Q&A

a.What if I haven’t been to the Sacrament for many years?

b. How do I prepare?

c. What do I say?

a. Please know that it’s never too late to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is all the more reason for God and the Church to rejoice in your return no matter how long it has been. Like the Parable of the Prodigal Son and Prodigal Father (Luke 15) the Father didn’t mention anything about how long he was waiting; the son was repentant and confessed. His Father lavishly restored him to the family and his estate.  

b. Preparation after not having confessed over a long time invites making time to think and to pray about what one needs to confess with an examination of one’s conscience. Think about who God is to you and pray about what God has revealed as His will in the Ten Commandments, in the life, death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the teachings of His Church. In the New Testament especially we have many teachings as to what is good and pleasing to God and what is not good and pleasing to God. Ultimately, Jesus, as the way, the truth and the life taught us to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and our neighbor as well.  

c. When you come before the priest for confession make the Sign of the Cross while saying “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been ? since my last confession. (indicate the last time you can recall having gone to confession). These are my sins… (as you name the sin (s) it is important to indicate how often the sin has occurred. Upon completing the confession one may conclude saying something like “for these sins, I sincerely ask for pardon, penance and absolution.”


 

What if I feel nervous about going to the Sacrament?

Generally, most people (including priests) feel nervous about going to confess one’s sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At the start, it is not an easy encounter but at the conclusion, nervousness is transformed to relief and gratitude as one is absolved from one’s sins. “...May God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Pardon and peace remove the nervousness of the beginning.
 

What is the priest’s role in the Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation)?

The Catechism states that the priest “as Confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant. The priest unites himself to the intention and charity of Christ.” (#1466) The priest is a collaborator in the exercise of the ministry of Reconciliation which was entrusted by Christ to His apostles (#1461)

 

Can a priest reveal what he has heard to others?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. The priest as confessor “can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents’ lives. This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the ‘sacramental seal,’ because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains ‘sealed’ by the sacrament. (#1467)

What are the effects of the Sacrament?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Edition 2000) it states “The whole power of the Sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship. Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. (#1468) The Sacrament reconciles us to the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The Sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. (#1469)  
In other words, the effects are remission of personal guilt, peace of mind, heart and soul.

How often do I need to confess?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Edition 2000) it states: “According to the Church’s command, [after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound b y an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year].” (#1457) Also, “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. (#1458)
In other words, it is advisable to confess one’s sins when one thinks he has to confess. A well formed conscience will assist the sinner to know when to confess. 

What is sin and what sins need to be confessed in the Sacrament of Penance?

Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

Catholics in the state of mortal sin are ordinarily required to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation prior to the reception of Holy Communion. One who is free of mortal sin is to be encouraged to make regular use of the Sacrament for the confession of venial sins. The "regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit."

What do I need to do to make a good confession?

The Sacrament of Penance is a whole consisting in three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution. The penitent's acts are contrition (or sorrow), confession of sins, and the making or offering of a penance as an act of satisfaction of reparation.
One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience. The confession of venial faults, without being necessary in itself, is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.
One who is contrite and who seeks sacramental absolution for sins committed after Baptism is capable of receiving the Sacrament of Penance if properly disposed, ie., possessing sorrow and hatred for sins committed and a purpose of amendment.

The fundamental structure of the sacrament is twofold and comprises: the acts of one who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: i.e., contrition, confession and satisfaction: and the action of God through the intervention of the Church.

Why do people vary in calling it the Sacrament of Penance, Confession, or Reconciliation?

The sacrament is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.
It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgement and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is referred to as the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace."

It is referred to as the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God." He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother."

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

In the Sacrament of Penance, the Christian faithful who confess their sins to a lawful minister and are contrite for their sins, receive from God, through the absolution given by the minister, forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism. At the same time, they are reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins and which works for their conversion by charity, example, and prayer (Lumen Gentium, n. 11).The priest, then, acts as the representative of God, and as the representative of the Church to the penitent.

Was the Sacrament of Penance always the way it is now?

Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism, such as idolatry or murder, was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. Many times this was offered as a possibility only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the "private' practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between the penitent and the priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration.

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