What is the Sacrament of Reconciliation / Confession?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, often referred to as Confession, is a sacred moment in which we are reconciled with God and the Christian community. This reconciliation is necessary from time to time, because as human people we sin and fail to live fully the commandment to love God and our neighbour. Every person who is baptised, has reached the age of reason, and is suitably prepared is encouraged to avail of this Sacrament.
How is the Sacrament of Reconciliation celebrated?
The normal way of celebrating this Sacrament is a one-to-one encounter between a person and a priest. Having reflected on one’s life in the light of the commandment to love, and having acknowledged one’s sins, a person confesses their failings to the priest. The priest reminds the person of the great love and mercy of God. He may also offer words of encouragement, support or advice. The priest suggests a form of penance in atonement for the sins confessed. The person declares their sorrow by praying an Act of Sorrow or Contrition. Finally the priest offers absolution in the name of God, forgiving the sins and bringing about the reconciliation between the person and God.
The Sacrament can also be celebrated in a communal setting in what is often called a Reconciliation Service. These usually take place at key moments in the year such as before Easter and Christmas. In this format, members of the Christian community gather and prepare together by listening to Scripture readings and examining their consciences. People then confess their sins and receive absolution individually with one of the priests present for the occasion.