What is the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation?
The Sacrament of Penance is one of the Church’s Sacraments of Healing. It is an experience of God’s gift of boundless mercy that frees us from our sins and challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us.
It is also a channel of particular graces which assist us in avoiding sin in the future, overcoming habits of sin, and growing in the life of virtue. Each of us can experience God’s healing grace and love through this Sacrament!
Children at an early age (near the age of seven) should learn about and receive this precious gift. They are capable of
understanding what is right, honest, kind and charitable; and what is not.
The Sacrament of Penance is a positive instrument in developing a genuinely Christian moral sense in your child. The experience can help your child to understand that when a child of God fails, or sins, it is not the end. God is waiting to help, to forgive, and to provide the strength you need to try again.
“Catechesis for children prior to their first reception of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation must always respect their natural disposition, ability, age and circumstances.” (National Directory for Catechesis Chapter 5, section 36, heading B2)
Did you Know?
The Catechism teaches us that the priest can never, under any circumstances, even under the threat of death, tell anyone about the sins he hears in the confessional. (CCC, #1467)
If you are looking to have your child or yourself receive this Sacrament for the first time, please contact:
The Sacrament of Reconciliation and its parts:
Confession: the act of telling your sins to the priest, in a manner appropriate to your age and ability.
- Act of Penance: an important part of healing is the “penance” the priest gives you – prayers and actions you will do with God’s grace, in satisfaction for your sins. You perform your penance sometime after leaving the confessional.
- Act of Contrition: the words you use to express sincere sorrow for your sins (which hurt your relationship with God and with others), and the intention to not repeat them.
- Absolution: On the basis of your contrition and a specific formula of words spoken by the priest, your sins are forgiven by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Preparation for the Sacrament:
Your child should be prepared in such a way that the celebration of the Sacrament is a joyful experience!
Every child who has reached the age of reason (near the age of seven) must be given adequate formation in the faith
that helps the child to develop:
- An awareness of the relationship of love that they have with both God and neighbor.
a knowledge that this relationship can be harmed through sin and they must assume personal responsibility.
- The experience of personal sorrow for failures and expression of that sorrow.
- The realization that you must try to change your sinful behavior.
- An understanding that the Sacrament of Penance is a special celebration of God’s forgiveness, and reconciliation with their neighbor.
- A free desire to receive this Sacrament.
- A process, in a manner appropriate to their age and ability, to talk to the priest about sins they have committed.
The celebration of First Penance is to occur before the celebration of First Eucharist. (CIC 914, CCC 1457)
An Examination of Conscience:
God gives each person the gift of a conscience to help us figure out what is right and what is wrong; and what God wants us to do and not to do.
Our conscience is formed throughout our life using the teachings of the Church and with help from our teachers of the faith.
We examine our conscience in order to see if we are living as children of God and followers of Jesus.
Help your child think about their friendship with God and with other people.
- We sin when we freely choose to do what we know is not what God wants us to do.
- We also sin when we choose to not do something we know God wants us to do.
- Every sin hurts our friendship with God and with others.
We can ask ourselves how well we are living or not living as Jesus taught us. One of His teachings is called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). This teaches us the many ways that God blesses us when we live as Jesus calls us to live.
The best teaching moments for your children are the times they see you go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
First Reconciliation / First Penance
Children are informed about the Sacrament of Reconciliation through the Faith Formation programs at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in every grade level. Immediate preparation for the Sacrament is offered in the fall for any child as the child is determined ready.
Please be advised that your child must have at least 2 years of Religious Education with good attendance before receiving Sacraments.
Grade 2 is the recommended age for First Penance .
Signs of readiness for the Sacrament include:
- An awareness of the relationship between God and neighbor
- A knowledge that they can harm relationship through sin, and must assume personal responsibility
- The experience of personal sorrow for their failures and expression of the sorrow
- The realization that they must try to change their sinful behavior
- A free desire to receive the sacrament
In the preparation for First Reconciliation we will talk to children about how to make good decisions and follow rules that God and our families have. The children will learn how to distinguish between sins, accidents, and mistakes and practice how to make good choices in their lives.
The preparation will be followed by a family penance service where the children will have an opportunity to receive the sacrament from one of our priests.
It is our greatest hope that families will grow in their understanding of God’s love and forgiveness and in the love and forgiveness that they experience in their family.
In helping our children prepare for First Penance, please make sure they understand the following:
- The Sacrament of Penance, or Sacrament of Reconciliation, is “going to confessions.” This may seem elementary, but many children miss the connection.
- There are different ways of receiving the Sacrament, i.e. in a Reconciliation Room (Confessional) or with a community Church, etc. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a single rite with three forms:
- Individual confession (open or with screen)
- Communal Reconciliation – Penitential celebration (with several penitents and individual confession)
- General Absolution – several penitents with general act of contrition and absolution (used in unusual circumstances)
- Going to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation should be a family celebration – why not join your child in receiving the Sacrament?
- The priest is an “interpreter” or “middle man” between God and the children. He is God’s representative on earth. Stress they are really talking to God and asking for His forgiveness – not the priest’s. The priest helps them in this by asking questions, talking with them, asking them to recite their Act of Contrition and giving them penance.
- We should celebrate the Sacrament (go to confession) even if there is no serious sin so that we can receive God’s blessings and special help. As in all sacraments, there is a special, personal meeting with the risen Jesus. How often should the Sacrament be celebrated? At least once a year.
- The priest is just happy they are coming to God. There isn’t anything they could say that would shock the priest.
- Temptation, there mere thought of doing wrong, is not a sin.
- The difference between sins:
- Venial sin – slight offense against God and neighbor (Sacrament helpful)
- Serious sin – major offense against God or neighbor (still wishing to do God’s will – Sacrament necessary)
- Mortal sin – complete turn away from God, breaking the relationship with Him; rejection of God and his plan (Sacrament necessary)
- Preparing for reconciliation means thinking about our wrongs (examination of consciences). Examine your attitudes toward God, your attitudes about yourself, your attitudes toward others – review the commandments.
- Receiving penance means saying we are sorry, but also that we will try to change. If we’ve hurt someone – telling them we are sorry, too. Stress the concept of penance being a time of reconciliation – God and Christian community, whom we have hurt. We do not sin alone; we always involve and hurt others.
- Make sure they know a standard form of receiving penance and Act of Contrition, a formal way of saying, “I am sorry.”