a) Examination of conscience. This is not supposed to be a torture session. Actually, our consciences will bring to mind any serious sins we have committed. Even people who have been away from the confessional for many years, even decades, realize that knowing our sins is not the hard part. It’s actually owning up to them to another. Keep in mind that God knows the whole past in every detail anyway. We make an honest effort to know ourselves and our failings. But, again, it’s God’s mercy that is most important.
b) Sorrow for sin. If we are serious about going to confession, sorrow comes almost automatically. After all, we are admitting we are sinners right up front. That truthful admission brings sorrow. But please don’t confuse sorrow with emotions or feelings. You may still struggle with feelings of resentment and yet tell God you are sorry for the time you were angry with another person. Sorrow is in the heart (not feelings) and in the will.
c) Confession of sin. Confess your sins as simply and as honestly as you can. It is easy to link sin with a commandment: missing Mass (third), anger (fifth), impurity (sixth, ninth). There is no need for great details, nor is the priest interested in detail. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask the priest for assistance.
d) Receive penance given. Listen to the words of the priest as he tries to guide you and remind you of God’s love for you.
e) Act of contrition. Making an act of contrition can be very short: “O, God, I am sorry for all my sins, now and in the past, and I will try with all my heart not to sin again.”
f) Thanks to God. Leave the confessional and thank God for his forgiveness and pray the prayers the priest gave you for a penance.