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What Do We Mean When We Say ‘All the Sins of My Past Life’ During Confession?


A listener named Nicki asks why we say, “I’m sorry for these sins and all of the sins of my past life” during Confession.

Father Dave points out that while this phrase is common, it is not required. He also explains that people can be confused by the term “past life.” “We are not talking about reincarnation,” he says. “It refers to the things that have happened previously in your life… This phrase indicates sins that we forgot or things that we didn’t realize were sins. What this phrase is not designed to do is to allow you not to share your sins and put them all under an umbrella. It is meant to cover things that we forgot.”

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Father Dave confirms that a confession is still valid if this phrase is omitted. We should name our sins in Confession, and if we have genuinely forgotten some, we can trust we are forgiven. This phrase can be a helpful devotion for those who feel they want to express sorrow for the sins that they cannot remember.