From my experience as a confessor and one who also goes to confession regularly, a good preparation before confession is the key to making a good confession. Think about any time you have had to have a serious conversation with somebody, especially one that might be difficult. There is no way you would go into that conversation unprepared. The anxiety of the situation could seriously compromise your ability to get your points across. But, if you prepare ahead of time, even though the nerves are there, you will be in a much better position to communicate your message.
We all know how nervous we can get when we go to confession, so preparing ahead of time will enable us to better confess our sins despite our anxiety. Furthermore, the Church asks us that we make an integral confession, which means making as complete of a confession as possible. Just trying to think of some sins a minute or two before confession is not sufficient.
So how does one prepare, especially if it has been a while? The first thing to do is to say a prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to shed light on those areas of your life where you need forgiveness. Then, it can be helpful to use an Examination of Conscience guide to help you identify and name your sins. You can look one up on the internet or check out the one on page 10. Make a good preparation and come receive God’s mercy in your nearest confessional!
Father Brian Alford is rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield and is the vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.