There is no sin that God cannot pardon. All we need to do is ask for forgiveness.
– Pope Francis
The Sacrament of Penance, also known as Reconciliation or Confession, is God’s recognition that we are human.
The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1421)
When we are baptized, our original sin is washed away and we receive the Grace of Christian Initiation. But Jesus knew that many would forget their Baptismal promises and may fall into sin.
Since God’s mercy is infinite, it is natural that He would provide a way to receive His grace through the heartfelt and mindful confession of the sins, and a genuine desire for forgiveness through penance. Only God forgives sins. Jesus himself gave the apostles (and their successors) authority to forgive sins in His name. He breathed upon them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ (John 20:19-23)
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been away for a while, it doesn’t matter what you have to confess.
Call the closest Catholic church for confession times or an individual appointment, and experience the grace of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. During Advent and Lent, many parishes also offer Penitential Celebrations, where the parish community gathers for a short liturgy and several priests are made available for confessions. In addition, on one day each year during Lent, priests across the Archdiocese dedicate the entire day to celebrating this healing sacrament on the annual Day of Confessions.
Priests welcome you no matter how long it’s been since you have been to Confession, and no matter what you want or need to confess.
Forget how it goes?
First, take a deep breath … it’s easier than you think.
Before the Sacrament
Look at your life. Examine your conscience. See where you’ve made some mistakes since your last confession. Ask, “How have I hurt God, others, myself? Have I broken any of His commandments? Have I broken with the teachings of the Church?”
Be truly sorry for your sins. The essential act of Penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love one has for God and which is reborn with repentance.
Steps of the Sacrament
If you need help — especially if you have been away for some time — simply ask the priest and he will help by “walking” you through the steps to make a good confession.
- The priest greets us, and we pray the Sign of the Cross. He invites us to trust in God. He may read God’s Word with us.
- We confess our sins. The priest may help and counsel us.
- The priest gives us a penance to perform. Penance is an act of kindness or prayers to pray, or both.
- The priest asks us to express our sorrow, usually by reciting an Act of Contrition:
O my 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 I have offended 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, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.
- We receive absolution. The priest says, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We respond, “Amen.”
- The priest dismisses us by saying, “Go in peace.” We go forth to perform the act of penance he has given us.
After the Sacrament
Give thanks to God for forgiving you again. If you recall some serious sin you forgot to tell, rest assured that it has been forgiven with the others, but be sure to confess it in your next Confession. Do your assigned Penance. Resolve to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation often.
After your children have been baptized in the Catholic Church, they continue their growth in the life of faith by receiving other sacraments when they are at the appropriate age. At the age of seven a child can go through the process of preparing for First Reconciliation and then First Communion, and then (typically at the age of 11 or 12 in this Archdiocese) a child may prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
- Archdiocesan Standards For Preparing Children And Youth For The Sacraments (PDF, see especially pages 61-72.)
- Archdiocesan Sacramental Standards Additional Resources (PDF, primarily for teachers)
Contact your local parish to learn more about what is involved in preparing for the reception of these sacraments.