Q — Is writing a list of your sins before you go to confession considered “not good?” What I mean is lately I have had tendencies that are increasingly difficult for me to control. As much as I want to go to confession, a problem for me is I can’t confess my sins “on-the-spot” because it’s intimidating. I asked another Catholic this question and he said that if I do this, I’d be lying during confession. What are your thoughts?
A —The very fact that you put these intimate thoughts in writing tells me that you take both your moral life seriously and the sacraments of penance and reconciliation equally seriously. If it helps you to make a list, then perhaps you should do so.
However, I would lay out three principles that are foundational in the circumstances that you describe. First, recognize as clearly as you can that God is nothing but Love — reaching out to you, making you healed and whole, inviting you into the deepest possible communion with himself. That’s what the Christian life is all about. Everything serves this principle.
So, God is not paying close attention, as it were, to how you confess your sins. The fact that you are confessing your sins in the sacrament indicates your acknowledgment that God loves you and wants you to be holy. Second, one of the things that needs to be avoided at all costs is scrupulosity.
We confess our sins not to help God, so to speak, but to help ourselves. By naming our sins, by acknowledging our sins, we open ourselves to the healing love that God is, especially in the sacrament. We don’t need to put ourselves under severe scrutiny. We need to take an honest look at ourselves and recognize our sinful ways and confess these. Third, have a chat with your confessor outside of the celebration of the sacrament. He will be able to help you feel more at ease, and perhaps give instruction or suggestion about how you might proceed.