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The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession) is the sacrament Jesus gave His Church to heal the brokenness that occurs in our relationship with Him when we sin. When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our friendship with the Lord is renewed and we are given grace - God's own life in our soul. The grace given to us in Reconciliation provides us with the ability to begin to turn away from sin, resist temptation and to grow in virtue.

Why do we need to confess our sins?

When we are baptized we given the free gift of God’s own life in our souls (sanctifying grace), we become God's adopted children, Jesus Christ becomes our adopted brother and best friend, and we receive the Holy Spirit in us to help us to grow in God's love. Sanctifying grace is what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life, leading us to live in a way that will enable us to grow in friendship with the Lord every day. 

However, as broken human beings we will invariably sin after we receive Baptism. When we sin, God’s life in us weakens or dies (depending on the severity of the sin), thereby weakening, or even breaking, our friendship with Jesus and also weakening our capacity to respond to the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. When we go to Confession, God gives us His sanctifying grace through the Sacrament, restoring our friendship with Jesus is and renewing the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

How often should I receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Like the Eucharist, Reconciliation should be received frequently and is a sacrament that is essential to spiritual growth. Like receiving daily Eucharist, going to Confession regularly (at least once per month) helps us to grow in our relationship with the Lord.

It is a precept (or rule) of the Church that a Catholic over the age of reason (roughly age seven) MUST go to Confession at least once per year if he is aware of having committed any mortal sin (that is, a grave or serious sin). 

However, it is also a teaching of the Catholic faith that regular confession of our venial sins helps us to form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as He is merciful. (CCC §1458)

What is sin?

In general, sin refers to free choices that harm and break our relationship with God and with others. 

Fr. Michael Schmitz further discusses what sin is in the videos below.

How do i go to Reconciliation?

Opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation are available several times each week.

Click here to see the Reconciliation schedule. 

Under normal circumstances, only a baptized Catholic can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  However, this restriction can be lifted in the case of grave circumstances (such as imminent death of a non-Catholic Christian). 

For Catholics, three things are required for a valid sacramental confession. 

  1. The Catholic must examine his conscience honestly and thoroughly and must not withhold confession of any mortal (serious) sins (CCC 1456). 
  2. The person must be contrite and repentant (CCC 1451). A contrite person will seek the Sacrament of Confession because he is sorry for his sins.   Love for God is the best motivation for seeking God’s forgiveness, but even if the person is not perfectly contrite (and seeks forgiveness out of simple fear of hell) the Sacrament of Reconciliation will still remain valid (CCC 1453).  However, if a person enters the Sacrament with the intention of committing the sin later, then this person is not sorry for his sins and the sin will not be forgiven. 
  3. The person must complete the penance assigned to him by the priest as soon as possible (CCC 1494). 

Below are several Examination of Conscience that can be used to prepare for Reconciliation. The documents for Adults, Pre/Teens and Children in Grades 2-6 include instructions on how to go to Reconciliation.

  1. Examination of Conscience for Adults
  2. Examination of Conscience for Married Persons
  3. Examination of Conscience for Pre-Teens/Teens
  4. Examination of Conscience for Children in Grades 4-6
  5. Examination of Conscience for Children in Grades 2-3

 

What to do in the Confessional
  1. Wait for your turn at the Confessional or Reconciliation Room (depending on where confessions are being heard). If you believe your confession will last a great deal of time (in excess of fifteen minutes) it is advisable to schedule a private confession with the priest.  A private confession is a good idea for those who have either left the Church, committed a sin which requires possible counseling, or have not confessed in a long time.
  2. Enter the Confessional and choose either a face-to-face confession or anonymous confession. Most parish churches allow the confessor to choose between a face-to-face or anonymous confession.  If you desire an anonymous confession simply kneel down in front of the curtain (the curtain will separate you from the priest) and the priest will begin the confession.  If you desire a face-to-face confession, simply walk around the curtain and sit in the chair opposite the priest.  Remember that you are about to confess your sins to Jesus Christ’s representative on earth.  You confess to Christ and the Church.  Your humility, honesty, and penitence should be tempered by this fact.  Also remember that confessions are absolutely confidential.  The priest will never share your sins with anyone else.  He is instructed to keep the seal of the confessional even under pain of death; so do not let your worries affect your confession.
  3. The priest will begin the Confession with the prayer of the Sign of the Cross. Make the sign of the cross and say, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned it has been [blank] days since my last confession.  I accuse myself of the following sins.” Then tell the priest the mortal sins you have committed since your last confession.   You do not have to go into any explicit detail of your sins unless the priest feels it is necessary.  Simply tell him the sin and the number of times you did it.  If you feel it is necessary you can tell him the circumstances.   You may also ask him for advice regarding the sin. When you are finished, tell the priest you are sorry for your sins and ask Jesus to forgive those sins as well as any you may have forgotten to confess.
  4. The priest will briefly discuss the effects of your sins and will offer advice and encouragement on leading a better Christian life.  He will give you a penance to perform (usually a prayer or good deed) and will ask you to say an Act of Contrition (which can be found on the Examination of Conscience documents posted above).  Finally, he will absolve you of your sins through a prayer.  At the end of his absolution he will say, “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  Make the sign of the cross as he does this.  He will then dismiss you by saying some variation of “go in peace.”  Reply, “Thanks be to God” and exit the confessional.
  5. As soon as possible, complete your penance and rejoice in the fact that your sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Rejoice and resolve to sin no more!

Why do i have to confess my sins to a priest?

 Check out the video below for an answer to this important question: