In my mid-twenties I began to practice my Catholic Faith more seriously and attend Mass regularly. During that time, I kept hearing a priest talk about confession during his homilies.
Even though I wanted to go to confession, I didn’t know much about it because I wasn’t taught to go regularly.
I desired to understand why I need to receive the sacrament, what it is and the effects.
Once I discovered this information and received the sacrament, it was life-changing!
For those who are like me and want to know more about Confession, I pray this post gives you the information you seek.
Please know that this information isn’t necessary to fully participate in the sacrament.
While that’s true, it’s still helpful to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it because it allows us to have a deeper, more meaningful experience.
Since it’s impossible to explain everything about the sacrament in a simple blog post, in this post I’ll focus on:
- Why it’s needed
- What it is
- The spiritual effects
Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as “the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace” (Catechism 1446).
When a Christian is baptized, their soul is cleansed of original sin and claimed for Christ.
Because of our imperfect nature, we’ll continue to stray from God and commit sin against Him and our neighbor, even after our baptism.
Since we’ll continue to sin throughout our lives, we must continue to be reconciled with God.
While it’s possible to go directly to God to seek forgiveness, something more must be done to fully restore one’s relationship with Him and the Church.
These are some of the reasons why we need the Sacrament of Confession.
Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Catechism 1440).
Confession is one of the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church and a sacrament of healing.
Other names are: conversion, forgiveness, Penance, and Reconciliation.
The four parts are: contrition, confession, absolution, and satisfaction.
I’ll explain each part so that we’ll have a better understanding of the sacrament.
- Contrition means sorrow for our sin.
- Catechism 1451 tells us: Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”
- During the individual confession, the priest asks the penitent to pray the Act of Contrition out loud. This prayer expresses sorrow for our sins, as well as a promise to confess our sins, do penance and change our lives.
- The traditional version is on my Prayers page.
- Confession means we openly tell the priest all the grave (mortal) sins we can remember that we haven’t confessed before. If we intentionally withhold any sins, we aren’t pardoned from them.
- Regarding venial sins Catechism 1458 tells us: Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful.
- We can, and should, regularly confess to God and ask for forgiveness, but it’s still necessary to confess to a priest in order to be reconciled with the Church.
- From the beginning of the Church, sins were confessed to priests (see James 5:14-16). The priest acts “in the person of Christ” when administering the sacraments; so when we confess to a priest, Jesus is truly present.
- Absolution means we are forgiven and reconciled with God and the Church.
- It emphasizes the healing power of Christ.
- Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, and He gave this power to the apostles. Through apostolic succession, it’s passed on to every Catholic priest at their ordination (see John 20:21-23).
- The words of absolution said by the priest are the most comforting words: God, the Father of mercies, through the death and the 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.
- Satisfaction means penance, reforming one’s life and making amends.
- The priest gives us penance in the form of: prayer, works of mercy, charity, sacrifices, fasting, etc.
- We do penance to atone for our sins and repair the spiritual damage caused by them.
- We must genuinely desire to change. Conversion is only possible with God’s grace and mercy; we can’t do it on our own.
- If we sin against another, we must try to repair the harm done.
Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion (Catechism 1422).
According to Catechism 1496 the spiritual effects of the sacrament are:
- Reconciliation with God by which grace is recovered
- Reconciliation with the Church
- Pardon of the eternal punishment resulting from mortal sins
- Pardon, at least in part, of the temporal punishments resulting from sin
- Peace and serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation
- An increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle
I hope you have a better understanding of the Sacrament of Confession after reading this post!
In the next post I’ll focus on preparation, tips, encouragement, and advice.