Before celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, each person should prepare themselves with an Examination of Conscience.
There are four steps in the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
- We feel contrition for our sins and a conversion of heart to change our ways.
- We confess our sins and human sinfulness to a priest.
- We receive and accept forgiveness (absolution) and are absolved of our sins.
- We celebrate God’s everlasting love for us and commit to live out a Christian life.
Sin hurts our relationship with God, ourselves and others. As the Catechism states:
The sinner wounds God’s honor and love, his own human dignity…and the spiritual well-being of the Church, of which each Christian ought to be a living stone. To the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences for the sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world. (CCC 1487, 1488)
A mature understanding of sin includes reflecting upon our thoughts, actions and omissions as well as examining the patterns of sin that may arise in our lives. With contrite hearts, we are also called to reflect upon the effects of our sins upon the wider community and how we might participate in sinful systems.
Contrition and conversion lead us to seek a forgiveness for our sins so as to repair damaged relationships with God, self, and others. We believe that only ordained priests have the faculty of absolving sins from the authority of the Church in the name of Jesus Christ (CCC 1495). Our sins are forgiven by God, through the priest.
The Spiritual effects of the Sacraments of Reconciliation include:
- reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace
- reconciliation with the Church
- remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins
- remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin
- peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation
- an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle (CCC 1496)
Individual confession with a priest is the principal means of absolution and reconciliation of grave sins within the Church. The Sacrament of Reconciliation frees us from sinful patterns of behavior and calls us to complete conversion to Christ. Reconciliation heals our sins and repairs our relationships.
How to Make a Good Confession
Prepare beforehand by starting with prayer, asking for God’s help using a traditional prayer or prayer of your own.
Make a good examination of your conscience. You may find it helpful to use a prepared list to help you with the formation of your conscience inspired by the 10 Commandments or a list of virtues and vices.
As you enter the confessional the penitent makes the sign of the cross and prays “In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit” to initiate the sacrament. The priest then offers a greeting and may even read a short passage of scripture.
The penitent then indicates how long it has been since their last confession.
Then you confess your sins in kind and number (don’t worry if you have to generalize the number of times, especially if a lot of time has passed since your last confession). It is generally best to list any mortal sins first and then venial. If you are not certain of the gravity of each sin, simply confess them as they come to mind. You are not required to confess venial sins in the sacrament, but it is a good thing to do nonetheless, especially if you would like some advice about a habitual venial sin.
If it has been a while since your last confession don’t worry the priest will help you. As you say your sins it may be helpful to mention your state in life to the priest (married, single, line of work, etc.). It is best to simply state what you did, convicting yourself and not blaming your actions on other people or confessing the sins of others. This is not the place for excuses. It is the place to be rid of guilt in sincerity and honesty.
Once you have finished saying your sins you may indicate that you are finished by saying “I am sorry for these and all the sins of my past life” or “these are all my sins.”
Then the priest may ask you some questions to help him understand anything that you said that is unclear. He may offer you some advice about how to avoid temptation and/or make suggestions to invite you to develop a particular virtue to avoid sin in the future.
The priest will give you a penance which may be a prayer or action intended to join your sufferings to the Cross of Christ to “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” (Colossians 1:24) and offer reparation for the effects of your sins.
He will then say the words of absolution, acting in the person of Christ, speaking the words of forgiveness and reconciliation at the heart of this sacrament. At the end of the words of absolution answer, “Amen.”
You should do the penance as soon as reasonably possible. It will diminish the temporal punishment of sins already forgiven.
Saturdays, 4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
or by appointment with a priest