Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Confession is one of the least understood of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. In reconciling us to God, it is a great source of grace, and Catholics are encouraged to take advantage of it often.
What is Confession?
What is its purpose and its effects?
What are its requirements?
Can we confess our sins directly to God, or must we go through a priest?
Confession Is a Sacrament:
The Sacrament of Penance, commonly called Confession, is one of the seven sacraments recognized by the Catholic Church. Catholics believe that all of the sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ himself. In the case of Confession, that institution occurred on Easter Sunday, when Christ first appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection. Breathing on them, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).
The Marks of the Sacrament:
Catholics also believe that the sacraments are an outward sign of an inward grace. In this case, the outward sign is the absolution, or forgiveness of sins, that the priest grants to the penitent (the person confessing his sins); the inward grace is the reconciliation of the penitent to God (which is why the sacrament is also sometimes called the Sacrament of Reconciliation).
The Purpose of Confession:
That reconciling of man to God is the purpose of Confession. When we sin, we deprive ourselves of God’s grace. And by doing so, we make it even easier to sin some more. The only way out of this downward cycle is to acknowledge our sins, to repent of them, and to ask God’s forgiveness. Then, in the Sacrament of Confession, grace can be restored to our souls, and we can once again resist sin.
Why Is Confession Necessary?
Non-Catholics, and even many Catholics, often ask whether they can confess their sins directly to God, and whether God can forgive them without going through a priest. On the most basic level, of course, the answer is yes, and Catholics should make frequent acts of contrition, which are prayers, in which we tell God, that we are sorry for our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness.
But the question misses the point of the Sacrament of Confession. The sacrament, by its very nature, confers graces that help us to live a Christian life, which is why the Church requires us to receive it at least once per year. Moreover, it was instituted by Christ as the proper form for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, we should not only be willing to receive the sacrament, but should embrace it as a gift from a loving God.
Preparing to Receive:
Children preparing for First Communion receive the sacrament prior to their First Communion. Children attend classes as part of their children's education that prepares them specifically to receive this sacrament.
Adults attend the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program to learn about the sacrament.
Opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation include:
Anytime by appointment or Sundays: 7:15 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.
Communal Penance services are held two times a year with several priests, which involves a communal preparation, examination of conscience and act of contrition followed by individual confession, absolution and penance.