The Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession

Prodigal Son at St. Bernard Church

Today we have a guest post by Joy Davis:

As Catholics, we have the privilege of receiving the forgiveness of God, gained for us by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Although this sacrament is strictly required for the confession of serious, or mortal sin, “confession ofeveryday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.” (CCC 1458) This confession of less serious sins helps us to grow in the spiritual life and become holier, more merciful people.

Some people ask how often they must confess their sins to a priest. The Church asks that we confess our serious sins at least oncea year – but rather than looking at confession as a “duty” to beperformed annually, a change in our way of thinking may help usto look at this sacrament as a great gift to be received frequently. When we come to appreciate the love and mercy of God poured out to us in this great sacrament, we will find ourselves longing to receive the grace more often. Many teachers of the spirituallife and spiritual directors recommend frequent confession – at least monthly – for those who are trying to grow spiritually. Since the Second Vatican Council reminds us that we are ALL calledto holiness that means we ALL should be taking another look at frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
If it’s been a while since you last received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and you are wondering where to begin, here are afew reminders to help you:

  • Remember that the priest is there in the person of Christ– he is full of joy that you have come to celebrate the sacrament, regardless of how long you have been away.
  • When you enter the confessional, make the Sign of theCross, and tell the priest how long it has been since yourlast confession. If you can’t remember, just tell him that. He won’t be upset with you.
  • Confess your sins to the priest. After you confess your sins, the priest will often give you some counsel, and ask you to pray a penance after you leave the confessional. The penance may consist of a prayer, work of mercy, or other sacrifice.
  • The priest will then ask you to say an Act of Contrition. This is simply a prayer expressing your sorrow for your sins and your intention to not commit them again, with the help of God. One Act of Contrition is:

Woman washing Jesus' feet

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosingto do wrong, and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. OurSavior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.  Amen.

  • After this, the priest will pray the beautiful words of Absolution of sin, and you will be reconciled to God, theChurch, and your brothers and sisters.

This Advent there are many opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in our parishes.  In addition to the usual schedule, there are additional penance services scheduled for our parishes.  And of course, you can always call the office and make an appointment with one of our priests.

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