Have you ever seen those signs in public restrooms that teach you how to wash your hands? Recently I saw one that had TWELVE steps to correctly sanitize your hands, and with pretty detailed explanations. Who would have thought it was so difficult to clean them?
Now I must say, there are other things that are, dare I suggest, more important than moving your right hand over your left hand with interlaced fingers (and vice versa), and in less steps! Since we already know how to fight against bacteria and viruses, I am going to put here a simple five-step process to get rid of any bacteria that you may have on your soul. Just as simple as getting your hands dirty with visible, or invisible stains, you can be dirtying your soul with obvious, or not-so-obvious sins.
Did you guess it yet? Five Steps to a good confession! Following these five steps could just be the difference between eternal life or eternal damnation! Here we go!
1. Examine your conscience. Do a run-through (or walk-through, or, better yet, crawl-through) of all your sins since your last confession. One can sin through their thoughts, words and actions... or lack thereof, which is called a sin of omission. One of the Servant Priests says that the least-common sin confessed is the sin of omission--failing to do something that you know you should have done.
There are a lot of examinations of conscience online, so find a good one that applies to your state of life. Usually they are based on the Ten Commandments, helping you see how they apply directly to you. If you go to confession frequently, think about the resolutions you had since your last one and any recurring sins or common temptations you may have. Ask the Lord to help you remember and feel sorry for having offended Him.
2. Feel sorrow for your sins. One thing is to "feel the loss of heaven and the pains of hell," which is good. But an even better, more perfect contrition and sorrow for one's sins is the thought of having hurt Someone who loves you so much. Take a moment to think about that, so that you and the Lord can truly have a reconciliation through the sacrament.
3. Make a firm resolution not to sin again. If you are going to confess getting drunk but already have plans to do the same again tonight, your confession isn't valid. You have to truly regret having sinned and plan on doing everything possible so that you don't sin again. From our human weakness, it is most likely that you will sin again, but may it not happen because, "oops!", you just didn't make any effort to change.
4. Tell your sins to the priest. If you have any mortal sins, say them right off the bat, as well as the number of times you committed them (if you can't remember, just say that to the priest). After getting the bigs ones out, tell him the rest of your sins. Priest won't tell anyone your sins, you can be sure of that, and usually they tend to forget what they've heard. In the confessional, the priest may give you some words of advice, you'll say an act of contrition, and then, with the power given to him from Christ, he will absolve you from your sins. It's just that easy.
5. Do the penance. Compare eternity in hell to praying one rosary. Or 40 years in purgatory to one Hail Mary. It's ridiculously easy to do penance for your sins here on earth. Keep in mind, of course, that what the priest gives you for a penance is to be combined with your prayers and good works in reparation for your sins.
See how easy? Next time you wash your hands, start planning on when you're going to wash your soul… better sooner than later!
Another beginner, but with really good teachers