"Jesus began his risen life by giving the apostles power to forgive sins. the sacrament of Reconciliation continues His work of forgiving and reconciling. It celebrates the prodigal's return to the eternally merciful Father, renewing the sinner's union with God and also, with the community, in as much as, our sins harm our brothers and sisters."
-National Directory for Catechesis
The sacrament of Reconciliation is offered on Saturdays at 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM.
Special Communal Reconciliation Services are held during Advent and Lent.
PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION (CONFESSION)
What is the purpose of the sacrament?
If someone was baptized why do they need to be reconciled to God? This question poses some serious responses and these responses are not short. Fortunately, Jesus left the Catholic Church with an answer.
First, full Christian initiation has not taken place until someone receives Baptism, Confirmation and his/her first Eucharist. This is not to say that Baptism alone cannot cleanse a person, but full Christian initiation was added to demonstrate a point. Our new life received in Christian initiation does not abolish the frailty and weakness of human nature nor the inclination to sin due to Original Sin.
The baptized can work to overcome this by the grace of Christ that they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. Yes, that is correct, Christian life is a struggle, not a one-time deal of receiving God spiritually and suddenly one’s life is okay. There will always be the temptation to sin and humans will always occasionally succumb to temptation.
Scripture warns us that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” (1 John 1:8). Obviously sin “stains” us or else we would not need a baptism to “wash” us. Since it has been established that we have the ability to sin after baptism or the reception of the Holy spirit and since the Bible tells us that nothing unclean can enter heaven (Revelation 21:27) then that must mean that Jesus left us a way to cleanse ourselves of sin after baptism and before death. This way is the sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance.
Who can administer this sacrament?
Since the power to forgive sins was given to the apostles by the risen Christ (Cf. John 20:21-23) then the bishops of today’s Church also are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20) as successors to the apostles. The bishops and their collaborators, the priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders do not forgive sins in and of themselves, but “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” as it is written in 2 Cor. 5:20:
“So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
What are the effects of this sacrament?
Reconciliation is the act or state of re-establishing friendship between God and a human being, or between two person. When one sins, after baptism, this sacrament is needed to restore one’s relationship with God. Also, since all Christians are connected together through the body of Christ this sacrament reconciles one with the church. Believe it or not, but when one sins not only does one destroy one’s relationship with God, but one also destroys one’s relationship with other Christians. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. This sacrament restores it. In list form the spiritual effects of this sacrament are:
- Reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;
- Reconciliation with the Church;
- Remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;
- Remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;
- Peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;
- An increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1496)
What does one do in confession?
The penitent is the one confessing his/her sins and seeking forgiveness. There are three things that the penitent must do for reconciliation with the Lord. The penitent must make an act of contrition and that means to be fully sorry for the sin(s) committed and to firmly resolve that he/she will not sin again. The penitent must confess his/her sins to a priest. The reason for this is given in the answer to question number 2. Also, the penitent must make satisfaction for the sins.
What is the form and matter of this sacrament?
This sacrament’s form is the words of absolution and the matter is the confession of the penitent and his/her penance which is the satisfaction made for the sins.
What is the sacramental seal of confession?
The sacramental seal of confession is that the priest cannot reveal anything told to him, about the confessor, during the confession. There are no exceptions to this rule and the priest is “bound under severe penalties” to uphold this seal. Not even the highest court of any nation has the power to break this for God’s laws are higher than that of anyone else’s.
What is communal celebration and when does it happen?
“In case of grave necessity recourse may be had to a communal celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution. Grave necessity of this sort can arise when there is imminent danger of death without sufficient time for the priest or priests to hear each penitent’s confession. Grave necessity can also exist when, given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors to hear individual confessions properly in a reasonable time, so that the penitents through no fault of their own would be deprived of sacramental grace or Holy Communion for a long time. In this case, for the absolution to be valid the faithful must have the intention of individually confessing their grave sins in the time required. The diocesan bishop is the judge of whether or not the conditions required for general absolution exist. A large gathering of the faithful on the occasion of major feasts or pilgrimages does not constitute a case of grave necessity.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1483)
By Andres Ortiz
HOW TO GO TO CONFESSION
Wanting to go to confession is the first step in going to confession. Confessing your sins wipes the slate clean again with God and makes us stronger spiritually. Regularly going to confession is a way to grow in holiness. Knowing what to do in confession will make the process much easier.
Much of the work for a good celebration of a sacrament takes place prior to arriving at church. An honest, humble, and thorough examination of conscience helps you to prepare for the sacrament. Writing your sins on a piece of paper before you go can help you during your confession.
Once you arrive at church, take a few minutes to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help you make a good confession. When it is your turn, enter the reconciliation room. You can either kneel behind a screen or sit in a chair facing the priest.
In the Confessional
- The priest will welcome you.
- Begin by making the Sign of the Cross.
- A simple formula can get you going: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was ___ days/months/years ago and these are my sins.”
- You then list the kind and number of your sins (e.g. I missed Mass 3 times; I lied 20 times).
- The priest may ask you questions and/or offer you counsel.
- The priest will give you an appropriate penance (e.g. “For your penance, please pray 2 Hail Marys).
- The priest then invites you (the penitent) to make an Act of Contrition. There are no required words, although you need to include that you are sorry and that you will amend your life. A commonly used Act of Contrition is the following:
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to good, I have sinned against You, whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.
8. The priest then prays the prayer of absolution (forgiveness):
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace. I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
9. You answer, “Amen.”
10. The priest may then say, “God has forgiven your sins. Go in peace.”
11. You respond, “Thanks be to God.”
12. You then leave and as soon as possible complete the penance the priest has assigned to you.
Confession is one part of the sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation; completing your penance is the other part. Believe it or not, going to confession is the easy part. The hard part is actually amending our life so that we do not commit these sins again. For this, we need God’s abundant grace through the Eucharist, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
By Andres Ortiz