Diocesan News

Ask the Register: do I have to go to confession?

Q. I struggle with the Sacrament of Penance and I go to Mass just several times a year. I want to go to Christmas Mass and would very much like to receive Communion. Do I really need to go to confession first?

A. Most likely, yes. Whenever we are conscious of a serious (mortal) sin which breaks our relationship with God we are called to be sacramentally reconciled first before we can receive the Eucharist (Communion).

Such sin is called mortal because it is deadly to our relationship with the Lord. The distinction between mortal and lesser (venial) sin is noted in the New Testament in 1 John 5:16-18 and Matthew 5:19.

Also, the need to be worthy to receive Jesus in the Eucharist is also highlighted in the following passages of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11: 27 – 29.

Now, for the need to go to confession. If you missed Mass knowingly and willingly or committed any other serious sin — you would need to go to confession first before receiving Communion.

Don’t let anything hold you back – fear, embarrassment, shame or a lack of knowledge of how to go to Confession and/or the Act of Contrition.

Most parishes have an examination of conscience available (probably near the confessional), or you can find one online. Go to your parish’s website to find out when confessions are scheduled.

Remember, you can go anonymously (behind the screen). Every priest I know will be welcoming and accommodating. If need be, just ask him to help you through confession.

Ordinarily, a confession begins with “Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been __ months or years since my last confession and my sins are: here one must list his or her sins — the kind of sin and at least in general terms — the number of times that sin was committed, e.g., once, a few times, many times, etc.

At the end, finish by saying “I am sorry for these sins and any sins I may have forgotten.” The priest will give you a penance and ask you to recite an Act of Contrition. Most confessionals have an Act of Contrition posted on the wall. If not, a traditional Act of Contrition is below.

Can I suggest a New Year’s resolution? Resolve to go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day and confession once a month. Thanks for the question.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You 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 You my God who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your help, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.


This question was answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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