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Confession

 

(From the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week [Sunday]," Jesus showed himself to his apostles. "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 20:19, 22-23). The forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is conferred by a particular sacrament called the sacrament of penance, reconcilation, or as it is most widely known, Confession. The sinner wounds God's honour and love, his own human dignity as a man called to be a son of God, and the spiritual well-being of the Church, of which each Christian ought to be a holy member. To the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world.

To return to communion with God, having lost it through sin, is a process born of the grace of God who is rich in mercy and always desires the salvation of mankind. One must ask for this precious gift for oneself and for others. The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, involves sorrow for and disgust at previous sins committed, and a firm resolution to sin no more in the future. As such conversion touches the past, present and future, requiring us to trust in God's mercy. The sacrament of Confession consists of three actions of the penitent, 1) repentance, 2) confession/disclosure of sins to a priest, 3) desire to make reparation, these three being followed by the priest's absolution.

 

Repentance

Also called contrition, does not mean that we must pretend that we did not find some enjoyment or satisfaction in our previous sins, but we must intellectually acknowledge them as wrong and the satisfactions received as illicit. This must be inspired from faith. If repentance comes from love of God simply for who He is, our almighty, merciful and glorious Creator and Redeemer, then it is known as 'perfect' contrition. If it is founded on other motives, such as, for example, fear of punishment (earthly of eternal) or out of the harm caused to oneself, then the contrition is called 'imperfect'. Imperfect contrition is sufficient to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, which bestows forgiveness from God where perfect contrition is absent. Even when we are perfectly contrite, we must nontheless use the sacrament of Confession if we are aware of mortal sin.

One who desires to be reconciled with God and with the Church must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience. The confession of minor faults, without being strictly necessary in itself, is nevertheless strongly recommended. Minor faults do not 'add up' to a mortal sin, but rather they act as trends and tendencies which left unchecked can lead to mortal sin over time. It is thus useful to confess such faults in the confessional, as part of the Christian journey in holiness, love of neighbour and above all love of God the Trinity. Only priests who have received the faculty, that is the official role, of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ.

The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Confession are:

reconciliation with God and the recovery of sanctifying grace, i.e. the indwelling of God in the soul;

reconciliation with the entire Church, our Christian brethren on earth, in Purgatory and those in Heaven;

remission of the eternal damnation brought about through mortal sin;

remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;

peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;

an increase in strength for the Christian battle.

Individual and sincere confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church. Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory. There is truly nothing to fear from Confession, it is one of Christ's gifts to his Church, truly we should desire to run to Confession every week that we might recive abundantly of its benefits. Many saints throughout Church history, even recent Popes such as Blessed John Paul II, have frequented the sacrament of Confession daily. We are bound only to receive the sacrament of Confession once a year, though this is obviously the bare minimum needed to meet the precepts of the Church. Frequent confession, at least monthly, is a recommended norm for most laymen.

 

Sacrament of Confession

In the past it was known as the 'Sacrament of Penance'. It is the sacrament by which, through the ministry of the Church, we are reconciled to God even when we have sinned gravely. Since the Council of Trent the Church has encouraged the faithful to use this sacrament regularly, always confessing serious sin ('mortal' sin) and even less serious sins ('venial' sins) where possible. The normal rite of confession involves a one to one encounter with the priest with individual confession and absolution, either face-to-face or anonymously in a confessional, whichever is preferred by the penitent Some basic advice for confession. Hold nothing back. Confess it all, the type of sins committed and their number. Don't be afraid. Confession is about forgiveness, mercy and divine love, we should be eager to go every time!

 

 

 

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