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Penance

After the Resurrection, Jesus established this sacrament for his followers. He realized that even after Baptism we would still have to deal with the reality of sin. Out of his great love, Jesus instituted this sacrament through which a sinner who is sorry receives pardon and peace and is restored to the fullness of grace with God.

Confession is a very intimate experience. Even in a communal reconciliation service that you might attend during Advent, Lent or a retreat, individual confessions are private.

The Catholic Church maintains, however, that there is also a social aspect to sin. Sin not only affects our relationship with God, sin also alienates us from other people and the Church.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus provides us with a way of being reconciled to God and to those we've hurt, and to be strengthened in our connection to God's entire family. This is more than symbolic; it is spiritual reality expressed through ritual.

The Church defines sin as a deliberate turning away from God and God's goodness. Since God is love and only wills what is ultimately good, sin is a rejection of love. It leads to division, conflict and pain. These are the characteristics of life apart from God. On the other hand, whatever is good and leads to God is holy.

God has given us a wonderful freedom to love him, his creation and everyone in it. When we sin, we misuse that freedom. Fortunately, sin doesn't have to have the last word in our life. We can repent and turn back to God. Jesus is there to help us make that move. Through his death, Jesus rescued humanity to the Father. As risen Lord, he now dwells within the Church.

The God we encounter in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the God of compassion. In the battle against sin, God is on our side. That doesn't mean God is pleased by sin. Rather, it means that, because of an overwhelming love for us, God reaches out even further to meet us when we need our Maker most.

If you are ever hesitant or nervous about approaching a priest for Reconciliation, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, whatever you discuss with the priest is under "the seal of confession" and under no circumstances can he violate that secrecy. Second, every priest goes to Confession, too. He knows how hard it can be. If you're not sure how to examine your conscience or forget how to make an Act of Contrition, tell the priest that. Priests are trained to help you receive the sacrament. Basically, you just need to show up with a sorrowful heart.

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