Repentance or Penance is the Mystery in which we return to God, our Father. We resolve to change our life and confess our sins to a priest, who has been given the power and authority to absolve our sins committed after Baptism. Through him, we receive God’s forgiveness, grace and healing.
For guidance in making a good confession, open one of the following PDF files, or scroll down for a five step outline for the Mystery of Repentance.
The Five Steps of Repentance
Step 1: Prayer
To make a good and sincere confession, we begin our preparation with prayer.
† In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (3)
†Glory be to You, our God, glory be to You.
Heavenly King, Advocate, Spirit of Truth, Who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of Blessings, Bestower of Life, come and dwell within us; cleanse us of all that defiles us, and, O Good One, save our souls.
†Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us. (3)
†Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and ever. Amen.
Trinity most holy, have mercy on us. Cleanse us of our sins, O Lord; pardon our transgressions, O Master; look upon our weaknesses and heal them, O Holy One; for the sake of Your name.
Lord, have mercy. (3)
†Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and ever. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us. We sinners bring this appeal to You, O Master, for we have no defense. Have mercy on us.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Lord, have mercy on us, for we have put our trust in You. Be not exceedingly angry with us and do not remember our transgressions, but look upon us now with compassion. Redeem us from our enemies, for You are our God, and we are Your people. We are all the work of Your hands, and we call upon Your name.
Now and for ever and ever. Amen.
Open the doors of mercy to us, O blessed Mother of God, that we who hope in you may not perish but be delivered by you from danger, for you are the salvation of the Christian people.
Ask God to help you make a good examination of conscience, to help you repent of your sins and to amend your way of life in the days to come.
Step 2: Examination of Conscience
With the help of the self-examination provided, call to mind all the sins you have committed since your last confession.
- Putting God First. I am the Lord your God; you shall not have other gods before me.
Do I seek to love God with all my heart, mind and soul? Do I worship Him? Does He truly hold first place in my life? Do I seek to keep His commandments? Is prayer important to me? Have I given to anyone or anything else the love, honour and worship that belongs to God alone? Have I failed to trust in God, His love and mercy? Have I been thankful for His blessings? Have I doubted the Christian faith? Have I ever received Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin? Have I told a lie in confession? Have I deliberately withheld confessing a mortal sin out of fear or embarrassment?
- Respect for God. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Do I have a deep and sincere respect for God and His holy name? Have I shown disrespect to God, either in word or deed? Have I sworn a false oath? Have I broken any solemn promise or vow which was made before God? Have I cursed or used foul language? Have I wished evil upon anyone?
- Respect for the Lord’s Day. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
Have I worshiped God faithfully on Sundays and Holy Days? Have I encouraged others to do the same? Have I worked or shopped unnecessarily on Sundays or Holy Days? Have I caused others to do the same? Have I spent the Lord’s Day in wholesome and edifying ways? Have I made time for family and friends?
- Respect for Parents and Authority. Honour your father and mother.
Have I loved and respected my parents as I should? Have I neglected them, or failed to help them? Have I disobeyed them, deceived them or caused them pain by my words and deeds? Have I forgiven them where forgiveness is due, or do I hold any resentment or bitterness towards them?
Is my own family centred around Christ and His teaching? Have I neglected my responsibilities to my spouse and children? Have I respected my teachers, superiors, employers (those who are in authority) as I should? Have I disobeyed or deceived them by my words or deeds? Have I treated fairly all those who have worked for me?
- Respect for Human Life. You shall not kill.
Have I caused physical harm, or injury or death to anyone? Have I had an abortion? Have I encouraged an abortion? Have I abused my own health or the health of others by evil and intemperate living (i.e. drugs, alcohol, etc.)? Have I caused physical harm to myself?
Have I given way to anger, hatred or resentment towards anyone? Have I failed to forgive anyone? Have I led others into sin by my bad example? Have I encouraged others to sin?
6 & 9. Respect for Marriage. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.
Have I been unfaithful to my marriage vows in action or thought? Have I practiced any form of artificial contraception in my marriage? Am I envious of another’s spouse or family?
Am I engaged in any inappropriate relationships? Have I engaged in sexual activity with a member of the opposite sex or the same sex? Have I masturbated? Have I encouraged others to commit impure acts? Have I sinned by giving way to impure thoughts, words or conversations?
Have I indulged in pornographic material? Am I reckless in choosing the books I read or the movies I watch? Have I associated with bad company or frequented places of ill repute? Do I maintain modesty and decency in dress?
7 & 10. Respect for Private Property. You shall not steal. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Have I taken or kept anything that was not mine? Have I cheated anyone? Have I caused others to steal or cheat? Have I tried to find the owners of lost things I have found? Have I damaged or destroyed anything that belonged to another? Have I defrauded anyone of their rightful wages? Have I paid my debts? Have I worked honestly and conscientiously for my wages? Did I spend beyond my means? Do I give alms according to my capacity? Have I looked with envy, jealousy or hatred toward the possessions, talents or achievements of others? Have I desired their downfall or loss of others out of evil intent that I might benefit? Have I grieved that God has bestowed greater blessing on others than on me? Am I resentful and bitter over my position in life?
- Respect for Truth. You shall not bear false witness.
Have I lied, spoken evil of anyone, or spread false rumours about them? Have I unjustly accused anyone? Have I revealed information that was confidential? Have I made careless statements or done anything else to harm the good name and reputation of another person? Have I engaged in idle gossip (discussing that which is doubtful as if it were true), hearsay and backbiting? Am I sincere in my dealings, or am I “two-faced”?
* * *
See Mt. 5: 1-11
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Have I truly recognized my complete dependence on God? Have I been proud, arrogant and self-righteous? Have I been selfish, greedy, possessive and self-seeking? Have I sought after status, recognition, power, material possessions and wealth?
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Have I endured difficulties and afflictions with faith and patience? Do I have compassion for the poor, the hungry and addicted, for the sick, the lonely and the sinful of the world? Have I truly been sorrowful for my sins and faults?
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Am I gentle with others, or am I harsh in my behaviour? Do I seek to dominate others at home, school, work, office, church, or elsewhere? Have I lost my temper? Have I nursed hatred in my heart or the desire for revenge? Have I been impatient, resentful, bitter, unforgiving, insulting, or abusive to others? Have I tried to love my enemies?
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Do I thirst for holiness? Do I truly yearn for God’s will to be done in my life and in all things? Have I tried to cultivate a righteous and holy life through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, worship, the reading of Holy Scripture, frequent Confession and Communion? Have I been lukewarm in my faith? Have I been lazy, negligent or apathetic?
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Have I been merciful to others? Have I turned away from someone who needed my help? Have I turned my back on someone poor, hungry, rejected, lonely or needy? Have I tried to understand and to forgive others? Have I been indifferent or judgmental?
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Do I love purity and honesty? Have I been dishonest in my speech or actions? Have the motives or intentions of my actions been evil or selfish? Have I given way to lust, impure thoughts, words or deeds? Have I been guilty of prejudice? Have I been hypocritical, pretentious or self-indulgent to sinful passions?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Am I at peace with God? Do I have His peace in my heart? Have I been angry, aggressive or impatient? Do I foster peace at home, work, church and community? Have I been irritable or argumentative? Have I caused division and discord? Is my criticism harmful and disruptive, or does it build up others in charity?
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
Have I complained when persecuted for my faith? Have I prayed for my enemies? Have I failed to defend someone for fear of humiliation or persecution? Have I had the courage to stand up for the truth despite criticism, ridicule or persecution? Am I afraid to witness to my faith in Christ Jesus?
Is the joy of Christ in my heart, even in trying moments? Do I give thanks to God in all circumstances, or do I complain often? Have I been pessimistic, negative, despondent or despairing? Have I truly delighted in the promise of God’s treasures in heaven?
Step 3: Sorrow and Desire to Change
It is very important that you be truly sorry for the sins which you have committed, and that you firmly resolve to amend your manner of living.
Step 4: Confession
Cross yourself twice, kiss the gospel book and the cross; cross yourself a third time while saying: †God be merciful to me, a sinner. (3)
Facing the gospel book and the cross, say:
I a sinner, confess to almighty God, the Lord, One in the Holy Trinity; to the immaculate Virgin, the Mother of God, to Saint (Name), my patron saint, to all the saints, and to you, my spiritual father, all my sins.
Mention how long it has been since your last confession. Then, confess your sins. When you have said everything, complete your confession with the following:
For these sins, and for all my sins which I cannot remember, I am truly sorry because I have offended God Who is good. I sincerely repent and I promise with the help of God, to better my way of life. And so, I ask you, my spiritual father, for saving penance and absolution.
The priest may give some spiritual counsel and may assign to you a penance. Then, say the following act of contrition:
†I have sinned without number, forgive me, O Lord.
The priest will say the prayer of absolution, and dismiss you with a blessing.
Step 5: Penance
Return to your place and give thanks to God for His goodness. Fulfill the penance which has been assigned to you. Doing penance is a way of showing God our gratitude for His mercy and forgiveness, our willingness to change our life, and our desire to atone for our sins.
Seven Psalms of Repentance
Prayer in time of distress
O Lord, do not reprove me in Your anger;* punish me not, in Your rage.
Have mercy on me, Lord, I have no strength;* Lord, heal me, my body is racked; my soul is racked with pain.
But You, O Lord… how long?* Return, Lord, rescue my soul.
Save me in Your merciful love; for in death no one remembers You;* from the grave, who can give You praise?
I am exhausted with my groaning;* every night I drench my pillow with tears; I bedew my bed with weeping.
My eye wastes away with grief;* all have grown old surrounded by my foes.
Leave me, all you who do evil;* for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;* the Lord will accept my prayer.
All my foes will retire in confusion,* foiled and suddenly confounded.
The joy of being forgiven
Blessed is the man whose offence is forgiven,* whose sin is remitted.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,* in whose spirit is no guile.
I kept it secret and my frame was wasted.* I groan all day long,
For night and day Your hand* was heavy upon me.
Indeed, my strength was dried up* as by the summer’s heat.
But now I have acknowledged my sins;* my guilt I did not hide.
I said: ‘I will confess* my offence to the Lord.’
And You, Lord, have forgiven* the guilt of my sin.
So let every good man pray to You* in the time of need.
The floods of water may reach high* but him they shall not reach.
You are my hiding place, O Lord;* You save me from distress. (You surround me with cries of deliverance.)
* * *
I will instruct you and teach you* the way you should go;
I will give you counsel* with My eye upon you.
Be not like horse and mule, unintelligent, needing bridle and bit,* else they will not approach you.
Many sorrows has the wicked* but he who trusts in the Lord, loving mercy surrounds him.
* * *
Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord,* exult, you just!
O come, ring out your joy,* all you upright of heart.
Acknowledgement of guilt
O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger;* do not punish me, Lord, in Your rage.
Your arrows have sunk deep in me;* Your hand has come down upon me.
Through Your anger all my body is sick:* through my sin, there is no health in my limbs.
My guilt towers higher than my head;* it is a weight too heavy to bear.
My wounds are foul and festering,* the result of my own folly.
I am bowed and brought to my knees.* I go mourning all the day long.
All my frame burns with fever;* all my body is sick.
Spent and utterly crushed,* I cry aloud in anguish of heart.
O Lord, You know all my longing:* my groans are not hidden from You.
My heart throbs, my strength is spent;* the very light has gone from my eyes.
My friends avoid me like a leper;* those closest to me stand afar off.
Those who plot against my life lay snares;* those who seek my ruin speak of harm, planning treachery all the day long.
But I am like the deaf who cannot hear,* like the dumb unable to speak.
I am like a man who hears nothing* in whose mouth is no defence.
I count on You, O Lord:* It is You, Lord God, Who will answer.
I pray: ‘Do not let them mock me,* those who triumph if my foot should slip.’
For I am on the point of falling* and my pain is always before me.
I confess that I am guilty* and my sin fills me with dismay.
My wanton enemies are numberless* and my lying foes are many.
They repay me evil for good* and attack me for seeking what is right.
O Lord, do not forsake me!* My God, do not stay afar off!
Make haste and come to my help,* O Lord, my God, my Saviour!
Prayer of contrition
Have mercy on me, God, in Your kindness.* In Your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt* and cleanse me from my sin.
My offences truly I know them;* my sin is always before me.
Against You, You alone, have I sinned;* what is evil in Your sight I have done.
That You may be justified when You give sentence* and be without reproach when You judge.
O see, in guilt I was born,* a sinner was I conceived.
Indeed You love truth in the heart;* then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;* O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,* that the bones You have crushed may thrill.
From my sins turn away Your face* and blot out all my guilt.
A pure heart create for me, O God,* put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,* nor deprive me of Your Holy Spirit.
Give me again the joy of Your salvation;* with a spirit of fervour sustain me,
That I may teach transgressors Your ways* and sinners may return to You.
O rescue me, God, my helper,* and my tongue shall ring out Your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips* and my mouth shall declare Your praise.
For in sacrifice You take no delight,* burnt offering from me You would refuse,
My sacrifice, a contrite spirit.* A humbled, contrite heart You will not spurn.
In Your goodness, show favour to Zion:* rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You will be pleased with lawful sacrifice, (burnt offerings wholly consumed,)* then You will be offered young bulls on Your altar.
Prayer for renewal
O Lord, listen to my prayer* and let my cry for help reach You.
Do not hide Your face from me* in the day of my distress.
Turn Your ear towards me* and answer me quickly when I call.
For my days are vanishing like smoke,* my bones burn away like a fire.
My heart is withered like the grass.* I forget to eat my bread.
I cry with all my strength* and my skin clings to my bones.
I have become like a pelican in the wilderness,* like an owl in desolate places.
I lie awake and I moan* like some lonely bird on a roof.
All day long my foes revile me;* those who hate me use my name as a curse.
The bread I eat is ashes;* my drink is mingled with tears.
In Your anger, Lord, and Your fury* You have lifted me up and thrown me down.
My days are like a passing shadow* and I wither away like the grass.
But You, O Lord, will endure for ever* and Your name from age to age.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion;* for this is the time to have mercy, (yes, the time appointed has come,)
For Your servants love her very stones,* are moved with pity even for her dust.
The nations shall fear the name of the Lord* and all the earth’s kings Your glory,
When the Lord shall build up Zion again* and appear in all His glory.
Then He will turn to the prayers of the helpless;* He will not despise their prayers.
Let this be written for ages to come* that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord;
For the Lord leaned down from His sanctuary on high.* He looked down from heaven to the earth,
That He might hear the groans of prisoners* and free those condemned to die.
The sons of Your servants shall dwell untroubled* and their race shall endure before You,
That the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion* and His praise in the heart of Jerusalem,
When peoples and kingdoms are gathered together* to pay their homage to the Lord.
* * *
He has broken my strength in mid-course;* He has shortened the days of my life.
I say to God: ‘Do not take me away before my days are complete,* You, whose days last from age to age.
Long ago You founded the earth* and the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish but You will remain.* They will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like clothes that are changed.* But You are the same, and Your years shall have no end.’
Prayer of repentance and trust
Out of the depths, I cry to You, O Lord,* Lord, hear my voice!
O let Your ears be attentive* to the voice of my pleading.
If You, O Lord, should mark our guilt,* Lord, who would survive?
But with You is found forgiveness:* for this we revere You.
My soul is waiting for the Lord,* I count on His word.
My soul is longing for the Lord* more than the watchman for daybreak.
Let the watchman count on daybreak* and Israel on the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy* and fullness of redemption,
Israel indeed He will redeem* from all its iniquity.
Confidence in the Lord
O Lord, listen to my prayer: turn Your ear to my appeal.* You are faithful, You are just; give answer.
Do not call Your servant to judgment* for no one is just in Your sight.
The enemy pursues my soul;* he has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in darkness* like the dead, long forgotten.
Therefore my spirit fails;* my heart is numb within me.
I remember the days that are past:* I ponder all Your works.
I muse what Your hand has wrought* and to You I stretch out my hands.
Like a parched land my soul thirsts for You.* Lord, make haste and answer; for my spirit fails within me.
Do not hide Your face* lest I become like those in the grave.
In the morning let me know Your love* for I put my trust in You.
Make me know the way I should walk:* to You I lift up my soul.
Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies;* I have fled to You for refuge.
Teach me to do Your will* for You, O Lord, are my God.
Let Your good spirit guide me* in the ways that are level and smooth.
For Your name’s sake, Lord, save my life;* in Your justice save my soul from distress.
In Your love make an end of my foes;* destroy all those who oppress me for I am Your servant, O Lord.