The Sacrament of Reconciliation (often called Confession, although confessing one’s sins is only part of the Sacrament) is one of the seven sacraments of the Church.
“After his resurrection, Jesus said to his Apostles: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose
sins you retain, they are retained.’”
Gospel of St. John 20:23
“So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another to be cured; the heartfelt prayer of someone upright works very powerfully.”
Letter of St. James 5:16
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus provides us with a way of being reconciled to God and to those we’ve hurt through our sins. Reconciliation with God is the purpose of this Sacrament. When
we sin we deprive ourselves of God’s grace
which then makes it easier to sin again. We
can break this cycle by receiving the
Sacrament of Reconciliation, once more
becoming reconciled to God, making it
easier to resist sin in the future.
To receive this Sacrament worthily we must:
- be contrite – to be truly sorry for our sins.
- confess those sins fully.
- be willing to do penance and make amends for our sins.
We should receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as we think it is necessary. However, the Church urges us to receive the Sacrament at least once a year, preferably during Lent, to help with our spiritual preparation for Easter.
How to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation
1. Say a prayer beforehand and examine your conscience. Think about your sins, you can write them down if it helps.
2. Go into the confessional and kneel or sit down. Alternatively you may receive face-to-face confession where you sit facing the priest.
3. Begin your penance. Make the sign of the cross and tell the priest how long it is since your last confession using there or similar words:
“Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been (length of time) since my last Confession.”
Do not be ashamed or embarrassed if it has been a long time since your last Confession; be joyous that you are returning to this beautiful gift that Christ gave his Church.
4. Confess all of your sins. Confess the type of sin and how many times for that type of sin. Do not worry if you get confused or forget something.
5. When you have finished confessing your sins declare your sorrow with these or similar words:
“For these and all the sins of my life I am truly sorry.”
6. The priest may now offer suggestions with your struggles. Listen to his advice and feel the love you receive from God through these words. The priest will give you a penance. A typical penance may be to say three Hail Mary’s and the Apostles’ Creed.
7. Make an Act of Contrition. Two suggestions are below:
O my God,
I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins
because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell;
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
O my God,
I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you.
I know I should love you above all things.
Help me to do penance, to do better,
and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.
8. The priest will give you absolution, forgiving you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He will say ‘Amen’ and you can say this with him or repeat this after him. Leave the confessional or from wherever you have received the Sacrament and complete the penance you have been assigned as soon as possible.