The Sacrament of Penance

Restoring us to New Life

The Sacrament of Penance is a sacred mystery of conversion from sin, confession of guilt, forgiveness of the wrong done, and reconciliation with Christ and His Church. All Catholics over the age of reason should come to the Sacrament of Penance at least once each year during Lent or Eastertide, and as often as necessary when conscious of serious sin; and anyone conscious of grave sin should not receive Holy Communion before being reconciled to God by sacramental confession and absolution. The sacrament is known as Reconciliation, Penance or Confession; each of these words have a slightly differing meaning. Reconciliation emphasizes the fact that a person is reconciled with God and the Church upon reception of the sacrament. Penance refers to the penitent's conversion, which is necessary in order to celebrate the sacrament fruitfully. Confession is derived from the part of the sacrament where the penitents confess their personal sins. Indeed, the Sacrament of Reconciliation relies upon a sense of ongoing conversion, a desire to repent and a need to be reconciled with God and the community.

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  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 psychological sense. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are restored to a proper relationship with God. 

Fruits of the Sacrament

We need the Sacrament of Penance because each of us, from time to time, sins. Like the prodigal son in the Gospel, we long to know again the loving embrace of a forgiving father who patiently waits for each of us. Jesus himself has established this sure and certain way for us to access God's mercy and to know that our sins are forgiven. By virtue of His divine authority, Jesus gives this power of absolution to the apostolic ministry. There is something in our human nature that calls out for the assurance that our sins are actually forgiven. The grace we receive from the Sacrament of Confession helps us combat our faults and failings and breaks our habits of vice much more easily and expediently than we could otherwise do without the sacramental grace.

Confession also brings us peace. When we hear God’s forgiving words to us from the lips of the priest in Confession, a burden is lifted off our shoulders and we can again feel the peace of heart that comes from being in a good relationship with God. Every time we experience the Sacrament of Confession, God strengthens our will and our self-control to be able to resist the temptations that confront us in our lives. We become more resolute to follow God’s will and not our own whims. The words of absolution in the confessional are truly beautiful: “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is waiting to forgive you - all you have to do is ask! Don’t miss out any longer on the healing power of Confession.

How to Go to Confession

The basic requirement for a good confession is to have the intention of returning to God with your whole heart and to acknowledge your sins with true sorrow before the priest. The Church teaches that all serious (mortal) sins must be recounted in confession, even if they are most secret, for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.  At the same time, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is strongly recommended for it helps us to form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies (patterns of weakness that can lead us to sin), let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. For a sin to be mortal, it has to meet three conditions:

  • Grave matter: Does it involve breaking one of the 10 Commandments, committing one of the Sins that Cry out to Heaven, or failing to uphold the 6 Precepts of the Church?
  • Full knowledge: Did you know or should you have known that the act was sinful?
  • Deliberate consent: Was your consent to this act sufficiently deliberate so as to be a choice? Were conditions present that influenced your ability to choose? 

If you are unclear as to whether a sin meets all of the requirements above for a mortal sin, be safe and confess it, telling the priest of your lack of clarity. The following are a few helpful examinations of conscience that may assist you in your preparation.

There can be no forgiveness of sin if we do not have sorrow at least to the extent that we regret it, resolve not to repeat it and intend to turn back to God. While we cannot be certain that we will not sin again, our present resolve must be honest and realistic. We must want to change, to be faithful to the Lord, and intend to take steps to make faithfulness possible. Christ's forgiveness always calls for such a commitment: "Go, and do not sin again" (John 8:11).

To complete the process, a penance is imposed. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all disorders caused by sin. While we are not capable of truly satisfying God for the evil we have done and its consequences, we must make satisfaction for our sin through some action or prayer that will express our desire to make amends and to repair something of the disorder, damage or harm which our sinful actions have brought into the world. The penance imposed takes into account the penitent's personal situation and serves to support his or her spiritual good. It corresponds as much as possible to the gravity of the sins confessed. It may be a prayer, an offering, works of mercy, sacrifices or service to another. But this penance is in a real way our share in the Cross and helps us to be more closely joined to Christ.

A video on Good Confessions from Catholics Come Home


Penance FAQ

When is Confession offered at the Cathedral?

Confession is offered every day at the Cathedral 30 minutes before daily Mass. Confession is also offered on Saturday from 4-5 pm and on Sunday from 10-11 am.

Why do we need the Sacrament of Penance?

We need the Sacrament of Penance because each of us, from time to time, sins. Sin harms our relationship with God and damages our communion with the Church. The Lord, therefore, instituted a special sacrament so that we can be reconciled with God and with the Church.The Sacrament of Penance is an experience of the gift of God’s boundless mercy.
[Read More]

What happens in the Sacrament of Penance?

Those who by grave sin have withdrawn from the communion of love with God are called back in the Sacrament of Penance to the life they have lost. And those who through daily weakness fall into venial sins draw strength from a repeated celebration of Penance to gain the full freedom of the children of God.
[Read More]

Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest?

Priests can forgive our sins because Jesus has given them that authority through the grace of Holy Orders. With that power, priests can hear and forgive our sins by acting through Christ. We confess our sins to a priest, who is the minister of the sacrament, because he stands “in Persona Christi,” meaning that he is in the person of Christ.
[Read More]

How often should I go to Confession?

Catholics are required to receive the Sacrament at least once per year. However, if you are aware of having committed any mortal (serious) sin, you should go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist. Frequent reception of Confession helps us keep aware of our spiritual progress and provides the grace to overcome our sins.
[Read More]
Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!