Also known as Confession or Penance, the sacrament of Reconciliation is seen as an opportunity for renewal and can be done as often as needed. Some Catholics participate weekly before receiving the Eucharist, whereas others may seek the sacrament only during the penitential seasons of Lent or Advent. Reconciliation is a means of obtaining pardon from God for sins for which the sinner is truly remorseful, and brings the sinner back into communion with God and the Church. The sacrament is an opportunity for self-reflection and requires that the person take full responsibility for his or her sins, both those in thought and in action. During the rite, sins are recounted privately to a priest, who is seen as a healer aiding the process, and the priest commonly assigns acts of penance, such as specific prayers or acts of restitution, to complete in the following days. A prayer of contrition is offered at the end of the confession, and the newly absolved Catholic is urged to refrain from repeating those sins.
The Sacrament of Penance is the sacrament of spiritual healing. Reconciliation involves contrition, confession to a priest, absolution by the priest, and penance. After making an examination of conscience, the penitent confesses his/her sins to the priest, who is the minister of Christ’s mercy. The intent of this sacrament is to provide healing for the soul as well as to regain the grace of God, lost by sin.
What happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? In the Sacrament of Penance, “the sinner who by grace of a merciful God embraces the way of penance and comes back to the Father who ‘first loved us’ (1 Jn 4:19), to Christ who gave himself up for us, and to the Holy Spirit who has been poured out on us abundantly.
What is the role of the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? According to the Rite of Penance, “the Church exercises the ministry of the sacrament of penance through bishops and priests. By preaching God’s word they call the faithful to conversion; in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit they declare and grant the forgiveness of sins. In the exercise of this ministry priest’s act in communion with the bishop and share in his power and office . . .”
What is the role of the community in the sacrament? According to the Rite of Penance, “the whole Church, as a priestly people, acts in different ways in the work of reconciliation which has been entrusted to it by the Lord. Not only does the Church call sinners to repentance by preaching the word of God, but it also intercedes for them and helps penitents with maternal care and solicitude to acknowledge and admit their sins and so obtain the mercy of God who alone can forgive sins.
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