Participating in Penance, also known as Reconciliation, is a significant part of the growing process for Christians across the globe.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important part of the Catholic religion and a vital part of spirital growth. Those who participate in Penance show that they understand that God’s love is unconditional, everlasting and unwavering, even when a person has not behaved in a manner in line with Catholic teaching. Reconciliation is also a process of responding to God’s calling and returning fully to the faith.
Prior to receiving the sacraments of Communion or Confirmation, communicants and confirmands are required to once again turn to God, repent their transgressions and ask for forgiveness. Reconciliation helps restore a damaged relationship with God and the church, and participants believe they are becoming whole again and ready to take the next spiritual step.
Individuals, particularly children naive to matters of the world, may not fully understand Reconciliation but understand it is part of going to church. Rather than stress the “sinning” aspect of Reconciliation, educators and parents may focus on how it brings a person closer to God and strengthens the loving relationship they share. It also can be emphasized that participating in Reconciliation helps to form a more stable and religious church environment and community.
Reconciliation is not always an easy thing to do. Both children and adults are often hesitant to broadcast their foibles to a priest and ask forgiveness. It is a humbling action that is vital to the Catholic faith. But many Catholics admit they do not routinely partake in the sacrament. Those about to experience Reconciliation for the first time may not know what to expect and can be nervous. The following is an overview of the process.
You will sit down either face-to-face with a priest from your church or enter one of the confessional rooms the church has on site.
Perform the sign of the cross and ask to be blessed by the priest and tell him that you have sinned. A confession typically begins with the words, “Bless me father for I have sinned.” Those seeking absolution then tell the priest how long it has been since their most recent last confession. Those receiving the sacrament for the first time typically explain that this is their first confession.
The priest will ask what you choose to confess. Keep in mind that this is when you examine your conscience and mention all of the actions that go against God’s will and the church’s teachings. If you are unsure of what to do, ask the priest to help you along. He is not there to judge and should help you to feel more comfortable.
You must be truly sorry (contrite) for what you have done when seeking forgiveness. Reconciliation should be taken seriously.
Afterward you may be asked to recite the “Act of Contrition”prayer.
The priest will assign you some sort of penance, usually prayers that need to be said, in order to absolve you of the sins you have confessed. You can thank God for this forgiveness and take any advice offered on how to be a better Christian.
This is how many Catholic churches handle the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, it can vary from parish to parish. Priests often urge parishioners to participate in confession frequently. The church’s Code of Canon Law in No. 989 notes the obligation of Catholics to confess grave sins once a year. Pope Francis revealed that he receives the sacrament every two weeks and considers confession to be the best path to spiritual healing and health.
Those about to receive the sacraments of Communion and Confirmation will likely confess their sins before taking that next step in their spiritual journey. Extended family and friends can use this opportunity to participate in Penance and reaffirm their faith.