Questions on my upcoming first confession

I will soon be entering the Catholic church by making my first confession and profession of Faith.

I am converting from eastern Orthodox (non-practicing). I have never confessed before and would like some tips and pointers. I have already studied this:

and have begun making a list of my many sins. I have a question though.

A lot of the sins listed under mortal seem to apply to Catholics only (like being married outside of the Church, missing Mass without a good reason etc). Many venial sins seem to only apply to Catholics as well (things like not praying enough etc).

Do I confess everything on the list that I have ever done or been guilty of not doing? Or just the things that I knew were wrong at the time?

Any stories of first confessions would be very helpful too!

I look forward to your advice and to joining this wonderful Church!!!


To confess one’s sins, first pray to the Holy Spirit or a favorite saint (like Our Blessed Mother, or St. Pio who read souls in Confession) to help you make a good confession. Then examine your conscience by going through the Ten Commandments. There are some helpful booklets on examining your conscience that you can get from a Catholic bookstore or website like or Some churches even provide them for their parishioners during Reconciliation. I think the idea of making a list is unnecessary as I find my sins come to me when I prepare in this way. It is most important to confess any mortal sins such as sex outside of marriage (fornication or adultery) as well as any other serious sins in order to be able to go to Holy Communion. At the end of confessing your sins, say,“I am sorry for these and ALL the sins of my past life.” That way if you unintentionally forget something, you will not worry about it later. Listen to the priest’s words with a humble heart and feel the tremendous peace as the words of absolution pass over you. Our Lord Himself wipes away your sins and gives incredible joy and comfort to us sinners. Make Confession a monthly habit and it will become something you look forward to! Be at peace.

Do I confess everything on the list that I have ever done or been guilty of not doing? Or just the things that I knew were wrong at the time?

Those things that you knew were wrong.

That is what I was thinking, but I want to make sure that I do this right. Thank you.

The examination of conscience website assumes that you have always been Catholic it seems.

I am having a hard time examining my own conscience for sin (28 years worth) because for most of those years most of what I did wrong I did not think was wrong at the time.

I will continue to pray and think about this. I would appreciate all of the advice and comments you all have to offer.


My 1st confession was at age 55 after a hellacious life. I was so stressed about how I was going to fit it all in and asked the Priest in the confessional, “Well, have you got a few days?”
He laughed and put me at ease immediately. He said, “Just hit the high notes.” Still took me a half hour, but oh!, I felt as though the weight of the world had slipped from my shoulders.
Since then, if I recall something I have forgotten to reveal, I tack it on with the comment that, “up till now, I’d forgotten”.
What a wonderful Sacrament Christ left to us.

Thank you for sharing your story with me.

I agree, the Sacrament of Reconcilliation is indeed wonderful. I am so looking forward to unloading all of this baggage I have been carrying around!!! I do not yet know how it feels to be forgiven, but I anticipate it as being marvelously wonderful!


i’m glad to hear you’ll be having your first confession! we’re praying for you!

This longing you express is a divine grace. Cherish it!

While it is true that one needs confess only those things one knew were sinful, there ARE a lot of things that one ought to know are sinful, and not to know that, or not to ADMIT that, is culpable in itself. “I didn’t know stealing was wrong.” Please. Masturbation? The thing is gravely disordered in itself . . . “I was drunk and didn’t mean to run over the old lady so it’s not a sin.”

Such things that fall under natural law may be confessed without abusing the patience of the Priest, even though the personal circumstances of your own spiritual formation could get you a “by.”

Yes, that is my understanding. I want to confess everything that I have ever done…but I think I may tend toward scrupulosity, so I need to be careful too.

Some examples of my confusion are:

putting faith in superstition. I honestly did not believe this was wrong at the time. I was raised with the “break a mirror, seven years bad luck” and “don’t ever walk under a ladder” philosophies… and even curses. I know they are silly and sinful NOW, but I didn’t then. So do I confess something that I had no way of even knowing was wrong?

And willful drunkeness. Again, it was not ever taught to me that it was really wrong. Some things that may be done while drunk I knew could be wrong, but not the act of getting drunk in and of itself.

These are just a couple of examples of my confusion. Then there are things like failing to pray on a daily basis, not trusting in God, not going to Mass etc. I was never taught to do these things so I doubt that they were sinful, but I want to be sure.

I do not want to go in and totally overwhelm the priest with things that aren’t relevent… but I want to make sure I do this right. I know I am probably worrying over nothing, but I can’t help it. I will be very relieved when this first confession is over!!!


It sounds like in your case, the rule, “If in doubt, then it’s not a sin; don’t confess it.” should apply. Sometimes Priests will tell a penitent: “Just worry about the elephants.” While I find that a bit glib, it at least puts things in perspective.

If you were a Christian growing up, then the “superstition” thing about mirrors and curses applies – not just for a Catholic but for any Christian. You don’t have to go into detail. A sweeping: “I was raised believing in . . . and repent of that now.”

I mean, if you were raised believing murder was a good thing, since it is by any reckoning an objective evil, it would be a sin, even if your ignorance made you less culpable.

I came into the Church at age 55. Somebody told me about General Confession that “childhood doesn’t belong here.” But as I examined my life, I saw that the sins of childhood, far from being trivial or unimportant, had set the stage for bigger trouble. I confessed them broadly:

“Since the sins of my childhood seeded the sin-history of my adolescence and adulthood, I confess the disobediences, the tempers, the petty jealousies, the childish sexual fascinations, the mudballs in the neighbor’s laundry, the lies and deceptions: I turn from them, and repent of them with the same contrition and grief I owe to the sins of later life.”

I used the “when in doubt don’t confess” rule, but it backfired. :o I spent years doing something that I wondered if it was or wasn’t. Oh boy! Then I had to tell Father that I had wondered and it just seems to me that it would have been easier to come to a site like this and ask or ask the priest. People will often put up the actual rules, laws or doctrines.

That falls under, The “don’t ask if it is a sin and you won’t need to confess it” Doctrine.

I suppose it is ok once, but if one has to keep wondering for any length of time and through any number of confessions - ask for clarification.

I now use a new rule - when in doubt, ask so I know next time. It may not be a grave sin by virtue of not knowing with certainty that it was, but it doesn’t excuse not learning if it is sinful for the future.

Hope this helps.