Confession: Reconciliation and Penance

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also known as the Sacrament of Forgiveness, or Penance or Confession of Sins.

Arrangements at St. Raphael’s

A priest is available to hear confessions at the following times:

Sunday 9.00 am – 9.15 am 
before Mass at 9.30 am

Sunday 4.30 pm – 4.50 pm
before Mass at 5.00 pm

Saturday 10.30 am – 11.00 am
after Mass at 10.00 am

And at reasonable request. 

Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation: How to make a good Confession

Stage 1: Preparation for reconciliation

Examine your conscience and your life:

Give yourself some time alone to examine your conscience and ask yourself about your life, your Christian faith and your relationship with God. Think of times when you have turned away from God and not acted in the way Jesus taught us. 

Below are some things which may have gone wrong. Ask yourself:

Do I pray regularly?
Do I tell lies?
Have I been considerate, kind and generous to others?
Have I been dishonest by stealing or cheating?
Am I deliberately unkind to someone or have I bullied anyone, physically or psychologically?
Do I share with others or am I selfish?  Or spiteful?
Do I share my gifts and talents with others?
Do I break trust or promises?
Do I take others for granted?
Do I swear, use bad language, use God’s name disrespectfully?
Do I get drunk or use drugs?
Have I sent messages which are unkind or upset or hurt others?
Have I forgiven those who hurt me?
Do I listen to gossip, or spread unkind stories about someone else?
Do I go to Mass on Sundays?
Have I been disobedient or disrespectful to my parents or those in authority?
Have I been jealous?
Have I participated in anything that is harmful to my soul? (e.g. used ouijua boards, tarot cards, fortune tellers, psychics, seances, astrology?)
Have I read or watched inappropriate books, magazines, films, TV?

Say sorry to God for all your sins and ask Him for forgiveness.

Stage 2: Celebrating the sacrament

Say your sins.

When you get into the confessional, make the Sign of the Cross and say:

‘BLESS ME FATHER FOR I HAVE SINNED, IT IS …….. SINCE MY LAST CONFESSION (How long since your last confession, e.g. several months, two weeks, a long time?)  AND THESE ARE MY SINS.’

Talk to the priest about what you have done wrong since your last Confession, what you have done and what you have failed to do, and end by saying:

‘FOR THESE AND ALL OF MY SINS I AM TRULY SORRY AND SEEK GOD’S FORGIVENESS’ 

After this, the priest may talk to you about what you have said and give you advice. 

Receive penance.

The priest will then give you penance – either a prayer to say with true contrition or something to do to show God that you are truly sorry.

The priest will then invite you to make a formal act of contrition:

Make an act of contrition – I say sorry to God.

You can either say this prayer below or another one you know:   

‘O MY GOD, BECAUSE YOU ARE SO GOOD, I AM VERY SORRY THAT I HAVE SINNED AGAINST YOU, AND WITH THE HELP OF YOUR GRACE  I WILL NOT SIN AGAIN.’

Receive absolution from the priest.

The priest will now give you absolution: God’s forgiveness for your sins.  While he is doing this he extends his hands (or at least his right hand) over you.

The priest then gives you a special blessing and will say: 

‘GO IN PEACE.’

‘THANK YOU FATHER.’

 You thank the priest for helping you and say goodbye.

About the Sacrament

References from the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

1424  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’ – 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.  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.]

980  It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptised can be reconciled with God and with the Church: 

Penance has rightly been called by the holy Fathers “a laborious kind of Baptism.” This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn. 

1448  Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God’s action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion. 

According to the Church’s command, ‘after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.'[Cf. CIC, Can. 989; Council of Trent (1551): DS 1683; DS 1708.] Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession. [Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1647; 1661; CIC, can. 916; CCEO, can.] Children must go to the sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion for the first time.[Cf. CIC, can. 914.]

1458   Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. [Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1680; CIC, can. 988 # 2.] 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 to be merciful as he is merciful:[Cf. Lk 6:36 .] Whoever confesses his sins . . . is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities: when you hear ‘man’ – this is what God has made; when you hear ‘sinner’ – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what he has made …. When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.[St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 12, 13: PL 35, 1491.]

1467  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. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents’ lives.[Cf. CIC, can. 1388 # 1; CCEO, can. 1456.] 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.

1486  The forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is conferred by a particular sacrament called the sacrament of conversion, confession, penance, or reconciliation.