The Sacrament of Penance (Confession/Reconciliation) is an experience of the gift of God’s boundless mercy. Not only does it free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are liberated to be forgivers. We obtain new insight into the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
Penance is an experience of the gift of God’s boundless mercy
Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The Sacrament of Penance is God’s gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). While all the Sacraments bring us an experience of the mercy that comes from Christ’s dying and rising, it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation that is the unique Sacrament of mercy.
As sinners, we recognize both our human limitations and failures and also God’s limitless love for us. God loves and forgives us, and the sacrament of reconciliation makes this gift of forgiveness a reality in the life of the sinner. We are restored to a proper relationship with God. Through the cleansing of our sins and guilt, we are once again made whole and holy.
The sacrament of penance is one of two sacraments of healing. It is the sacrament that brings spiritual healing for Catholics who have distanced themselves from God by committing sins.
There are four elements involved:
- the penitent’s contrition for sin
- confession to a priest
- absolution by the priest
Through penance, the faithful receive pardon through God’s mercy for the sins they have committed. At the same time, they are reconciled with the Church community. The confession, or disclosure, of sins frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others.
Rite of Reconciliation
Reconciliation may be face-to-face or anonymous, with a screen between you and the priest. Choose the option that is the most comfortable for you.
- The priest gives you a blessing or greeting. He may share a brief Scripture passage.
- Make the Sign of the Cross and say:“Bless me father, for I have sinned. My last confession was…” (give the number of weeks, months or years).
- Confess all of your sins to the priest. The priest will help you to make a good confession. If you are unsure about how to confess or you feel uneasy, just ask him to help you. Answer his questions without hiding anything out of fear or shame. Place your trust in God, a merciful Father who wants to forgive you.
- Following your confession of sins, say: “I am sorry for these and all of my sins.”
- The priest assigns you a penance and offers advice to help you be a better Catholic.
- Say an Act of Contrition, expressing your sorrow for your sins. The priest, acting in the person of Christ, then absolves you from your sins.
Act of Contrition
God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to confess my sins, do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.