The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Confession preparation begins before entering church

Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on making a sincere confession

Published: February 2, 2016   
Scott Moore /
Strategies for preparation can help one make a good confession and avoid anxiety in the process.

It did not take long after I was asked to write a short article on the topic of “preparing for confession” that I began to reflect on the irony of the request.

The thought that someone who often suffers from an over-scrupulous conscience should share with others about preparing for the sacrament of reconciliation certainly left me smiling a bit. Nevertheless, God often chooses the “foolish” and the “weak of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:27), and so, here I am to share with you.

There are many guides out there that can be used to prepare for confession. They often include an overview of what happens in the sacrament, as well as an examination of conscience and can be very helpful for a lot of people, especially the less scrupulous among us. In this brief article, however, I am going to share a more open-ended approach toward preparing for confession that has been quite helpful for me.

  • The first step of this approach is to make the effort to go to church when confession is available. I think for most of us, including the scrupulous, the thought of going to confession can, at times, seem about as dreadful as having to get up and out of a warm bed on a winter morning to face the frigid air. For this reason, I think it is important for us to make a firm plan to go to confession a few days in advance and then stick to it (barring some unforeseen emergency that conflicts). 
  • Once I’ve made it to church, I usually start preparing more intently for the sacrament. I’ll start by asking the Holy Spirit to “help me prepare to make a good confession” and to “make me honest and sincere, but not scrupulous.” From here, I ask myself if I’ve committed any mortal sins (a mortal sin “is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent” (CCC 1857) since my last confession, and then resolve to confess those.
  • If there aren’t any mortal sins that I am aware of, then I try my best to let my mind rest and see what struggles/sins over the past few weeks the Holy Spirit brings to the surface. Many things may come to the surface, especially for those who are thorough and detail oriented, and not all of them are from God. With this in mind, I find it helpful to remember St. Ignatius of Loyola’s insights into the discernment of spirits while I am preparing. I do this by trusting that any thought truly brought to the surface by God will bring contrition, hope and peace. Thoughts, however, that come to the surface with feelings of anxiety, worry and fear are not of God. It is the former that I will reflect on more and eventually take to confession, whereas the latter I make an effort to let go.

This, for the most part, is the simple process I try to use to prepare for confession, and it has often helped me to make a good confession. I am confident that I have found so much success with this method of preparing because it is based primarily on God; relying on his grace to prepare me for the sacrament of reconciliation instead of on my own efforts. In God’s own mysterious way, he has taken one of my weaknesses (scruples) and has turned it into an opportunity to trust more deeply in his grace. This is God’s way though, to make a good thing from our weaknesses, our folly and our sins. All we must do is share them with him in trust, and let his grace take charge.

Lord Jesus, in this Year of Mercy, may we all approach the sacrament of confession with trust in your grace. Please help us all to make good confessions; to be honest and sincere, but not scrupulous. Amen.

Kyle Zinno attends St. Joseph Church in Conway.


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