The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession, Penance)
Jesus Christ came into this world to save us from sin. At Baptism all the sins we have committed up to the reception of the Sacrament are forgiven. If after Baptism we commit sin the union between God and ourselves is broken. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was given by God so that all sins and guilt against his love are forgiven. A sin is committed if we break one of the Commandments, refuse God’s love, selfishly choose our own way of life, or harm our neighbour or ourselves. We must understand the Sacrament in order to receive forgiveness.
The conditions for receiving this Sacrament are: contrition, confession, satisfaction, resolution and absolution.
The conditions for a sin to be serious (or mortal) are:
- The offence must be serious (against one of the Commandments).
- We must understand that we are committing a mortal sin.
- There must be full consent of our will to the action.
- How to go to Confession:
– Pray, then examine your conscience and consider whether you have committed any sins.
– Be sincerely sorry for your sins.
– Confess your sins to a priest.
– After your confession do (or say, if it is a prayer) the penance that the priest has given you.
– Do not forget to thank God for his forgiveness, and ask him to help you as you try to do better.
Things to remember:
- If it is a long time since your last Confession you can ask the priest to help you.
- Don’t make the mistake of putting off Confession – that never solves anything.
- Try to go to Confession frequently ( a minimum of once a year. Your conscience may tell you that you need to go more often).
- Sin is any deliberate thought, word, action or omission against the Commandments of God.
- For our sins to be forgiven we must be truly sorry for them (The Act of Contrition is important), and sincerely intend to try to improve our lives.
- We must confess every serious (or mortal) sin of which we are aware.
In our Parish this Sacrament is celebrate on Saturday between 5.15 – 5.45pm, or by appointment with the Parish Priest.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)
Confession is the sacrament by which priests forgive our sins and administer God’ s mercy in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we hear the words of the priest’s absolution, the consequences of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice become present in a unique way. It is one of the Sacraments of Healing, the other being the Sacrament of the Sick. We should approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation with an attitude of recognising our sins and sorrow for having committed them, and asking the grace of forgiveness and Redemption. Sins are those thing which separate us from God. As we say at the beginning of Mass we ‘call to mind our sins’, this is also the beginning of the sacrament of Confession. This is done by examining our conscience in an attitude of openness before God who loves us and will help us to recall the ways in which we have offended him. If we think of his love for us we will not be afraid to confess our sins, however serious they might be. We need the help of God and his Mother to enable us to make a good confession, and we should put ourselves in their hands before we begin to examine our conscience. Choose your prayer that helps you.
As we examine our conscience, having prayed for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and help us to look clearly at our life, we ask God to help us to be sorry for the times when sin has separated us from him and to have mercy on us.
Stages of the Sacrament
These are a careful examination of conscience; contrition (sorrow for our sins); repentance (determination not to sin again); confession of our sins to the priest as the representative of God, who said to his apostles ‘whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven’; the words of absolution (removal of our guilt) said by the priest on each persons, individually, followed by a sincere act of contrition which we make; and satisfaction or penance by which the penitent is instructed to repair the damage caused by sin.
For example, the latter might be the return of something stolen from another, alternatively, if the priest asks the penitent to say some prayers these should be said carefully and offered to God as a petition to save him or her from committing sin again. Our motive in receiving the Sacrament must be our love of God and sorrow for having offended him, not because we hear some kind of punishment. As we make a good confession we grow in humility and the love of God; thus, the oftener we confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness the easier we will find it to resist the temptation to sin.
Punishment for sin
There are two consequences of sin: Grave (mortal) sin separates us from God, making us incapable of eternal life with him; this is known as Eternal Punishment. Lesser (venial) sins occur as a result of too great an attachment to the things of this earth eg. to football, money ect; purification from them is either here on earth through the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or in Purgatory after death, known as Temporal Punishment. A mortal sin is a serious offence; we must know that we are committing a mortal sin; and we must fully consent with our will to the action. If we are aware of the sins we commit in the course of our daily lives and ask for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently we will find it easier than if we just receive it once a year, as the Church requires. We can then live our lives in the spirit of Reconciliation, growing closer to our vocation to love God and our neighbour.
The Church teaches us: CCC 1472
The greatest problem in our society and our lives is that we do not accept the reality of sin at all (whether this is a mortal sin or, in some cases, even venial sin). To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence.
Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin.
These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain. ( “i.e. any inordinate attachment of ours to things animate and inanimate – and we can all think of many examples, I’m sure. Another person, television, football, spending money, earning money! Anything we are obsessed with, even when we do not realise it.”)
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church – Sacrament of Reconciliation (On this Site)
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church Online – Index
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church – Sacrament of Reconciliation (On Vatican Site)
- Word on Fire topic – Confession
- The Light is on for You – A good site to learn more about Confession
Frequently Asked Questions