Matthew 9:3-8 "And behold some of the
scribes said within themselves: He blasphemed. And Jesus seeing
their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts? Whether
is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and
walk? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth
to forgive sins, (then said he to the man sick of palsy,) Arise,
take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And he arose, and went into
his house. And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God
that gave such power to men."
John 20:19-23 "Now when it was late that same day, the first of the
week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered
together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst,
and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he
shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were
glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace
be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had
said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the
Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them;
and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."
The Sacrament of Penance is
such a gift! It can be very hard to do -- it can be intimidating,
embarrassing -- but once absolution is given, you will walk out of
that confessional feeling like a trillion bucks. Christ, in His most
Holy Wisdom, gave us this precious Sacrament to literally and truly
bestow His grace upon us through His priests as a means of forgiving
us and assuring us of His mercy and love for us. This psychological
benefit of "feeling assured" and "clean again" stems not only from
the supernatural fruits of the Sacrament, but from our human nature
and our need to purge ourselves of those things that plague our
consciences. Christ, the Great Physician, knows us well and knows
that "confession is good for the soul," in both a supernatural and
The Catechism of the Evangelical
Catholic Church teaches "The forgiveness of sins committed after
Baptism is conferred by a particular sacrament, called the sacrament
of conversion, confession, penance, or reconciliation."
The Catechism explains, "To return to communion with God
after having lost it through sin is a process born of the grace of
God, who is rich in mercy and solicitous for the salvation of men.
One must ask for this precious gift for oneself and for others.
"The movement of return to God, called conversion and
repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and
the firm purpose of sinning no more in the future. Conversion
touches the past and the future, and is nourished by hope in God's
The Ritual of Confession
The Sacrament of Penance is a
liturgical action instituted by the Church for the reconciliation of
sinners to communion with God and with the Church. Catholics are
obliged to go to confession to receive the sacrament of penance at
least once a year or whenever they are conscious of serious sin.
Receiving this sacrament is encouraged at other times, as a means of
restoring full unity with God and His Church, and for spiritual
The sacrament consists basically of four acts of the penitent
and the priest:
Contrition: First the penitent (the repentant sinner
-- the root word in "penitentiary"), must be aware of their
sinfulness and must be truly sorry (contrite) for their sins.
Another word for repentance is "contrition". They must repent their
sins, and seek the sacrament of penance -- that is, to go to
confession to a priest.
Confession: The penitent confesses to a priest all the
sins they can recall -- after examining their conscience -- that
they has not confessed before. The confession is entirely private
and confidential. Traditionally confession takes place in the
"confessional", a small room where the priest and penitent are
separated by a screen to assure complete privacy and anonymity. It
is also permissible, if both the priest and penitent agree, to
administer and receive the sacrament of penance "face to face" in
another room in the church reserved for this purpose. The sacrament
can take place elsewhere, in an emergency.
Act of Penance: The priest-confessor proposes certain
actions -- penance -- for the penitent to perform. This may be
saying certain prayers and/or performing some other fitting action.
The person who performs this penance thus shows their sorrow for
their sinful acts. This helps them to overcome their faults, and the
harm their sins have caused others -- to be reconciled with them and
with the Church, and to return to behavior consistent with being a
disciple of Christ.
Absolution: After the penitent accepts the acts of
penance, the priest, by the authority that the Church has given him
or her, absolves the sinner; that is, he or she grants God's pardon
for the sins.
Structure of Confession/ Absolution Rite
The normal practice for
administration of the Sacrament of Penance is in private -- with
only the penitent and the priest present. On occasion, as during
penitential seasons, a parish may hold a "communal penance service",
where the congregation may pray and reflect together with the priest
before each person individually goes to confession. (Only in extreme
cases of emergency, such as on a battlefield, may a priest give
"general absolution" to all at the same time; and that with the
stipulation that the individual penitents go to confession
individually as soon as possible.)
To begin, the penitent kneels and, by custom, says: "Forgive
me, Father, for I have sinned", and may add, "It has been [time]
since my last confession." The priest greets the penitent. Then
crossing himself, the penitent says "In the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" and begins their confession.
The priest may help the penitent with an examination of
conscience, perhaps by asking questions. During the confession, the
priest may read Scripture passages and offer spiritual counsel.
After hearing the confession, the priest assigns a penance,
and the penitent accepts the penance with the following prayer:
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry
for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy
just punishment, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve,
with the help of thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near
occasion of sin. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The priest then extends his or her hands in blessing over the
penitent, and prays the prayer of absolution:
Prayer of Absolution
God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of His Son
has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit
among us for the
forgiveness of sins;
Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and
peace, and I absolve
you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit.