There are times in life when we make mistakes, do the wrong things, and end up feeling guilty and not able to live with ourselves comfortably. At times like this we could make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which used to be called “going to confession”. The new title makes us realize that when we do something wrong we not only distance ourselves from God and the people we have hurt, but from ourselves too! We need reconciliation all round! This sacrament is a way of dealing with our feelings of guilt so that we can hear the assurance of God’s understanding and forgiveness and get on with our lives. The Priest does not forgive sins because he is mortal but he is authorized to pronounce God’s forgiveness of sins.
An Act of Reconciliation, or Confession:
The priest meets the penitent privately in church, blesses them and asks them to say, in their own words, what is troubling them.
The person kneels at a prayer desk in front of a crucifix and the priest sits nearby so that their conversation cannot be overheard.
The penitent talks frankly to the priest about what is troubling them, about things for which they are sorry and ashamed
The priest will ask the person to repeat a sentence saying how sorry they are, and promising to try to live a better life.
The priest may talk about what the penitent has said. Priests have time to listen, experience of life and a love of souls and may give advice to the person and suggest some spiritual activity (penance) to show contrition and love for God. The priest will then pronounce God’s forgiveness (absolution) making the sign of the Cross over the penitent
The priest will bless the penitent before leaving and will usually say: ‘and of your charity pray for me, a sinner too’.
It is good to stay in church for a time to thank God for the most wonderful gift of forgiveness.
The ‘seal of the confessional’ means that the priest may NEVER disclose to anyone anything that he has heard in this sacrament. The priest will not discuss with you anything you have confessed through him unless it is clearly understood that this conversation, too, is ‘under the seal’.