The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains a beautiful teaching on one of the greatest sources of healing available in today’s world, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“Like all the sacraments, Penance is a liturgical action. The elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest’s absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.” From the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], Paragraph 1480:
A Sacrament Known By Many Names
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Penance, is known by several names:
- The “sacrament of conversion” describes how it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.
- 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.)
It is also one of the two Sacraments of Healing. “Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God.” We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death. This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.(CCC, 1420.) 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.)
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is primarily calling each of us to an interior healing and conversion of heart, which is a lifelong turning towards God, the source of life and light, the divine physician. Interior conversion “urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.” (CCC, 1430.) And “Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance. (CCC, 1435.)
Preparing for Confession
Present for the Sacrament should be a sense of contrition, resolution to avoid sin, and of course, actually going to Confession! Despite the stance of many Catholics who consider the Sacrament of Reconciliation either unnecessary or frightening, that fact remains that few things could be more necessary for our salvation than this marvelous Sacrament.
We offer regular Confessions scheduled Monday through Thursday evenings, and on Saturday afternoons, along with several evenings of Reconciliation during Advent and Lent. Appointments for private Confession are regularly made by the faithful, and are always encouraged. There is nothing to be frightened of in this remarkable and beautiful Sacrament of healing.
Please check out our Confession schedule, and plan to arrive early as lines can be quite lengthy at times.