The Sacrament of Reconciliation
It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles:
‘Be reconciled to God.'[2 Cor 5:20]
He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call:
‘Go; first be reconciled to your brother.'[MT 5:24.]
For Reconciliation Service times see our Services page.
It is also 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’ – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent ‘pardon and peace.
All Catholics who have reached the age of discretion (normally about seven years of age) are bound to confess all their grave (mortal) sins, and as soon as possible. In the case of mortal sin, there is an obligation (if the sin has not been confessed as soon as possible after it has been committed) to confess that sin during the period between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday. There is no obligation to confess non-grave (venial) sins, but the Church urges us to do so on a regular basis in order to receive the grace of the Sacrament so as to grow in the love of Jesus Christ. In the case of children, they have to make their confession before receiving their first Holy Communion.
The Reconciliation Service
The person wishing to recieve reconciliation is called the penitent. The penitent should spend some time quietly refelcting on the wrong things they have done since the last time they took part in the service. After this time of reflection, the penitent is invited to ‘confess’ their ‘sins’ to a priest.
The short service begins by making the sign of the cross and the penitent telling the priest when they made their last confession. There then follows ‘the confession of wrong doings’ At this point a short discussion may take place between penitent and priest with the priest offering advice about shortcomings, if necessary. The priest, in his capacity of minister of Jesus Christ, absolves the penitent of their sins ,while the penitent expresses sorrow for sin by saying the prayer (Act of Contrition) before being given an Act of Penance.
After a blessing by the priest,the penitent leaves the confessional to carry out their ‘penance’ in the general body of the church,trustful in the knowledge that they are once again ‘cleaned’ of any sin they may have committed.
The Act of Penance
This penance generally consists of two or three prayers to say to Mary, the Mother of Jesus or the Lords Prayer. During this time, the penitent should reflect on their sins and any advice imparted by the priest.
The Act of Contrition
O my God, because you are so good, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and by the help of your grace I will not sin again.