feet, let me here die of grief, let my soul be breathed forth in contrition for such shameful ingratitude! Yes, my Jesus, let this body of sin die, provided only my soul may live. I ask this favor of Thee, through that most Precious Blood which flows from Thy dying limbs---look at me, O my Jesus, prostrate at the foot of Thy Cross, and already sprinkled with Thy most Precious Blood. It is not I who speak to Thee, my beloved Redeemer, but Thy Blood which calls loudly for pity, mercy and pardon, and implores for me the grace of an unbounded hatred for sin, and that I may die a thousand times rather than ever lose Thy grace again. O my God, O Father of mercies, look upon Thy Son, crucified and dying for my sake, to make satisfaction for my sins. In His Name, through the merits of His sacred Passion, of His scourging, of His crowning with thorns, of His Blood, and of His death, look at my sinful soul with eyes of compassion and mercy; give me a most sincere and burning contrition for my sins. I repent, O Lord, I repent of them all, and I am grieved above every other evil for having offended Thy infinite Goodness, Thou, my Sovereign Good, Thou, who art a Being of infinite perfection, the Fountain of all good, the Author of all good, the Perfection of all perfection, and infinitely worthy of being loved, obeyed, served, and honored. And I, miserable, vile creature as I am, instead of serving, honoring, obeying and loving Thee, have outraged, insulted and abandoned Thee; I have transgressed Thy most holy law to gratify the shameful caprices of my corrupted heart and perverse will. I would willingly die at Thy feet of grief for having offended Thee, my God and for having been by my sins the guilty cause of the death of Jesus. I am resolved, and firmly purpose, by the help of Thy grace, to die a thousand times rather than ever more offend Thee. Yes, O my God, I will fly sin, whatever it may cost me; I will avoid all occasions of sin; I will lead an entirely different life for the future; I will love Thee with my whole heart; I will die rather than offend Thee again. My sweetest Mother and Queen of Dolors, by those tears which thou didst shed at the foot of the Cross, obtain for me a most lively, sincere, pure sorrow for my sins, that, when I receive absolution from the minister of God, I may receive the abundant I fruits of the Blood shed by thy Jesus for love of me. Do thou assist me that I may accuse myself of all my sins, detest them all, and thus recover the grace and friendship of my God.
RECOMMENDATIONS WITH REGARD TO CONFESSION
1. Having concluded your preparation for Confession, go to your confessor with the utmost humility and modesty, as though you were approaching Jesus Christ in person and confessing your sins to Him who sees your heart and will one day judge you. If you have some time to wait, persevere in devout silence and recollection, making repeated acts of contrition for your sins. Look upon yourself as a criminal loaded with chains, who has been already tried and convicted, and is now called upon to present himself before the Judge, Who is also the very person he has injured and offended.
2. When you have entered the confessional, kneel down with the utmost reverence and humility, imagining yourself to be in the presence of Jesus Crucified, who wishes to hear from your own lips the sincere confession of all your sins, and provided you truly repent, is ready to pardon them and cleanse your soul in His most Precious Blood, through the medium of the sacramental absolution pronounced by His minister. Make the Sign of the Cross, and say with sincere contrition: "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."
3. Then, with the greatest humility, in a clear intelligible voice, and slowly, not hurriedly, with your eyes cast down and your hands joined, say in the first place how long it is since your last Confession, and whether you have performed your Penance.
4. If you have any grievous [that is, mortal] sins to confess, accuse yourself of them in the first instance, explaining yourself clearly concerning their kind, number, circumstances, etc. Say whether you frequently fall into them, whether you are in the habit of committing anyone of them; whether anything is to you a near occasion of sin; whether you have any sinful attachment, or are under any sinful promise. Say also if you have not fulfilled any important obligation. Tell your confessor everything with the utmost sincerity and clearness, both in order that he may prescribe proper remedies, and that you may not run the risk of making a bad Confession---a misfortune which might easily happen.
5. If you have no mortal sins of which to accuse yourself, confess the venial sins you have committed, and let your sorrow extend to all the sins of your past life. In order to secure contrition and a firm purpose of amendment, it will be as well for you in this case to accuse yourself of some really grievous sin of your past life, and this you may do in every Confession, for your greater humiliation, and to purify your soul more and more.
6. If you are really desirous of making good Confessions, imagine every Confession that you make to be your last, and that you are to be judged by God immediately after it. Think that your eternal salvation or damnation may depend upon that one Confession. Act so that when death really comes, your Confessions may be a source of consolation, not of remorse, to you. It is related of a Dominican friar, that when exhorted on his deathbed to make a good Confession, he replied, "For thirty-five years I have made each Confession as though it were to be my last." Imitate his example.
7. When you have accused yourself of all your sins, and have nothing more to say to your confessor, listen to the good advice he gives you with attention and humility. Accept the penance enjoined you with great submission, as also whatever else the minister of God may please to impose upon you.
8. When you are about to receive absolution, renew from your heart your act of contrition for your sins, firmly resolving never more to commit them. To excite in yourself feelings of more tender devotion and lively contrition, it is well to imagine that you are at the foot of the Cross of Jesus on Mount Calvary, and that when the priest absolves you, the Precious Blood of your Redeemer is flowing on your soul and cleansing all its stains. With your mind absorbed in these or similar pious reflections, receive sacramental absolution, making the Sign of the Cross.
9. On leaving the confessional, it is good to animate yourself with the liveliest feelings of joy and confidence that God has pardoned you your sins. Perform your penance as soon as possible, and thank Our Lord for the great blessing He has bestowed upon you.
Prayer to Be Said after Confession
O MY sweet Jesus, behold me, although most unworthy of Thy mercy, cleansed from the stains of my grievous sins, solely and entirely through the effects of Thy compassion. What claim had I to be restored to Thy friendship, which I had so frequently outraged? To Thy merits and Thy goodness am I indebted for so great a favor. O beloved Redeemer of my soul, how much do I owe Thee! To merit for me this favor, Thou, although perfectly innocent, didst shed every drop of Thy Blood, endure so many sufferings, submit to such cruel tortures, and finally even die upon a Cross! And I, the unworthy author of so much evil, have made amends for my crimes by a single short act of contrition! Oh, mercies of my Jesus! And what thanks could ever be adequate to so great, so loving a favor? O most holy Mary, and you, blessed Angels and Saints of Heaven, assist me to thank my Lord for His great goodness! Do you obtain me grace never more to abandon Him, but to persevere in the resolutIons I have made and here renew, never more to offend Him, but to love and serve Him until death. Grant, O my most sweet Jesus, grant that I may never again lose the fruit of Thy Precious Blood. May I die a thousand times rather than ever again commit a single mortal sin, and offend Thine infinite goodness. Whenever and by whatever death I die, permit not, O my loving Saviour, that my soul, which has cost Thee so dear, should be lost!
INSTRUCTIONS FOR AFTER CONFESSION
In order not to relapse into sin:
1. Reflect that the man who commits mortal sin again pronounces in his heart this iniquitous sentence: "The devil, to whose service I now return, is a better master than God, whose service I leave, after having tried it, had experience of its perfections, and tasted its sweetness." Can a greater degree of perfidy be conceived?
2. Reflect that the man who commits mortal sin forms in his heart a new Calvary, and raises thereon a new Cross, on which he is desirous of seeing Jesus die anew; he cries aloud that Jesus is to be crucified, and he takes arms in his hands with which to put Him to a cruel death. Oh, fearful impiety!
3. Consider what roads led you to a relapse into sin, after former Confessions, and close them up carefully, for if you leave them open you will speedily go astray as before. You will always find it far more easy to fly the occasions of sin than to avoid sin when frequenting its occasions. You have promised God in Confession to sin no more, but if you do not fly from the occasions of sin, you break your word, for you voluntarily expose yourself to a relapse. Oh, if penitents were to avoid all the occasions of sin, how far more faithful would they remain to their Lord, and how far more constantly would they persevere in the grace they had regained.
4. If you have hitherto relapsed into sin after Confession because you did not often recommend yourself to God, be most careful never again to neglect prayer. If you have fallen into sin because you neglected to meditate upon the Passion of Christ, make it a rule to reflect upon that sacred subject as often as possible. If you have sinned, owing to neglect of the Sacraments, promise Our Lord that you will frequent them; in short, let nothing appear to you too arduous. If you have committed sin because you did not have recourse to our blessed Lady as your dear Mother, never estrange yourself from her tender love and powerful protection; invoke her, have recourse to her in every temptation and danger; consecrate each day to her; beseech her to save you from sin, and most assuredly she will do so.
Act of Contrition*
O MY God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
*Added by the Publisher, 2002. This is the Act of Contrition traditionally memorized by Catholics.