The Sacrament of Penance – A Short Overview

Dominican Friars - Confession - Fr. David Mott Hears Confession

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Also known as “confession” or ‘reconciliation”. Is a…

Sacrament of the Church.

A precept of the Church.

What is a sacrament?

A sacrament is an “efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ Himself and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.”

What is a Precept of the Church?

A precept is a “commandment or law” of the Church which are binding on the faithful under the pain of sin.

Why go and confess your sins?

Well, as to get to Heaven after you have lost your Baptismal innocence.
Which unfortunately for us fallen people will likely happen.
You can Only get to Heaven if you die in a state of sanctifying grace!

You can “thank” Adam for this.

When should you go to Confession?

At Least once a year around the Easter season (First Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday). And ANY time when in a conscious state of Mortal Sin.
The first part you are bound to by Church law, since it is one of the Six Precepts of the Church. The latter is really dependent on you.

Why should I go to Confession to a Catholic Priest?

Well you are obligated to go the one time a year under pain of sin, which in this case is a mortal one if you do not. The other reason or reasons is to receive sanctifying grace if you are spiritually dead (in mortal sin) or “grow in grace (sanctifying) if you are not in a state of mortal sin and are just confessing venial or non mortal sins.

What sins do/should/can I confess?

All known mortal sins! The kind and the number. Which is what sins they are and how many times you did them. You can and should also confess any venial or simple sins that you are guilty of. The first as to be “reborn” to life in grace and the latter to grow in life of grace.

It is a very good and wise practice to confess your venial sins. Even though you are not obligated to, confessing them will help you tremendously in the fight against mortal sin. It “fills the cup” which is your soul with graces “to overflowing”, it nourishes you in your growth in the spiritual life, it grows you in the love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.

So how often can/may/could I go to Confession?

Well as stated before at “least once a year” and when in mortal sin. Besides that you may go as often or much as you need to. Particularly when dealing with habitually sins that you are trying to get or keep in check.

The Church recommends to at least going monthly to Confession though it does not bind you under pain of sin to go this often. It is not precept that you go monthly.
Good spiritual directors will recommend at least every two weeks. (Yours may give a little different timetable dependent on your personal needs and/or spiritual life.)
The saints recommend at least weekly Confession.

You may go more often (even daily) or more than once a week if needed. Particularly if you are fighting against particularly strong sins or inclinations to sin(temptations), as a more frequent Confession will strengthen you for the fight against these sins or heal you after a fall to them.
When going say more than once a week, it is best to get advice from a good and trusted priest as this often typically requires spiritual direction to be more effective.

It would also be a wise and prudent decision to have a good Regular confessor. One priest to whom you go to for confession consistently, as he would be able to guide you better in spiritual matters. As he gets to know you (even anonymously) he can pinpoint any specific needs that you may have and see things (good or bad) that you may not notice in you that may need work or growth.

What should I do before I go to Confession?

  1. First do a good Examination of Conscience. Which is a going over of all the times you have offended God. Which entails the breaking any of the Ten Commandments to any degree, not abiding by the Precepts of the Church, and falling into one or more of the Seven Deadly Sins.
  2. Be contrite(sorry) for having offended God. Hopefully and primarily because you offended His Goodness and rejected His Love. And, or least that you are afraid of going to Hell.
  3. Have a purpose of amendment. That you will not fall or commit these sins again. And will do whatever it may take to keep from doing so.
  4. GO to Confession. Find out when a parish near you has Confessions, schedule an appointment to have your confession heard, or “grab” a priest and ask him if he will hear your humble confession. Just Go!

What do I do at Confession?

  1. Confess your sins humbly,fully and truly.
  2. Say an Act of Contrition. Which is a penitential prayer that expresses sorrow for (your) sins.
  3. Receive Absolution from the priest (at his discretion). Which is the Forgiveness of sins by God through the words and the hand of the priest.
  4. Then do whatever penance the priest who heard your confession gives you. And do your penance as soon as you can. Do it with intent, with contriteness of heart, and with the promise to God not to fall into sin again. Do this all in Humility.
  5. Thank God!

What do I do after Confession?

  1. Stay in a state of sanctifying grace. Which means not sinning again. And doing whatever it takes to make that happen.
  2. Also steer clear of even venial sins, as they diminish the grace(God’s Love) that you have built up in the “cup” of your soul. Venial sins also make you vulnerable to the attacks of Satan and the devils under his charge.
  3. Go back to Confession! Because you may be asking the question…

Will I or what if I sin again?

Unfortunately you probably will. It is the sad nature of our fallen state that keeps us from doing the good that we want to do for the love of Almighty God. If you do fall into sin again try not to fall even more deeply than you may have already. Do not sin more due to the fact that you are already in a state of sin!! Keep your Faith,Hope & Charity and go back to Confession as soon as possible!

May Our Lord Bless You and Our Lady Keep You under Her Tender Care!

Saint Joseph, pray for us.



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