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Reconciliation: A closer look at the sacrament

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Pope Francis confession

The following is a closer glance at the Sacrament of Reconciliation in light of the archdiocesan initiative “The Light is ON For You.” All parishes of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will be open from 7-9 p.m. on March 18 to offer confession. Read more about that event here.

“Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” — Catechism of the Catholic Chuch, 1422

How to make a good confession?

Confession is not difficult, but it does require preparation.

We should begin with prayer, placing ourselves in the presence of God, our loving Father. We seek healing and forgiveness through repentance and a resolve to sin no more.

Then we review our lives since our last confession, searching our thoughts, words, and actions for that which did not conform to God’s command to love him and one another through his laws and the laws of his church. This is called an examination of conscience.

To make an examination of conscience: Begin with a prayer asking for God’s help. Review your life with the help of some questions, which are based on the Ten Commandments.

Tell God how truly sorry you are for your sins. Make a firm resolution not to sin again.

Examination of conscience

To make an examination of conscience, recall your sins. Prayerfully ask yourself what you have done with full knowledge and full consent against God and your brothers and sisters in Christ.

— Do I pray to God every day? Have I thanked God for his gifts to me?
— Did I put my faith in danger or engage in superstitious practices?
— Did I take the name of God in vain? Did I curse or take a false oath?
— Did I miss Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation through my own fault? Am I attentive at Mass? Did I keep fast and abstinence on the prescribed days?
— Did I disobey my parents and lawful superiors in important matters?
— Did I hate or quarrel with anyone, or desire revenge? Did I refuse to forgive? Was I disrespectful? Did I gossip?
— Did I get drunk? Did I take illicit drugs?
— Did I consent to, recommend, advise, or actively take part in an abortion?
— Did I willfully look at pornography or engage in impure conversations or actions? Did I use artificial means to prevent conception?
— Was I unfaithful to my spouse? Did I engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
— Did I steal or damage another’s property? Have I been honest in my business relations?
— Have I been responsive to the needs of the poor and respected the dignity of others?
— Have I shared my wealth with others?
— Did I tell lies? Have I envied other people?

The rite of reconciliation 

Reconciliation may be face-to-face or anonymous, with a screen between you and the priest. Choose the option that is the most comfortable for you.

1. The priest gives you a greeting.

2. After you make the Sign of the Cross, you may share some basic information about your life [e.g. give the number of weeks, months, or years since your last confession]. Then the Word of God may be proclaimed.

3. Confess all of your sins to the priest. The priest will help you to make a good confession. If you are unsure about how to confess or you feel uneasy, just ask him to help you. Place your trust in God, a merciful Father who wants to forgive you.

4. Following your confession of sins, you may say, “I am sorry for these and all of my sins.”

5. The priest assigns you a penance and offers advice to help you be a better disciple of Christ.

6. Say an Act of Contrition, expressing your sorrow for your sins. The priest, acting in the person of Christ, then absolves you from your sins.

Act of Contrition 

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.

In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,

I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.

I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.

Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.

Amen.

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Source: Worship Office pamphlet “The Light is on for You”

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