The Sacrament of Confession

Confession is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in his love and mercy. It is here that we meet the loving Jesus who offers sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God and neighbor.

At the same time, Confession permits sinners to be reconcile with the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, which also is wounded by our sins.

Examination of Conscience

As you prepare to make a good Confession, you want to ask God’s forgiveness for any ways in which you have offended him in thought, word, or deed, and particularly for any serious sin. If you are not certain what you should bring to the priest in confession, do not be afraid to ask him for help. The priest is there to assist you and to share with you God’s love and mercy.

The following may be helpful in preparing for confession. Above all, do not be afraid. If you are hesitant about what to do, ask the priest for help:

  • Greeting: The priest welcomes the penitent warmly and greets him or her with kindness.
  • Sign of the Cross: Then the penitent makes the Sign of the Cross, which the priest may also make.
  • Invitation to Trust in God: The priest invites the penitent to have trust in God using one of the formulas in the ritual or similar words. If the penitent is unknown to the priest, it is proper for the penitent to indicate his or her state in life (married, single, or clergy), the time of his or her last confession and anything else that may help the confessor in exercising his ministry.
  • Reading of the Word of God: The priest may choose an appropriate scripture passage
  • Confession of Sins and Acceptance of Satisfaction: The penitent confesses his or her sins and accepts the prayers or deeds that the priest proposes as a penance.
  • Prayer of the Penitent and Absolution: The priest asks the penitent to express sorrow by praying one of the prayers found in the ritual or in his or her own words. The priest then prays the Prayer of Absolution, to which the penitent responds: “Amen.”
  • Proclamation of Praise and Dismissal: The priest continues: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” The penitent responds: “His mercy endures for ever.” The priest then dismisses the penitent, using one of the formulas found in the ritual.

Bishop Joseph P. McFadden has written a Lenten Pastoral Letter promoting a renewed approach to the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. It and a variety of resources are available here to help all to return to the Sacrament this Lent. Items included are background and Church teachings on the topic as well as links to several helpful guides on examination of conscience and how to go to Confession.

The traditional Lenten practices of piety, fasting, almsgiving and other forms of self-denial are still most warmly recommended by the Church.

The faithful observance of Lent should manifest itself especially in the imitation of Christ in daily life and in the readiness to sacrifice time and talents whenever possible, in personal, parish, and community efforts for those in spiritual or material need. The spiritual hunger of the unchurched locally and in mission lands can be a focus of prayers and charitable giving.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of abstinence from meat for those 14 years of age and older. They are also days of fasting for those between 18 and 59 years of age. (Those bound by the law of fasting may take one full meal. Two smaller meals are also permitted, sufficient to maintain strength according to one’s needs. Eating between meals is not permitted; but liquids, including milk and fruit juices, are allowed. When health or ability to work is seriously affected, the law does not oblige.)

All Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence for those 14 years of age and older.

Fridays of the year outside Lent remain days of penance. The traditional abstinence from meat is highly recommended, together with fasting, by the Bishops of the United States, for the cause of peace in the world. However, some other practice of voluntary self-denial or personal penance may be substituted.

Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

Pray this beautiful exercise daily to increase your spirituality and ability to truly serve our Lord Jesus Christ. Led by Bishop Joseph McFadden.

Below are resources for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. There are examinations of conscience for various age groups, links to aid those celebrating the sacrament, outlines for teaching on the sacrament, and a resource list for the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.