This leaflet gives a brief introduction to the celebration of the sacrament of Penance (also known as Confession or the Sacrament of Reconciliation) in the Parish. The questions will be answered.
Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded the ecclesial communion. It is to them that the Sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification.
Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed 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. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament, the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred on to be merciful as he is merciful.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Through confession we acknowledge our sin before God and receive the grace of forgiveness. But we also acknowledge our sin before the Church. For when we sin we harm the Church. Even the seemingly most ‘private’ sin damages the Church, for sin damages us as members of the Church. So we must be reconciled to the Church through the ministry of the priest, who represents the Church.
The Church requires us to confess our serious sins at least once a year. We must also confess any serious sins before receiving Holy Communion or any other sacrament. However the Church recommends confession of our less serious sins on a regular basis. A guide might be once every month or so.
It is particularly appropriate to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance in the seasons of Lent and Advent, and special provision is made for this in the parish.
There are two main ways in which this sacrament is celebrated at All Souls:
Individual celebration normally involves the penitent coming to the church at the advertised times (see the Newsletter). Penitents may also come at any reasonable time and ask if a priest is available to celebrate the sacrament. Alternatively, appointments can be made by contacting the parish office.
After preparing for confession by making an Examination of Conscience, the penitent enters the room set aside for the purpose—sometimes referred to as the Confessional or Reconciliation Room. The priest will greet the penitent in some way and the penitent then introduces himself or herself and makes a confession of sins. This should include all the serious sins of which the penitent is aware. The priest may then give a penance—some action to perform or prayer to say to make amends for the sin. The penitent then makes an Act of Contrition and the priest will say the Prayer of Absolution, through which the penitent’s sins are forgiven.
Reconciliation services are similar except the preparation for the sacrament is made through a communal Liturgy of the Word, and then the gathered penitents have the opportunity to make individual confession. Reconciliation services take place in Lent and Advent, and there are normally several priests to celebrate the sacrament at these events.
If you are unfamiliar with the sacrament, or have not celebrated it for many years and need some help, do not hesitate to ask the preist, who will guide you through the Sacrament.
Guidance on celebrating the sacrament can also be found in many Catholic prayer books such as A Simple Prayer Book available from the parish shop.
The priest may not disclose anything a penitent has confessed to him under any circumstances, or use the information gained in any way. This is one of the most serious obligations of a priest, even if someone confesses a serious crime. However the priest may in such a case insist that the penitent agree to confessing the crime to the appropriate authorities before giving absolution.
Children are prepared for the Sacrament as part of their preparation for First Holy Communion.
Adults are normally prepared when they are prepared to be baptised or enter the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (Come and See).
If you have any further questions, or if you wish to make an appointment with a priest to celebrate this sacrament, contact the parish office.