O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully hear our prayers, and spare all those who confess their sins unto Thee; that they, whose consciences by sin are accused, by Thy merciful pardon may be absolved; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is very desirable that the First Confession should be as complete as you can make it. It is the great turning-point in life—the nearest to Baptism which anything after Baptism can be. For having, as far as you can, brought all your sins before God, in the presence of His Priest, having repented of all, and received His pardon for all, you may begin to devote the residue of your life to Him. To facilitate this search into your whole past life, it is best to divide your life into periods, according to any outward changes; e.g. of first going to school (if you ever were at one), or of abode, or any marked events of life which make certain stages in it, or any turning-points for good or evil. Then in each throw yourself back as much as you can into your former life, thinking with whom you lived, acted, conversed, were intimate; how you employed, amused yourself, your conduct as to Church, &c. Try to bring everything before you: each separate scene in every placethe fields, or streets, or houses around your home or abode, your walks, rides, society, loneliness and lonely thoughts, the rooms you lived in, their very furniture—everything helps to recover the memory of your past life, and so bring back (alas!) the memory of some sin.
As you recall them, you had better mark them down for yourself by some abbreviations which others cannot understand, else you might forget them. In any heavier sin, it is best to trace out the beginnings or forerunners of it—(it is, alas! commonly something in childhood); then, when it begins to be more against conscience, the length of time it lasted—any aggravations of it—how it ramified into other sins, or, in what different forms it appeared; or if it were one in act as well as in thought and word; or, if it were a sin of the senses, what different senses were engaged in it—as the sight, hearing, touch; whether it were resisted, or whether (as will be the case sometimes, e.g. as to lies told in childhood or school-days to screen a fault, or to escape blame or punishment), committed almost as often as the temptation occurred, (so that if it was not more frequent, it was only that God did not permit the temptation to be so, and any escape from sin was only of God’s mercy): or again, whether it was broken off for a time and again committed.
Some estimate of the frequency of any sin, individualises it more. You will thus behold the sinful habit not in the main only, but in so many separate acts of sins, each displeasing to Almighty God. This is often the beginning of true repentance. If you cannot make any estimate of its frequency, you could at least recall the number of years during which it lasted; and in these whether there were intervals more or less long (as of months in which you were free from it). As you try thus to trace out your sin year by year (if it unhappily lasted for years), and month by month, you may probably be able to form some nearer estimate of its amount than when you looked at it only as a confused mass of sin. Do what you can, and then leave the rest to God. Take first whatever oppresses you most. When you have gone through this, your mind will be freer for the rest. Always bear in mind the great mercy of God, Who bore with us while sinning, did not cast us into hell, and has now brought you, as you trust, to repentance. Only so could the sight of sin be endured.