Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Patrick received an email from an anonymous listener who wrote in asking about confession:
Patrick, would you recommend any confession supplements for making a good and thorough confession? Also, would you recommend any prayers before examining your conscience or before confession? Can you offer an examination that helps people who tend towards scrupulosity?
“Well yes, yes, yes, and yes,” said Patrick. “I can do all of those things.” To begin, Patrick directed his listener to the free Relevant Radio® App (also available for Android here). When you open the app, in the top right corner there is an icon of a cross over a bible that’s labeled “Pray”. When you tap that button, it will open a menu with a list of prayer genres. Tap “Confession Helper”.
In the Confession Helper, we provide 6 brief guides to each step in the confession process: How to go to Confession, Make a Good Confession, Examination of Conscience, Prayer Before Confession, Act of Contrition, and Prayer After Confession.
How to go to Confession will give a step-by-step process of what exactly happens inside a confessional when you enter to confess your sins and receive absolution. As Patrick points out, for those non-Catholics who may be curious about what happens inside the confessional, this is a helpful explanation.
Make a Good Confession outlines five steps that you should keep in mind when seeking reconciliation so that you can be sure to make the best confession possible. The five steps are to examine your conscience, be sorry for your sins, make a resolution not to commit those sins again, confess your sins to the priest, and fulfill your penance as instructed.
For those who are not familiar with the full process of examining your conscience, the next guide will prove very informative. The examination of conscience is a guided set of questions that you may ask yourself in preparation for confession. These questions correspond to the ten commandments, and they ask us if we have committed some of the most common sins against each of the Lord’s laws. For example, sins against the first commandment would involve putting “false gods” before Him. The Examination of conscience will ask: “Have I performed my duties toward God reluctantly or grudgingly? Did I neglect my prayer life? Did I recite my usual prayers?” In this way, we can be sure we have covered all of our bases before we enter the confessional.
Then, once you have thoroughly examined your conscience, there is a brief prayer that you can pray to give you strength in confessing your sins:
Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten my mind that I may clearly know my sins. Move my heart that I may be sincerely sorry for them, honestly confess them and firmly resolve to amend my life. Spirit of Wisdom, grant me to see the malice of sin and my ingratitude toward You, the all-loving God. Spirit of Fortitude, help me to make whatever sacrifice is needed to avoid sin in the future.
After you have entered the confessional, followed the steps, confessed your sins and the priest has offered you some guidance and told you your penance, he will ask you to say an act of contrition. Technically, your act of contrition may be any expression of your true sorrow for your sins, and you may phrase it however you wish, but there are standard prayers that you may follow as well. The guide offers two of these standard prayers.
The priest will then grant you absolution, and you will be forgiven upon the completion of your penance. The last guide also offers a prayer for after confession that expresses your gratitude for God’s mercy and the blessing of reconciliation.
On the issue of scrupulosity, Patrick recommended a book to his listener, Spiritual Theology by Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. In the book, Fr. Jordan covers scrupulosity, a malady of the soul which exaggerates the immorality of certain acts. Scrupulosity is when one mistakenly treats their actions as though they were more offensive than they actually were.
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