Today we enter Passiontide; that is, the last two weeks of Lent leading up to the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. The sacrament of penance is a very good, if not the very best way for all baptized Catholics to prepare to enter into these saving mysteries of Christ toward fully sharing in their fruits. I urge you to approach the sacrament with the greatest confidence in this font of God’s love and mercy, wherein we are invited to be forgiven of all of our sins.
In the title of this column, I use the expression “integral confession.” Simply put, an integral confession refers to our confession as “complete” or “entire,” wherein every sin that a person remembers, having properly examined their conscience before confession, is stated in their confession of sins. As said in the Catechism, in paragraph 1456:
“All mortal sins of which penitents [that is, the persons going to confession] after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue [aka, the “Ten Commandments”]; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.”
In other words, that we might make an integral confession we should first take time for an Examination of Conscience. That is, we spend some moments examining our lives since our last confession to recall those sins which we committed. Here are clear steps you can take:
- Pray first, asking the Holy Spirit to help you know your sins.
- Call to mind how long it has been since your last confession (in days, weeks, months, or years – whatever applies).
- Thoroughly consider your life since that last confession and what sins you have committed, making special note of any and every mortal sin. PLEASE NOTE: we have available small, pocket size pamphlets that give questions by which you can very effectively make this thorough examination of your conscience. In addition, many prayer books will have these kinds of questions printed in an “examination of conscience,” so that you are not left to guess as to what you should be asking yourself.
- Ask God to help you to be truly sorry for these sins and for the grace to amend your life (you will likely be asked to make an Act of Contrition during confession. This moment in your examination simply prepares you for a sincere Act of Contrition.)
Having done such a thorough examination, you are now ready to make an integral confession. All that remains is to sincerely confess these sins to the priest, ending with words “for these sins, and all that I do not remember, I am truly sorry.” In this way, you make a complete, entire, integral confession, where no stone is left unturned. You will be made clean – ready to go forth to live anew without any stain on your soul and will ultimately be ready to partake of the fullness of life that Jesus offers us through his cross and resurrection.