“and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. “After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit”. “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained”. (John 20: 21-23)
To reconcile is to re-unite, to bring back to harmony, to heal. The Christian perspective seeks reconciliation with God and with one another.
Reconciliation is also known as “Confession or Penance”. Because of human weakness the Lord instituted a special sacrament of penance for the pardon of sins committed after baptism and the Church has faithfully celebrated the sacrament throughout the centuries in varying ways, but retaining its essential elements. Adequate catechesis and preparation must precede this sacrament for the first time.
A follower of Christ who has sinned, but who has been moved by the Holy Spirit to come to the Sacrament of Penance should above all be converted to God with his whole heart. This inner conversion of heart embraces sorrow for sin and the intent to lead a new life. It is expressed through confession made to the Church, due satisfaction and amendment of life. God grants pardon for sin through the Church, which works by the ministry of priests.
The Three Rites of Reconciliation
First Rite – for the Reconciliation of Individual Penitents.
Second Rite – for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution.
Third Rite – for Reconciliation with General Confession and Absolution. This Rite is not currently practised in the Archdiocese of Sydney.
What are the effects of this sacrament?
Reconciliationis the act or state of re-establishing friendship between God and a human being, or between two person. When one sins, after baptism, this sacrament is needed to restore one’s relationship with God.
Also, since all Christians are connected together through the body of Christ this sacrament reconciles one with the church. Belive it or not, but when one sins not only does one destroy one’s relationship with God, but one also destroys one’s relationship with other Christians. This sacrament restores it.
In list form the spiritual effects of this sacrament are:
- Reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;
- Reconciliation with the Church;
- Remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;
- Remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;
- Peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;
- An increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1496)
In accord with Canon 914, children who have reached the age of reason are to have made sacramental confession before reception of First Holy Communion. Therefore, catechesis on Reconciliation must precede the catechesis for First Holy Communion. While the relationship between Reconciliation and Holy Communion needs to be understood, each sacrament is distinct and preparation for each is to be provided separately through a clear and unhurried process.
Canon 914 states that children who have reached the age of reason are eligible for
reception of Holy Communion “preceded by sacramental confession”. The common practice in the Archdiocese is for children to receive First Holy Communion in year 3. Hence children should be prepared for the Sacrament of Reconciliation at a time prior to First Holy Communion that allows for unhurried preparation. Usually when the child is in Year 2.
The Sacrament of Penance comprises four parts:
Penitents must be aware of their sinfulness and must be truly sorry (contrite) for their sins. “Heartfelt sorrow and aversion for the sin committed along with the intention of sinning no more”. Contrition is the beginning of metanoia which is a profound change of heart reflected in the penitent‟s attempt to live the Christian life.
Penitents openly confess their sins. The confessing of sins flows from their contrition as a consequence of them reflecting on their lives, i.e., an examination of conscience before God. “Confession requires in the penitent the will to open his/her heart to the minister of God, and in the minister a spiritual judgment by which, acting in the person of Christ, he pronounces his decision of forgiveness or retention of sins in accord with the power of the keys.”
Act of Penance:
“True conversion is completed by acts of penance.” Penance is not meant to be seen as punishment. It is rather, a clear demonstration to God, the community and the penitent him/herself of a willingness to embrace the Christian life. “The act of penance [is] a remedy for sin and a help to renewal of life.” The priest asks the penitent to do penance. This may be saying prayers and/or performing some other fitting action. This helps penitents to overcome their faults, and make amends for the harm their sins have caused.
Absolution: After the penitent accepts the penance, the priest, representing the community of the Church and acting in the person of Christ absolves the sinner; that is, he grants God’s forgiveness and restores the relationship between the penitent and God‟s family. Thus, the sacrament of penance is completed.
When is it done?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is available to children in Year 2 (or higher) who have been Baptised.
What Happens during Reconciliation?
Before going to confession, you should “examine your conscience” by reviewing past actions, thoughts, and patterns of behaviour. Some Catholics evaluate their behaviour in light of the Ten Commandments.
Inside the confessional:
Make the sign of the cross and say:
- “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” or simply begin to speak.
- Tell the priest how long it has been since you last confessed.
- Confess your sins. While in the past people numbered sins (“I yelled at my brother 5 times”), some people now tend to summarise sinful behaviours (“I didn’t treat my brother with respect” or “I didn’t show my brother love”).
- The priest then might question the person or elicit more information. While some priests might help a person understand why she is acting in certain ways, confession is not equivalent to a psychotherapy session. Sins must be recognised as sins and not personality issues.
- You then say a prayer expressing sorrow for your sins, such as the Act of Contrition.
Act of Contrition – Children
O my God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good, and with your help I will not sin again.
Act of Contrition – Adults
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because of your just punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, Who are all good and deserving of my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.
The priest often gives the person a “penance,” or deeds to perform to heal their relationships with God and others. For smaller sins, the priest might ask them to say certain prayers, such as several “Our Fathers.” For more serious sins, more serious penances are specified, such as making restitution. The person is expected to perform the penance after they leave the confessional or in the following days.
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 grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Reconciliation Program at OLMC
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is available to children in Year 2 (or higher) who have been Baptised. Children wishing to be enrolled in the program will need to attend a Registration or Orientation Evening.
Following registration the child and parent must attend preparation classes. These are usually held in the Parish Centre on weekday evenings.