What is the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
‘Christ’s love is shown in the fact that He seeks the lost and heals the sick. That is why He gave us the Sacraments of healing and restoration, in which we are freed from sin and strengthened in our physical and spiritual weakness.’ Catechism of the Catholic Church – Reference [1420-1421]
It does not seem like a modern thing to go to Confession; it can be difficult and cost a great deal of effort at first. But it is one of the greatest graces we can receive again and again in our life – it truly renews the soul, completely unburdens it, leaving it without the debts of the past, accepted in love, and equipped with new strength. God is merciful and he desires nothing more earnestly than for us, too, to lay claim to His mercy. Someone who has gone to Confession turns a new, clean page in the book of their life.
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.
What Is Required?
Three things are required of a penitent in order to receive the sacrament worthily:
- He must be contrite—or, in other words, sorry for his sins.
- He must confess those sins fully, in kind and in number.
- He must be willing to do penance and make amends for his sins.
How Often Should You Go to Confession?
While Catholics are only required to go to Confession when they are aware that they have committed a mortal sin, the Church urges the faithful to take advantage of the sacrament often. A good rule of thumb is to go once per month. (The Church strongly recommends that, in preparation for fulfilling our Easter Duty to receive communion, we go to Confession even if we are aware of venial sin only.)
The Church especially urges the faithful to receive the Sacrament of Confession frequently during Lent, to help them in their spiritual preparation for Easter.
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 His 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 we should embrace it as a gift from a loving God.
The Sacrament of Confession is available upon request in all three Churches of the Parish.