The Sacrament of Reconciliation, also called Penance and Confession, is one of the least understood, and least utilized, sacraments in the Catholic Church. In reconciling us to God, it is a great source of grace, and Catholics are encouraged to take advantage of it often, even if they are not aware of having committed a mortal sin. This is the sacrament in which sins committed after Baptism are forgiven. It results in reconciliation with God and the Church. (US Catholic Catechism for Adults, Glossary)
We, as Catholics believe that all of the sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ himself. In the case of Reconciliation, that institution occurred on Easter Sunday, when Christ first appeared to his disciples after his Resurrection. Breathing on them, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).
The purpose of Reconciliation is to reconcile us as men and women to God. We deprive ourselves of God's grace each and every time we sin, and by being deprived of that grace it makes it easier to sin again. The only way out of this downward cycle is to acknowledge our sins, to repent of them, and to ask God’s forgiveness. God's grace is restored to us in the sacrament of Reconciliation, which helps us to resist sin once again.
Is Confession to a priest necessary?
Some people ask why we can't just confess our sins directly to God and not go through a priest. Catholics should in fact make frequent Acts of Contrition, which are prayers in which we tell God we are sorry for our sins and request forgiveness. But the sacrament in and of itself confers God's graces that help us to live a Christian life, which is why the Church requires us to receive it at least once per year. As well as the fact that the sacrament was instituted by Christ himself as the proper form for the forgiveness of sins. We should not only be willing to receive the sacrament, but should embrace it as a gift from a loving God.
Three things are required of a penitent in order to receive the sacrament worthily:
- He or she must be contrite, or sorry for his or her sins.
- He or she must confess those sins fully, in kind and in number.
- He or she must be willing to do penance and make amends for those sins.
Reconciliation is offered at St. John's every Saturday from 3:15 - 3:45 pm and by request.