First Confession procedure

Hello all -

I am a bit embarrassed having to ask this question but I really need to know so I can go forward. That being said can someone tell me the procedure a child follows when making their first confession ? I mean when they are face to face with the priest how do they begin ?

Thank you

Same as all of us do when going to confession. Make sure the child is prepared beforehand with an age-appropriate Examination of Conscience and has learned (or has a copy of) an Act of Contrition prayer.

First you either kneel behind the screen or sit face to face in front of the priest (most churches will offer both options, so it’s whatever the child feels comfortable with).

The priest may say a little prayer first, or may simply wait for the child to begin. The best way to start is by saying ‘Bless (or Forgive) me father, for I have sinned, this is my first confession and these are my sins …’ (later you say how long it has been since your last confession instead).

Then the child confesses their sins to the priest, remembering to say how many times or how often they have committed the serious sins. It’s best to end with ‘for these and any sins I may have forgotten, I am truly sorry’ to let the priest know you’re done.

The priest may give some advice or make some comment about the sins or other matters, then he should (though he doesn’t have to) specify some type of penance - prayers to say or good works to do, things like that. He may (again it’s not obligatory) invite the child to say the Act of Contrition - if he doesn’t the child should say it by themselves afterwards.

Then, and this IS mandatory for a valid sacrament, the priest must correctly pronounce the words of absolution - ‘I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. Usually the priest says a longer prayer with these words at the end. The child makes the sign of the cross when the priest says these words, IIRC (I do, don’t know whether it’s mandatory) :o

After that the child is dismissed with the words ‘Go in peace’ or some such. At that point it’s nice to say ‘thank you, Father’ before you leave (I’m sure priests appreciate being thanked for their work!)

If the child is being prepared for his or her First Reconciliation / Confession through a parish school or religious education program, there may also be a special service for the children and their families prior to hearing confessions. Some parishes (depending upon size) open the confessions at that time for every Catholic there – not just the children – and it is a wonderful example for children to see the grown-ups they love and older siblings go to confession at that time as well.

To add to the esteemable LilyM-

If there is time and the priest in your piarsh does not lock them when not in use, please give the child the opportunity to “explore” the confessional or reconciliation room, within the guidelines of good church behavior. It eases a lot of fears.

sometimes the priest begins with a greeting, sometimes he expects the penitent to begin, so we teach the children to sit facing the priest (or kneel behind the screen if they prefer, their choice), and begin
Bless me Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession
(or at later times, it has been --------- since my last confession)
My sins are . . .
state your sins by name and how many times (I disobeyed by parents 6 times) or how often (I missed Mass every week during the school vacation).
For these and for all my sins I am very very sorry.

Father may talk to you, ask for more information, give you some helpful advice to avoid doing these sins any more. He will give you a penance, which you will do as soon as possible after you leave the confessional. It may be a prayer to say, a kind action to do for someone, or a bible verse to read.

He might tell you to make a good act of contrition, but if he doesn’t say it any how. He may say the words of absolution while you are praying, or wait until you are finished. These words include the phrase "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit I absolve you from your sins . . . "

then you will thank Father and leave to do your penance.

we also practice with “fake sins” during the parent meetings, with children and parents taking turns being the Father and the Penitent, visit the confessional to ease their comfort level, and of course 3 parent candidate meetings that reinforce what they have learned in their class on morality, forgiveness, sacrament of penance and reconciliation, examination of conscience, immediate preparation for the sacrament. If your child is preparing no doubt something similar will be offered, make sure you are not shy about raising and questions you have at that time.

since it is that time of year granny has a few more words for parents. by all means help your child prepare and teach him a simple examination of conscience, but not in a way that drills him and forces him to confess all his sins to you first. the confidentiality of the sacrament must be respected, and if you come by knowledge of sins he is confessing you are bound by the same code as the priest. you also can’t force your child to confess if you “know” he has done something very wrong, but you must do everything in your power to make sure he has the opportunity to confess.

also even when received in a group context with a penance service and individual confessions, this is not a celebration that merits video tape and photos, for one thing that is forbidden in this parish, for another, it intrudes on the proper privacy for all those participating and granny will take your video camera the same way she takes cell phones and ipods away during CCD.

What age do children usually make their first confession? My son is 8 but his maturity level concerning matters of the faith is not on that high a level. He understands right things and wrong things but I think his concept of sin, mortal and venial and handling a sacrament of confession is not age appropriate for him now.

we have an ongoing thread on the age for first confession.
the governing canon law is the (baptized) candidate must be prepared for and given the opportunity for first confession before first communion. so the age for the initiation sacraments governs that, which is anytime after the age of discretion or catechetical age, generally age 7. Some children may be ready before, some later. What is the age for first communion in your diocese? some time before that, up to a year, is the age for first confession. here first confession is in the second half of 2nd grade, 1st communion is in 3rd grade. It was pushed back by synod legislation largely due to the perception that at least hear most 2nd graders are not “ready” for first communion. whatever.

having been around children most of my life the average 5 year old has a keen perception of right and wrong, the concept of obedience to parents, and the delight in choosing disobedience. readiness for sacrament is best assessed with the parents, catechist and catechetical leader (and pastor if necessary) together, but parents know the child best.

If your child is not “due” to make first communion yet, but evinces a sense of sin and asks for confession, respect that and do not delay the sacrament.

None of postings above mention beginning with the Sign of the Cross, so they seem incomplete to me.

Here is my description of the Rite of Reconciliation of Individual Penitents, from the liturgical book, Rite of Penance, approved in 1973.
41. Priest greets the penitent.
42. Penitent makes the Sign of the Cross “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It is optional for the priest to do this as well.
Priest invites penitent to trust in God. Penitent responds: “Amen”.
If the penitent is unknown to the priest, they are advised to inform him of their state if life (eg. married, single), when the last confessed and anything else that may help the priest. (n. 16)
43. Optionally, the priest reads or says from memory a text of Scripture. This reading can be done by the penitent (n. 17).
44. Penitent tells the sins he is confessing. The priest helps him with this and provides counsel. The priest proposes an act of penance which the penitent accepts. The act of penance can be in the form of prayer, self-denial, “service to neighbor and works of mercy” (n. 18).
45. The priest asks the penitent to express his sorrow. The penitent can do so in his own words, or using a range of provided words, including
“Lord Jesus, Son of God
have mercy on me, a sinner.”
46. Priest extends his right hand and says absolution “God, the Father of mercies … in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Penitent answers “Amen”.
47. Priest says “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” Penitent answers “His mercy endures for ever.”
Priest dismisses the penitent. There are five sets of words for this, including “The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.”

But lots of the above can be shortened.

21. When pastoral need dictates, the priest may omit or shorten some parts of the rite but must always retain in their entirety the penitent’s confession of sins and acceptance of the act of penance, the invitation to contrition (no. 45), and the formularies of absolution and dismissal.” (In danger of death the absolution can be shortened.)

So it can be difficult to prepare children for this, not knowing which parts will be omitted.

Reference: The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, pages 534-536 and 545-548.

This book is good for kids:

Mine went behind the screen for his first time. I guess he didn’t remember how to begin, because he knocked on the screen and said “Hello?? Hello?? Is this thing on?”

The first thing they should be taught is that they can chose to either go face to face if that is offered by the priest or they can chose to use the screen.

Second is that the child is given the opportunity to receive the Sacrament, but this is not done in a way where the child is visible to anyone. It is NOT a photo op.

That is you choice as his parent, the primary person responsible for his Sacramental preparation.

Confess your sins anonymously, online at

Here first confession is set up in full view of everyone simply because there is no confessional and some parents will absolutely not allow their kids in the reconciliation room alone with the priest. Sad reality in this day and age. It’s not a photo op and the parents sit well back in the church.

I would respectfully disagree with you. You have already advocated this website in a previous post. It is not the proper form for a Catholic to use and encouraging others to do so does not fall in line with the Church’s understanding of this very important sacrament.

An article in a secular newspaper talked about the form of confession you are advocating. Evidently, from what the article infers, it is some Protestant idea. However, this is certainly not what Jesus intended the sacrament to be. When he charged the apostles with the power to forgive sins (the night of Easter Sunday), the Church rightly understands this to mean what the sacrament of Penance entails.

I do not know if you are Catholic, but, in the Church, both the priest and the penitent need to be physically present in front of each other (whether by way of the screen in a confessional, or, face-to-face). The penitent needs to confess all sins committed since the last confession (or, if this is the first time, the priest will guide the penitent), and, express geniune sorrow for the sins committed along with a firm purpose of amendment. Then the priest will administer the absolution using the formula approved by the Church.

That generally is OK as long as everyone is sitting well back in the church, including the other children. At many shrines I visit there is “open air” confessions with a folding confessional that has the screen option on one side. Canon Law requires that the children have this option, it’s not optional.

if he is old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, and to make his first communion, that is to express a desire to receive Jesus and to understand the difference between Eucharist and ordinary bread and wine, he is of catechetical age, and ready for confession, which MUST precede first communion. You are the parent, the primary person preparing him for sacraments, and the person best able to judge when he is ready. He does not need to be a moral theologian, he needs to understand when he has disobeyed, and the concept that some things are more serious than others, and can do much harm, and the difference between a deliberate sin and an accident. Most childrn understand these concept very well by school age.

In Mexico and many other countries churches are often build w/o standard confessional “boxes” and may be nothing more than a carrel built into a wall, open on 2 or 3 sides, or penitents simply kneel alongside the priest near a side altar, in an alcove, or even in the open air. People seem to know enough to allow enough space to avoid overhearing.