Sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most unique and beautiful aspects of Catholicism. Jesus Christ, in His abundant love and mercy, established the Sacrament of Confession, so that we as sinners can obtain forgiveness for our sins and reconcile with God and the Church. The sacrament “washes us clean,” and renews us in Christ.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23).
If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, the Catholic Church wants to welcome you back, and invite you to participate in this beautiful sacrament of healing. Take a step in faith. You’ll be surprised about how free you feel after taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So many Catholics describe incredible feelings of peace, joy, relief, and love that they never expected. Jesus is calling you to experience His mercy in this way too.
Before celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, be sure to prepare with an examination of conscience.
Enter the reconciliation room. Then follow these steps:
Step 1: The priest gives you a blessing or greeting.
Step 2: 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).
Step 3: Confess all of your sins to the priest. If you are unsure about how to confess or feel uneasy, just ask him to help you.
Step 4: After confessing your sins, say “I am sorry for these and all of my sins.”
Step 5: The priest assigns you a penance and may offer advice to help you be a better Catholic.
Step 6: The priest then asks you to express your sorrow, at which point you say an act of contrition or use your own words, perhaps something similar to “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Step 7: The priest extends his hands over you and absolves your sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” You reply with “Amen.”
Step 8: The priest dismisses you by saying: “Go in peace.” You go forth to pray your thanksgiving and perform the act of penance he has given you.
Confession helps us to better “know thyself.”
St. Augustine and countless other saints and doctors of the Church talk about the importance of knowing ourselves well. Through coming to know ourselves better, we realized how fallen we are, and how badly we need God’s help and grace to get through life. Frequent Confession helps remind us to rely on God to help rid us of our sins.
Confession helps us overcome vice.
The grace we receive from the Sacrament of Confession helps us combat our faults and failings and break our habits of vice much more easily and expediently than we could otherwise do without the sacramental grace.
Confession brings us peace.
Guilt from the sins we commit can make us feel all mixed up inside and cause us to lose our peace and joy. When we hear God’s forgiving words to us from the lips of the priest in Confession, a burden is lifted off our shoulders and we can again feel the peace of heart and soul that comes from being in a good relationship with God.
Confession helps us become more saintly, more like Jesus.
Jesus was perfectly humble, perfectly generous, perfectly patient, perfectly loving—perfectly everything! Don’t you wish you could be as humble, generous, patient, and loving as Jesus? Saints throughout history have felt that way too, and they have frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help transform them into people who are more like Christ. Little images of Christ—that’s what saints are!
Confession makes our will stronger.
Every time we experience the Sacrament of Confession, God strengthens our will and our self-control to be able to resist the temptations that confront us in our lives. We become more resolute to follow God’s will and not our own whims.