Penance / Reconciliation

Penance / Reconciliation

“The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies…has willed that His Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, His work of healing and salvation. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: Penance and Anointing of the Sick.” (CCC 1421)

God’s love for us is always present. No matter what we may have done to alienate ourselves from God and from our Christian community, God looks upon each one of us as His son or daughter. At times, however, each one of us abuses the love and the gifts which God gives to us. The Church recognizes this human frailty and the need each one of us has for forgiveness of our sins. When we have been unfaithful to God’s love and are truly sorry, the Christian community offers a unique sign that God and the Church family forgives us, welcomes us home, and supports us in our renewed efforts to love. This sign is the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In the sacrament of Reconciliation, the first thing we do is admit before God and before the Church that sin has had a certain hold upon our lives. To be frank, the reality of sin is bound to be a sobering thought. Yet, even in this first stage of the sacrament, there is much to give us cause for joy. For our very admission of guilt is itself a precious grace from God: and in the dimension of human psychology, it is a major landmark in self-awareness and personal maturity.

We then celebrate with the priest that God is with us even in our time of trial and need; that the sin has no lasting hold upon our lives; and that in the end, in Jesus, we will triumph over sin and death and live in God forever. We show that, even now, the Spirit is working within our lives and leading us to a closer union with the Father.

 

Frequency

The sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation has its own unique place in the lives of each one of us. The Church encourages frequent reception of this sacrament as a sign of continual conversion from sin and renewal in grace of each Christian along the path of Christian perfection. Further, recognizing that sin is the separation of ourselves from God, if we are aware of a serious sin which we have committed, we must first approach the sacrament of Penance before approaching the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

 

Manner of Celebrating the Sacrament

There are two options for receiving the sacrament of Penance in a private manner. Upon entering the confessional or reconciliation room, one may either kneel behind the screen, as was the custom in the past, or one may walk around the screen and sit in the chair facing the priest. The priest invites the penitent to have faith in God urging him to repent sincerely of his offenses against God and to confess any sins committed since the last time the sacrament was received. If necessary, the priest will help the penitent and offer suitable guidance, so that these sins may be avoided in the future. The priest then prescribes a penance which is a healing remedy for sin. The penitent prays the Act of Contrition. The priest then prays the prayer of absolution and dismisses the penitent in peace.