Reconciliation (Penance)

Saturdays 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.; or by appointment with a parish priest.

What is Confession?

Confession is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in his love and mercy. It is here that we meet the loving Jesus who offers sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God and neighbor. At the same time, Confession permits sinners to reconcile with the Church, which also is wounded by our sins.

The sacrament, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, is known by many names. Sometimes "it is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion" (1423). But it is also better known as "the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction" (1423).

For many of us it still continues to be known as "the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament" (1424). At the same time, the Catechism reminds us that "it is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent 'pardon and peace'" (1424). Finally, it is also called the sacrament of Reconciliation because it reconciles sinners to God and then to each other (1424). In this text, we will refer to the sacrament as the sacrament of Penance.

Through this sacrament, we meet Christ in his Church ready and eager to absolve and restore us to new life. The graces of Christ are conferred in the sacraments by means of visible signs - signs that are acts of worship, symbols of the grace given and recognizable gestures through which the Lord bestows his gifts. In the sacrament of Penance, the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of grace are the gifts received through the outward sign, i.e., the extension of hands and words of absolution pronounced by the priest.

Why is Confession necessary?

We need the sacrament of Penance because each of us, from time to time, sins. When we recognize that we have offended God who is all deserving of our love, we sense the need to make things right. Like the prodigal son in the Gospel, we long to know again the loving embrace of a forgiving father who patiently waits for each of us. Jesus himself has established this sure and certain way for us to access God's mercy and to know that our sins are forgiven. By virtue of his divine authority, Jesus gives this power of absolution to the apostolic ministry. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "in imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church" (1444).

We need to know that our sins are forgiven. There is something in our human nature that calls out for the assurance that our sins are actually forgiven. Confession is the visible manifestation of God's mercy that provides us, in human terms as well, the clear awareness that God has forgiven us.

 How often should I go to Confession?

Individual and integral confession remains the only ordinary way for us to reconcile ourselves with God and the Church. A Catholic who has committed mortal (grave) sin is obliged to seek God's forgiveness in this sacrament as soon as possible.
In ordinary circumstances, a Catholic who has committed mortal sin should not receive Holy Communion before receiving sacramental absolution. Not only does God forgive our sins, but we also receive the power of God's grace to struggle against sin and to be strengthened in our commitment to God and the Church. So powerful is the grace of this sacrament that the Introduction to the Rite of Penance reminds us that frequent and careful celebration of this sacrament is also very useful as a remedy for venial sins. This is not a mere ritual repetition or psychological exercise, but a serious striving to perfect the grace of baptism so that, as we bear in our body the death of Jesus Christ, his life may be seen in us ever more clearly.

Our Continuing Conversion

As we complete these thoughts on the sacrament of Penance, we might well reflect that the deepest spiritual joy each of us can sense is the freedom from whatever would separate us from God, a loving and merciful Father who receives each of us with all the forgiveness and love lavished on the prodigal son. Renewed, refreshed and reconciled in this sacrament once more, we who have sinned become a "new creation." Once more we are made new. It is this newness of spirit and soul that we hope all of us experience time and again in the sacrament of Penance.