“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” John 20:21-2
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as confession, is one of the most unique and beautiful aspects of Catholicism. Jesus Christ, in His abundant love and mercy, established the Sacrament of Confession, so that we as sinners can obtain forgiveness for our sins and reconcile with God and the Church. The sacrament “washes us clean,” and renews us in Christ.
If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, our Sheboygan North Catholic Parishes want to welcome you back and invite you to participate in this beautiful sacrament of healing. Take a step in faith. You’ll be surprised about how free you feel after taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So many Catholics describe incredible feelings of peace, joy, relief, and love that they never expected. Jesus is calling you to experience His mercy in this way too.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONFESSION, PENANCE, AND RECONCILIATION?
Those three names are commonly used interchangeably for the Sacrament in which sins are forgiven. The Sacrament is called “Confession” because the penitent makes a verbal confession of his or her particular sins. It is called “Penance” from another element of the Sacrament – the good action that the priest asks the penitent to perform as a token of his or her sincerity, and as a way to bring some good into the world in reparation for the sin committed. And finally, “Reconciliation” refers to the final effect of the Sacrament: the penitent is reconciled with God and the Church.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THIS SACRAMENT?
It is no exaggeration to say that the very reason that Jesus Christ came into the world was for reconciliation: to reconcile us to the Father and to one another. The very first message in the New Testament, on the lips of John the Baptist, was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2) After the death of John the Baptist, this message was taken up by the Lord Jesus. During His life on earth, the Lord forgave the sins of various people He encountered. And after His Resurrection, he told His Apostles to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His name to all the nations. (Luke 24:47)
WHY DO CATHOLICS CONFESS THEIR SINS TO A PRIEST?
This is founded on the clear instruction of the Lord. After His Resurrection, the Lord appeared to His Apostles, breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:22-23)
WHY CAN'T I JUST CONFESS MY SINS DIRECTLY TO GOD?
Christ instituted the Sacraments as He did because we are physical creatures living in a visible world. We know by seeing and hearing. All of the Sacraments involve an actual encounter with a person who speaks and acts in the name of Christ (in most of the Sacraments, a priest) so that we can know what is happening. In most of the Sacraments, no one objects to that. For example, no parent ever wants to internally ask God to give their new child the grace of rebirth; they want the priest and the water and the words, because then they know their child has been baptized. Only regarding Reconciliation are people inclined to become very “spiritual” and want everything to be internal, and only between them and God. This is because of our pride – which is also the root of every sin. Humility is the way back to God; and the confessional is a great school of humility.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR CONFESSION?
Before actually approaching the Sacrament, one makes an “examination of conscience.” This is the effort to recall one’s sins – I look to see what is “on my conscience.” It is often helpful to do this by using a published guide that reminds us of the range of typical sins. There are many versions of such guides – often based on the Ten Commandments.
WHEN IS THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION AVAILABLE?
9:30a.m. | Holy Name
4:00p.m. | St. Dominic
5:45p.m. | St. Clement
WHAT SHOULD I DO TO RECEIVE THIS SACRAMENT?
You begin by entering the reconciliation room and either kneeling at the screen or sitting down in the empty chair. Your essential responsibilities are (1) to make your confession and (2) to express contrition for your sins by saying a prayer called the “Act of Contrition” and (3) to do the penance assigned after leaving the reconciliation room. The priest’s two essential responsibilities are (1) to assign a penance and (2) to give absolution. He may also give some advice or encouragement during the Sacrament, but what is essential is the absolution that imparts the forgiveness that comes from God.
SOME OF MY SINS ARE REALLY BAD AND DIFFICULT TO TALK ABOUT. DO I HAVE TO CONFESS THESE TOO?
Even though these sins are hard to admit, they are the most important to confess. Serious sin (often called mortal sin) cuts one off from a fruitful relationship with God. To restore this relationship, it is necessary to confront the sin and take responsibility for it.
WILL WHAT I TELL THE PRIEST REMAIN A SECRET?
Yes. The priest is bound to absolute secrecy concerning the sins he hears in this Sacrament. He may neither divulge it, nor use the information in the governance of the parish. This obligation is called the “seal of confession,” and under no circumstance can this seal be broken.
SHOULD I BE CONCERNED THAT THE PRIEST WILL BE UPSET OR DISGUSTED WITH ME BECAUSE OF THE SERIOUSNESS OF MY SINS OR THE LENGTH OF TIME SINCE MY LAST CONFESSION?
No. In fact, the priest will be very happy that you have come to this Sacrament of healing and forgiveness. Few things are more gratifying for a priest than to hear a serious or overdue confession. The priest leaves the confessional knowing that something important has happened, and humbly grateful that he could be an instrument of God’s mercy and healing.
EXPLANATION OF CATHOLIC RECONCILIATION
Watch a quick video explaining Reconciliation.