“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)
The Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance is known by several names:
The “sacrament of Penance” expresses the way it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction” (CCC, 1423).
The “sacrament of confession” refers to the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest as 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.
The “sacrament of forgiveness” illustrates how the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”
The “sacrament of Reconciliation” is another name because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother” (CCC, 1424).
The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. (CCC, 1421).
Preparing for Reconciliation
Despite the feelings of many Catholics who consider the sacrament of Reconciliation either unnecessary or frightening, the fact remains that few things could be more necessary for our salvation than this humbling sacrament. Many people have avoided celebrating the sacrament, sometimes for years at a time, because they “don’t know what to do.” Before going to confession, the penitent reviews his or her life with the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the example of Christ in mind and then prays to God for forgiveness.
You may find it helpful to use this Examination of Conscience from the Knights of Columbus as you prepare for your next confession!
If you have any questions, please contact the Pastoral Center at 504-347-2203.