Also known as Reconciliation or Confession, the Sacrament of Penance is considered one of the two Sacraments of Healing. It is in this Sacrament that Jesus himself, acting through a bishop or priest, truly forgives sins committed after baptism.
Essentially, “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.” Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God. (CCC 1468)
While it is true that Baptism forgives our Original Sin, the effects of Original Sin remain (concupiscence) and thus all of us are prone to commit many personal sins after our baptism. It for this reason that Jesus himself left us the Sacrament of Penance as a way to remove sin if we fall into it.
During reconciliation, Jesus acting through his appointed ministers (bishops and priests who are given faculties) truly absolves the sins of the penitent. In this Sacrament we are reconciled not only to God, but to the Church, whose communion was also damaged as a result of our sin. Unlike, Baptism, Confirmation, or Holy Orders, the Sacrament of the Penance can be repeated.
“Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”(CCC 1422)
While we only need to go to confession for mortal sins (sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent), it is highly recommend that venial sins (those that are not mortal) also be confessed regularly.
We do this because
“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.”(CCC 1458)
For more information on the Sacrament of Penance please talk to the parish priest or see the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1422 to 1498.
If you are unsure of how to go to confession or need help in examining your conscience, please see one of our helpful guides below.
If you are preparing to receive the sacrament, or unsure of how to go to confession, you may find these guides helpful:
If you are a child: Examination of Conscience
If you are a youth:
If you are an adult:
So what is needed to make a good confession? Well to make a good confession a person should:
- Do an examination of conscience (see below)
- Have sorrow for their sins and resolve to avoid sins and those things that may lead them to sin in the future
- Confess all mortal sins in both kind and number
- Make a proper act of contrition
- Doing the assigned penance
While confession can seem scary, it is truly liberating. Therefore, one should never hide any sins, especially any serious sins/mortal sins, during a confession. All Catholics are required to confess their mortal sins at least once per year; however, given its benefits we highly recommend that Catholics receive this Sacrament regularly throughout the year e.g. at least once a month.
Remember Jesus’ mercy is always greater than any sin we could ever commit so we should not be afraid to avail ourselves of this Sacrament.
The effects of this Sacrament are many and may include:
- Forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God and his Church
- Peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation
- Imparting of actual grace to help us avoid sins in the future
- Remits part of purgatorial punishment
- Remits eternal punishment caused by mortal sin
- Restores sanctifying grace lost due to mortal sin
- Restores merits of our good works that were lost by mortal sin