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Penance (Reconciliation)

Through this process, a person is reconciled with the Church and continues to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Reconciliation is officially called the Sacrament of Penance. In the past, it was also called Confession. These titles are all aspects of the meaning of the Sacrament.

The Sacrament of Penance is a celebration of God’s love and mercy. It celebrates the call to repentance, after a process of conversion of heart. This includes confessing our sins and receiving the forgiveness of God, through the ministry of the priest. Through this process, a person is reconciled with the Church and continues to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

There are three different forms that the Sacrament of Penance can take.

  1. First Rite of Reconciliation is when we individually confess our sins to the priest.
  2. Second Rite of Reconciliation is a celebration that occurs within the church with the whole community and involves individual confession and absolution.
  3. Third Rite of Reconciliation is also centred on the gathering of the community but is designed for situations where there is a grave necessity.

Individual Reconciliation (First Rite) is usually celebrated at set times during the week in parishes (often on Saturday afternoon) and may be arranged at other times by appointment.

This Rite is meant to give people the opportunity for personal prayer and individual spiritual direction, to enable them to ‘set their lives on track’!

Communal Reconciliation (Second Rite) is usually celebrated in parish communities during Advent and Lent and at other appropriate times during the year.

Who celebrates Reconciliation?

Baptised members of the Roman Catholic Church who feel called to be reconciled with God and with the faith community can take part in the Sacrament of Penance.

This call to conversion and reconciliation occurs when one considers, judges and changes one’s life, in the light of God’s love revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Prayer and participating in the Eucharist are the regular means of asking for forgiveness and being reconciled with God and the community, however, there are times when the faithful need the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation in their struggle to be forgiven and forgiving; to discover anew the gift of God’s saving action in their lives and to be strengthened to continue living as disciples of Jesus.

You can contact your parish for information about arranging for children to make their First Reconciliation.

Why so many different names for the same sacrament?

The names emphasise different aspects of the sacrament.

Penance refers to our remorse, sorrow and resolution to amend our life with God’s help. Confession refers to the act by which we tell our sins to the priest. Reconciliation refers to the goal of the celebration, which is that sinners are reconciled to God and the Church.

The ritual is called the Sacrament of Penance, but is appropriate to refer to it by any of these titles.

What are the different ways that Reconciliation can occur?

There are three different forms that the Sacrament of Penance can take.

  1. First form or Rite of Reconciliation is when we individually confess our sins to the priest.
  2. Second form or Rite of Reconciliation is a celebration that occurs within the church with the whole community and involves individual confession and absolution.
  3. Third form or Rite of Reconciliation is also centred on the gathering of the community but is designed for situations where there is a grave necessity.

When will my child be prepared for the Sacrament of Penance?

Children usually will celebrate a simple Second Rite of Reconciliation as part of their preparation for First Holy Communion. They will be formally prepared for the Sacrament when they are a little older and have a greater understanding, at about ten years old.

Can a priest tell someone else about what they have heard in Confession?

When a person confesses their sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance, a very sacred trust is formed. The priest must maintain absolute secrecy about anything that a person confesses. This secrecy is called “the seal of Confession”. Under no circumstances is the priest allowed to break this sacred seal.