Penance / Confession / Reconciliation
The Sacrament of Confession, also known as the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, 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. Through penance, the faithful receive pardon through God's mercy for the sins they have committed. At the same time, they are reconciled with the Church community. The confession, or disclosure, of sins frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others.
There are four steps in the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
1. Through an Examination of Conscience, we feel contrition for our sins and
conversion of heart to change our ways.
2. We confess our sins and human sinfulness to a priest.
3. We receive and accept forgiveness (absolution) and are absolved of our sins.
4. We celebrate God's everlasting love for us and commit to live out a Christian life.
Sin hurts our relationship with God, ourselves and others. As the Catechism states:
The sinner wounds God's honor and love, his own human
dignity... and the spiritual well-being of the Church, of which
each Christian ought to be a living stone. To the eyes of faith
no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences
for the sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole
world. (CCC 1487, 1488)
A mature understanding of sin includes reflecting upon our thoughts, actions and omissions as well as examining the patterns of sin that may arise in our lives. With contrite hearts, we are also called to reflect upon the effects of our sins upon the wider community and how we might participate in sinful systems.
The Spiritual effects of the Sacraments of Reconciliation included:
*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