THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE (RECONCILIATION or CONFESSION)
Jesus has called us to turn our hearts to God and away from all that would block our relationship with God which we call sin. This process, which is called conversion, is accomplished, first of all, in Baptism in which the Original Sin with which we are born is washed away and, if we are baptized as adults, so are all the sins we have committed personally.
Even after Baptism we are tempted to sin and sometimes give in to temptation, and so the process of conversion must continue. We are aided in it by the nourishment we receive in the Eucharist but also through a sacrament whose specific purpose is to heal the wounds our sins inflict on our spiritual lives.
Only God forgives sin. As God’s Son, Jesus came among us with the power to do so and to heal the breach that sin had created between God and humanity. By dying on the cross he took on the burden of our sinfulness and made expiation for us. He made his community the Church “the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood” and he imparted to his apostles the power to forgive sins to carry on his "ministry of reconciliation." The Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation offers a special means to so.
Christ instituted this sacrament “for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. the Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1446). But the sacrament is also effective in promoting the more complete conversion and spiritual growth of those whose sins are venial or whose patterns of life are not fully in accord with Gospel values.
St. Thomas the Apostle Church offers the Sacrament of Penance on Saturdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Main Church. Parish priests are available to celebrate the sacrament with you at other times. Please call the rectory for an appointment.
How to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance:
Prepare for the sacrament by examining your conscience, prayerfully calling to mind sins you have committed since your last confession. Also take into account sinful patterns of behavior in your life. Methods for examining consciences are widely available.
Come to confession choosing either to sit in a chair facing the priest or to kneel behind the confessional screen. Outside the regular time for the sacrament, please make an appointment to see a priest in the rectory for confession. Greet the priest who will make the sign of the cross. You may say, "Bless me, Father for I have sinned." Then indicate how long it has been since your last confession.
Confess your sins telling the priest any serious sins committed since your last confession, mentioning any circumstances that may increase or diminish the seriousness of the sins. Then mention any venial sins or moral faults you are aware of. The Sacrament of Penance is a valuable source of grace even if you don't have any serious sins to confess.
Receive a penance which the priest will give you. A "penance" -- usually in the form of prayer, charitable actions or acts of self-denial -- helps repair the spiritual damage done by the sins you have confessed. Sometimes the priest will ask you to suggest an appropriate penance.
Express your sorrow for your sins and your determination to avoid sin in the future when the priest asks you to make an act of contrition. You may use your own words or do so with an existing prayer. One example is:
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and in failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God have mercy.
The forgiveness of sins: After you have made your act of contrition, listen prayerfully as the priest, extending his hands over you, says the prayer of absolution which frees you from the burden of your sins:
God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You may respond, "Thanks be to God!"