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Meeting the Lord in the sacrament of reconciliation

Resources to help you prepare for and participate in the sacrament

In the sacrament of reconciliation, also called confession, we meet the Lord, who wants to grant forgiveness and the grace to live a renewed life in Him. In this sacrament, He prepares us to receive Him free from serious sin, with a lively faith, earnest hope and sacrificial love in the Eucharist.

The Church sees confession as so important that she requires that every Catholic go at least once a year. The Church also encourages frequent confession in order to grow closer to Christ Jesus and His Body, the Church. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we seek forgiveness and repentance, let go of patterns of sin, grow in the life of virtue and witness to a joyful conversion.

Since the graces of the sacrament are so similar to the purpose of the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI has said, “The New Evangelization … begins in the confessional!”

“God’s Gift of Forgiveness,” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

How to Go to Confession

PREPARATION: Before going to confession, take time to prepare. Begin with prayer, then reflect on your life since your last confession. Before celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, you should prepare yourself with an examination of conscience, which involves reflecting prayerfully on thoughts, words, and deeds in order to identify any sins. How have you — in your thoughts, words and actions — neglected to live Christ’s commands to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39)? As a help with this “examination of conscience,” you might review the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes (Exodus 20:2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Matthew 5:3-10; or Luke 6:20-26). Additional resources for examining your conscience may be found at http://usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/examinations-of-conscience.cfm

GREETING: The priest will welcome you; he may say a short blessing or read a Scripture passage.

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS: Together, you and the priest will make the Sign of the Cross. You may then begin your confession with these or similar words: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been (give days, months, or years) since my last confession.”

CONFESSION: Confess all your sins to the priest. If you are unsure what to say, ask the priest for help. When you are finished, conclude with these or similar words: “I am sorry for these and all my sins.”

PENANCE: The priest will propose an act of penance. The penance might be prayer, a work of mercy or an act of charity. He might also counsel you on how to better live a Christian life.

ACT OF CONTRITION: After the priest has conferred your penance, pray an Act of Contrition, expressing sorrow for your sins and resolving to sin no more. A suggested Act of Contrition is: My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and 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. (Rite of Penance, no. 45).

ABSOLUTION: The priest will extend his hands over your head and pronounce the words of absolution. You respond, “Amen.”

PRAISE: The priest will usually praise the mercy of God and will invite you to do the same. For example, the priest may say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” And your response would be, “His mercy endures forever” (Rite of Penance, no. 47).

DISMISSAL: The priest will conclude the sacrament, often saying, “Go in peace.” If it has been a while since your last confession, remember, “Do not fear” (Isaiah 41:10). The priest will help guide you.

Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Resources

Archdiocese of St. Louis' information page on recociliation

“Sacrament of Reconciliation” by Father Don Miller, OFM, from Franciscan Media,

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Rediscovering the Sacrament of Penance,”

Source: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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