A Guide to the Sacrament of Penance | EWTN (2022)


Pennsylvania Catholic Conference of Bishops

Discover God's Love AnewDear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has asked "for renewed pastoral courage in ensuring that the day-to-day teaching of Christian communities persuasively and effectively presents the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 37). A renewed appreciation for this wonderful sacrament which leads many to return to the life of grace will bring about a new springtime, a new era of growth and life for the Church.

In response to the Pope's invitation, this statement will speak of our need for reconciliation and explain how we receive it. While we hope that all Catholics properly understand the nature and importance of the sacrament of Penance, this statement is directed in a special way to those who do not understand it or who have drifted away from its use.

We invite every Catholic to celebrate the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation or, as we have traditionally said, "go to Confession," on a regular basis. There can be no better way to make progress on our spiritual journey than by returning in humble repentance and love to God, whose forgiveness reestablishes us as his children and restores us to peace with his Church and our neighbors.

With every prayerful best wish, we remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Bishops of Pennsylvania

February 2002What is Confession?

(Video) A Kid's Guide To The Sacrament Of Penance

Confession is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in his love and mercy. It is here that we meet the loving Jesus who offers sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God and neighbor. At the same time, Confession permits sinners to reconcile with the Church, which also is wounded by our sins.

The sacrament, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, is known by many names. Sometimes "it is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion" (1423). But it is also better known as "the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction" (1423).

For many of us it still continues to be known as "the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament" (1424). At the same time, the Catechism reminds us that "it is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent 'pardon and peace'" (1424). Finally, it is also called the sacrament of Reconciliation because it reconciles sinners to God and then to each other (1424). In this text, we will refer to the sacrament as the sacrament of Penance.

Through this sacrament, we meet Christ in his Church ready and eager to absolve and restore us to new life. The graces of Christ are conferred in the sacraments by means of visible signs - signs that are acts of worship, symbols of the grace given and recognizable gestures through which the Lord bestows his gifts. In the sacrament of Penance, the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of grace are the gifts received through the outward sign, i.e., the extension of hands and words of absolution pronounced by the priest.

2. What is sin?

Unfortunately, in society today, many people have lost the understanding of sin. Our Holy Father has stated that "it happens not infrequently in history, for more or less lengthy periods of time and under the influence of many different factors, that the moral conscience of many people becomes seriously clouded. . . . Too many signs indicate that such an eclipse exists in our time" Reconciliation and Penance, 18). In our day, many people have lost the sense of sin and feel that they can do whatever they wish without considering or fearing the consequences.

For such people, the term "sin" has no meaning. Yet we know that sin is a terrible evil which all of us must come to understand and with which all of us must struggle. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sin "is an offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God" (1849, 1853). In other words, sin is willfully rejecting good and choosing evil. In judging the degree of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins. "Mortal sin," the Catechism teaches, "destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law . . . Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it" (1855). (Refer to the Glossary on Mortal and Venial Sin at the end of the booklet.)3. Why is Confession necessary?

We need the sacrament of Penance because each of us, from time to time, sins. When we recognize that we have offended God who is all deserving of our love, we sense the need to make things right. Like the prodigal son in the Gospel, we long to know again the loving embrace of a forgiving father who patiently waits for each of us. Jesus himself has established this sure and certain way for us to access God's mercy and to know that our sins are forgiven. By virtue of his divine authority, Jesus gives this power of absolution to the apostolic ministry. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "in imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church" (1444).

We need to know that our sins are forgiven. There is something in our human nature that calls out for the assurance that our sins are actually forgiven. Confession is the visible manifestation of God's mercy that provides us, in human terms as well, the clear awareness that God has forgiven us.

4. What is the source of the forgiveness of our sins?

Jesus invites us to reconciliation with God. It is Christ, the Good Shepherd, who offers us forgiveness and the power to turn
away from sin. Writing to the Corinthians, Saint Paul reminds us that just as sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, so too grace and new creation come to us through Jesus Christ. Just as death came through a human being, so too the resurrection of the dead came through a human being. As in Adam all people die, so in Christ all shall be brought to life - a fullness of life, a new creation already beginning in us through grace (cf. 1 Cor 15).

This is the message we proclaim when we face the mystery of sin. Just as Adam brought sin, death, disharmony, confusion, disruption and struggle into our lives, Christ, the new Adam, gives us grace, redemption, new life and salvation. (Refer to the Glossary on Original Sin at the end of the booklet). It is in Jesus Christ that we find the beginnings of the new creation. He leads us back to the Father, overcomes the tragic alienation of sin and restores harmony. Jesus gives us newness of life in grace that begins to restore our relationship with God and that will lead to full communion with God in glory. Grace is the beginning of a new creation for all of those baptized into Christ. In short, Jesus' passion and death have rescued us and given us new life.

5. How is the Church able to forgive sins?

(Video) Sacraments 101: Penance (why we confess)

The Church professes belief in "the forgiveness of sins" and is fully aware that only God forgives sins. It also believes that
Jesus, through his death, washed away all sin and, after his resurrection, gave to his Church the power and authority to apply to us the redemption he won on the cross, namely God's forgiveness of our sins.

As the Catechism points out, our faith in the forgiveness of sins is tied to faith in the Holy Spirit and the Church: "It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'" (976; cf. John 20:22-23).

We bring our failings to the Church, then, because Jesus imparted to his apostles, their successors, and through them to all ordained priests, his own power to forgive sins, to restore and reconcile the sinner with God and also the Church. This power to forgive sins is often referred to as the "power of the keys", the power entrusted to the Church when Jesus told St. Peter, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt 16:19). This power is manifested and operative in the sacrament of Penance.

6. Why do we continue to need forgiveness if we are already saved?

The new life received in Christ does not abolish the weakness of human nature or our inclination to sin. "If we say, 'We are without sin,'" Saint John wrote, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). There are a great many kinds of sins, some mortal, others venial. But all sin has a detrimental effect. It impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the prevalence of the good. "Sin creates a proclivity to sin," the Catechism reminds us. "It engenders vice by repetition of the same acts" (1865).

As a result, even though we are baptized into new life, we must continue to return to the sacrament of Penance to cleanse ourselves of sin and receive God's mercy. We are always in need of God's forgiveness through the sacrament of Penance if we are to grow in a life of grace.

7. Why do I need to go to a priest for confession?

It is most unfortunate that many people have adopted a mindset that they do not need to go to Confession. Many say "I just tell my sins to God and he forgives me." There is on the part of such persons a failure to recognize that the sacrament of Penance is not an invention of the Church. Rather, the sacrament of Penance is Christ's gift to the Church to ensure the forgiveness he so generously extends will be made available to every member of the Church. Once again, we cite the words of our Holy Father in highlighting the connection between Christ, his Church and the sacrament of Penance:

"From the revelation of the value of this ministry and power to forgive sins, conferred by Christ on the Apostles and their successors, there developed in the church an awareness of the sign of forgiveness, conferred through the Sacrament of Penance. It is the certainty that the Lord Jesus himself instituted and entrusted to the Church - as a gift of his goodness and loving kindness to be offered to all-a special Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism" (Reconciliation and Penance, 3).

8. What is the role of the priest in forgiving sins?

In establishing his Church, Christ passed on to her the power to forgive sins. Just as he forgave sins, so would those chosen by him to be his apostles have the extraordinary power to forgive sins. In the priesthood today, the visible external sign of Christ's mercy and forgiveness is exercised in confession. Just as the whole Church makes visible in our world the presence of Christ, so the priest makes visible the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus in the sacrament of confession. The priest who by ordination is configured to Christ absolves sinners, not in his own name and power, but in the name and person of Jesus.

9. What do I need to do to be forgiven?

What leads us to the sacrament of Penance is a sense of sorrow for what we have done. The motivation may be out of love of God or even fear of the consequences of having offended God. Whatever the motive, contrition is the beginning of forgiveness of sin. The sinner must come to God by way of repentance. There can be no forgiveness of sin if we do not have sorrow at least to the extent that we regret it, resolve not to repeat it and intend to turn back to God. While we cannot be certain that we will not sin again, our present resolve must be honest and realistic. We must want to change, to be faithful to the Lord, and intend to take steps to make faithfulness possible. Christ's forgiveness always calls for such a commitment: "Go, and do not sin again" (John 8:11).

(Video) The Sacrament of Penance, Guide for a Good Confession

10. What happens in Confession?

In the sacrament of Penance, the contrite sinner comes before Christ in the person of the priest who hears the sins, imposes a penance and absolves the sinner in the name and by the power of Christ.

The sinner comes before the merciful judgment of God and approaches the Lord in sorrow, admitting guilt before his representative. It is in the person of Christ that the priest hears the confession of guilt. The words spoken in Confession are guarded by the most solemn obligation of complete confidentiality. In fact, Church law prescribes a serious penalty for any confessor who directly violates the "seal of Confession."

It is in the name of Christ that the priest pronounces the Savior's mercy: "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The Catechism reminds us that "absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused" (1459). Thus, the priest imposes a penance on the penitent, which can take the form of "prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear" (1460).

11. How do I prepare for 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 should harbor in our hearts a sense of sorrow for all we have done. The motivation for our sorrow may be out of love of God or even fear of the consequences of having offended God. Whatever the motive, contrition is the beginning of forgiveness of sin. We need to have sorrow at least to the extent that we regret it, resolve not to repeat it
and intend to turn back to God.

With this disposition of heart, we should review our lives since our last confession, searching our thoughts, words and actions to discover those that did not conform to God's love, to his law or to the laws of the Church. This is what is known as an "Examination of Conscience." (Refer to Appendix at the end of the booklet.)

12. How do I go to Confession?

The following may be helpful in preparing for confession. Above all, do not be afraid. If you are hesitant about what to do, ask the priest for help:Greeting:
The priest welcomes the penitent warmly and greets him or her with kindness. Sign of the Cross:
Then the penitent makes the Sign of the Cross, which the priest may also make. Invitation to Trust in God:
The priest invites the penitent to have trust in God using one of the formulas in the ritual or similar words. If the penitent is unknown to the priest, it is proper for the penitent to indicate his or her state in life (married, single, or clergy), the time of his or her last confession and anything else that may help the confessor in exercising his ministry. Reading of the Word of God:Confession of Sins and Acceptance of Satisfaction:
The penitent confesses his or her sins and accepts the prayers or deeds that the priest proposes as a penance. Prayer of the Penitent and Absolution:
The priest asks the penitent to express sorrow by praying one of the prayers found in the ritual or in his or her own words. The priest then prays the Prayer of Absolution, to which the penitent responds: "Amen." Proclamation of Praise and Dismissal:
The priest continues: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good." The penitent responds: "His mercy endures for ever." The priest then dismisses the penitent, using one of the formulas found in the ritual.

NOTE: This is taken from the ritual for Roman Catholics. Eastern Churches utilize a different formula.

13. Why do I receive a penance?

To complete the process, a penance is imposed. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all disorders caused by sin. While we are not capable of truly satisfying God for the evil we have done and its consequences, we must make satisfaction for our sin through some action or prayer that will express our desire to make amends and to repair something of the disorder, damage or harm which our sinful actions have brought into the world. The penance imposed takes into account the penitent's personal situation and serves to support his or her spiritual good. It corresponds as much as possible to the gravity of the sins confessed. It may be a prayer, an offering, works of mercy, sacrifices or service to another. But this penance is in a real way our share in the Cross and helps us to be more closely joined to Christ.

In the Introduction to the Rite of Penance, we are reminded that true conversion is completed by acts of penance or satisfaction for the sins committed, by amendment of conduct, and also by the reparation of injury. The kind and extent of the satisfaction should be suited to the personal condition of each penitent. In this way the penitent is helped to be healed of the evil which caused him to sin. Therefore, it is necessary that the act of penance really be a remedy for sin and a help to renewal of life.

(Video) The Sacrament of Penance

14. How often should I go to Confession?

Individual and integral confession remains the only ordinary way for us to reconcile ourselves with God and the Church. A
Catholic who has committed mortal (grave) sin is obliged to seek God's forgiveness in this sacrament as soon as possible.
In ordinary circumstances, a Catholic who has committed mortal sin should not receive Holy Communion before receiving sacramental absolution. Not only does God forgive our sins, but we also receive the power of God's grace to struggle against sin and to be strengthened in our commitment to God and the Church. So powerful is the grace of this sacrament that the Introduction to the Rite of Penance reminds us that frequent and careful celebration of this sacrament is also very useful as a remedy for venial sins. This is not a mere ritual repetition or psychological exercise, but a serious striving to perfect the grace of baptism so that, as we bear in our body the death of Jesus Christ, his life may be seen in us ever more clearly.

Conclusion: Our Continuing Conversion

As we complete these thoughts on the sacrament of Penance, we might well reflect that the deepest spiritual joy each of us can sense is the freedom from whatever would separate us from God, a loving and merciful Father who receives each of us with all the forgiveness and love lavished on the prodigal son. Renewed, refreshed and reconciled in this sacrament once more, we who have sinned become a "new creation." Once more we are made new. It is this newness of spirit and soul that we hope all of us experience time and again in the sacrament of Penance.


Examination of Conscience

As you prepare to make a good confession, you want to ask God's forgiveness for any way in which you have offended him but particularly for any serious sin. If you are not certain what you should bring to the priest in confession, do not be afraid to ask him for help. The priest is there to assist you and to share with you God's love and mercy.

Many people find the Ten Commandments to be a good frame of reference for an examination of conscience. The Commandments are listed here as a reminder that you might find helpful.I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day.Honor your father and your mother.You shall not kill.You shall not commit adultery.You shall not steal.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.

Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

Glossary of Terms

Original Sin is the sin committed by Adam and Eve, the first human beings. This sin was a willful act of disobedience, a rejection of God's command that was so devastating that it ruptured the relationship which our first parents enjoyed with God. As a result of this sin, paradise was lost to them and to their descendants until our Redeemer, Jesus Christ came to conquer sin and death and restore us to our inheritance of the Kingdom of God. Original sin taints all human beings and is washed away through the sacred waters of baptism. However, while original sin is removed, its effects remain. One of these effects is concupiscence, that disordered desire within us which produces an inclination to sin (1264, 1426, 2515).

Mortal Sin is defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as "a grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life in the soul of the sinner (sanctifying grace), constituting a turning away from God. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present: grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and full consent of the will" (1855, 1857). The Catechism emphasizes that "to choose deliberately - that is both knowing it and willing it - something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal (happiness) is impossible. Unrepented, mortal sins brings eternal death" (1874). This "eternal death" we call Hell, where those who have died unrepentant of mortal sin suffer the eternal separation from God and loss of eternal happiness, i.e., seeing God face-to-face.

(Video) How to prepare for the Sacrament of Penance

Venial Sin, according to the Catechism, "does not destroy the divine life in the soul, as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it" (1855). Venial sin is a failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent" (1862). We must realize, however, that while venial sins do not have the grave effects of mortal sin, "deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin" (1863). It should be the goal of every Christian to strive, through steadfast prayer, acts of penance and works of charity, for a life free of sin.

� 2002 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference
Used with permission.


Is it a mortal sin not to go to confession once a year? ›

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that one must confess serious sins at least once a year (CCC 1457). One can commit a serious sin without it being a mortal sin.

Which sin is not forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance? ›

If the penitent knowingly conceal any mortal sin, then the confession is invalid and the penitent incurs another sin: sacrilege.

How do you understand the Sacrament of Penance in your own opinion? ›

The Sacrament of Penance is God's gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins.

Can I bring notes into confession? ›

Some also bring written notes with them. The only potential problem with that is that the light is often low in traditional confessionals, and this sometimes makes reading a written text difficult. The point, however, is that you ought not be anxious about bringing some form of written reminder with you to confession.

Do I have to confess my sins to a priest to go to heaven? ›

There may be some value in that, but there is no place in the Bible where God says that you must confess your sins to a priest. In the 16th century, there was a great movement to get behind the traditions that had built up in the church over the centuries, and to discover what the Bible actually said.

What 3 conditions make a mortal sin? ›

Three conditions must together be met for a sin to be mortal: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent." The sin against the Holy Ghost and the sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance are considered especially serious.

What is the only unforgivable sin Catholic? ›

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12:22-32).

What are the 4 mortal sins? ›

They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia). Note from the author: For those of you who do not understand why these particular sins are of grave matter, I would suggest that you refer to the Summa Theologiae of St.

What are the two sins that are unforgivable? ›

Rev. Graham: Only one sin that can't be forgiven is on God's list — and that is the sin of rejecting Him and refusing His offer of forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ. This alone is the unforgivable sin, because it means we are saying that the Holy Spirit's witness about Jesus is a lie (see Luke 12:10).

What is the true meaning of penance? ›

pen·​ance ˈpe-nən(t)s. : an act of self-abasement, mortification (see mortification sense 3), or devotion performed to show sorrow or repentance for sin.

What is the importance of penance? ›

The Sacrament of Penance helps us: (1) to obtain forgiveness from God after we have made a sincere confession, shown true sorrow, and are resolved not to sin again; (2) to be reconciled with the Church, which is wounded by our sins; and (3) to strive for holiness of life and overcome habits of sin. 1.

What is the goal of penance? ›

The act of penance or satisfaction that the priest imposes helps the penitent to overcome selfishness, to desire more strongly to live a holy life, to be closer to Jesus, and to show to others the love and compassion of Jesus. It is part of the healing that the sacrament brings.

Can a priest legally tell your confession? ›

Under Roman Catholic law, it is forbidden for a priest to disclose information — under any circumstances — obtained in the form of religious confession. If a priest breaks what's called "the sacred seal of confession," he will be subject to excommunication from the church.

Can I just confess my sins to God? ›

You can confess your sins directly to God. You do not need to confess to a pastor, priest, or spiritual leader to be forgiven.

Is it OK to write down sins before confession? ›

A good examination of conscience can be a helpful tool to prepare for a good confession. It's OK to bring in a list: After you've made an examination of conscience, it can sometimes help people if they write down all of the sins they want to confess.

Can a Catholic make a confession over the phone? ›

No, a penitent cannot confess and receive absolution by telephone. The teaching of the church is that the sacrament requires the physical presence of a priest. Among the practical reasons for this is that the seal of confession requires and guarantees absolute and strict confidentiality.

Can I repent for someone else? ›

But that is not the same as “repenting” for the sins of others. They undoubtedly repented for their own sins by resolving to forsake their sinful ways and to obey God's revealed will. But one person can't do that in the place of another. Each individual must do this for himself/herself.

Is it a mortal sin not to go to church on Sunday? ›

Our Sunday Mass obligation is based on the Third Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day — keep it holy” (Ex 20:8). All of the commandments of God are serious matter, so to deliberately miss Mass on Sunday — without a just reason — would objectively be considered a mortal sin.

Is it a mortal sin to live together before marriage? ›

The Church's teaching on cohabitation is not an “arbitrary” rule. Living together before marriage is a sin because it violates God's commandments and the law of the Church.

What happens if you receive communion with a mortal sin? ›

He who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receives the body and blood of Christ, but he does not receive His graces and commits a grave sin of sacrilege.

What is the biggest sin in the world? ›

Pride (superbia), also known as hubris (from Ancient Greek ὕβρις) or futility. It is considered the original and worst of the seven deadly sins on almost every list, the most demonic. It is also thought to be the source of the other capital sins.

What is the number one sin? ›

The Seven Deadly Sins: Pride : NPR. The Seven Deadly Sins: Pride Pride has been called the sin from which all others arise.

Is there a sin God Cannot forgive Catholic? ›

The Catechism says that Christ desires "the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin." As did St Augustine, the Catholic Church today teaches that only dying unrepentant for one's sins is the only unforgivable sin.

Does watching Mass on TV count? ›

Watching Mass on TV is not the same as attending Mass and does not fulfill someone's Sunday/holy day obligation. However, if someone is unable to attend Mass, then there is no obligation to attend Mass.

What makes a sin grave? ›

Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother.” The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft.

Can u take communion without confession? ›

A. The Catholic Church teaches that a person conscious of having committed a mortal sin must confess it before he or she receives Holy Communion (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1457).

Does God forgive blasphemy? ›

Whatever blasphemies you utter, they too can be forgiven. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus says that even sins committed against him, the Son of Man, can be forgiven. But “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (v. 29).

Is smoking a sin? ›

The Roman Catholic Church does not condemn smoking per se, but considers excessive smoking to be sinful, as described in the Catechism (CCC 2290): The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine.

How many times will God forgive me? ›

Seventy-seven times. That's how many times the Bible tells us we should forgive someone. Matthew 18: 21-22 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Does penance forgive all sins? ›

Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same.

What are the 3 names of penance? ›

There are many names for one sacrament
  • The sacrament of conversion;
  • The sacrament of penance;
  • The sacrament of confession;
  • The sacrament of forgiveness and.
  • The sacrament of reconciliation.

Why is penance important to Christians? ›

The Sacrament of Reconciliation brings about a change of heart through God's mercy and forgiveness. Reconciliation (also known as Confession or Penance) is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in His love and mercy to offer sinners forgiveness for offenses committed against God.

How do you prepare for penance? ›

How to prepare, what to say and penance
  1. Before Confession. Spend a few minutes before your confession: Pray for God's help and guidance; examine your conscience; remember any sins you have committed (write them down if it helps); pray for God's forgiveness. ...
  2. During Confession. ...
  3. After Confession.
21 Feb 2014

What are the 4 main types of penance about? ›

The Sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation involves four parts: contrition, confession, penance and absolution. Contrition: a sincere sorrow for having offended God and the most important act of the penitent. There can be no forgiveness of sin if we do not have sorrow and a firm resolve not to repeat our sin.

What are some examples of penance? ›

Penitential practices take many forms: apologizing to an injured party, healing divisions within our families, fasting during the Lenten season, or graciously accepting the menial tasks of life. The purpose of penance is not to diminish life but to enrich it.

What do you say at penance? ›

This prayer is short and simple: 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.

What is penance Catholic Answers? ›

Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same.

What should I confess to a priest? ›

Confess your sins

Confess all of your mortal sins to the priest in number and kind. Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.

Can a priest go to jail? ›

According to the John Jay study, "3 percent of all priests against whom allegations were made were convicted and about 2 percent received prison sentences."

Can a priest have a wife? ›

The short answer is no. The precise technical meaning of “celibacy” is the state of not being married. The long-standing discipline of the Latin (or Roman) Catholic Church is that only celibate men are ordained as priests and once a man is ordained as a deacon or a priest he may not get married.

Can a priest testify against you? ›

Statements made to a minister, priest, rabbi, or other religious leader are generally considered privileged or confidential communications. State laws generally exempt a pastor from having to testify in court, or to law-enforcement, about what was discussed in a church confession.

What sins Cannot be forgiven by a priest? ›

And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come." The same idea that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable is found in Luke 12:10 and Mark 3:29.

Does God keep a record of sins? ›

In fact, according to Jeremiah 31:34, God says, "I ... will remember [your] sins no more." This is God's way of saying that he won't hold our sins against us, he won't act toward us on the basis of our sin.

What sins must be confessed? ›

All mortal sins must be confessed, while confession of venial sins also is recommended but not required. The priest may emphasize repentance and offer counsel, and always proposes a penance which the penitent accepts and then recites an act of contrition. The priest imparts absolution.

What is the first thing you say before confession? ›

Confess Your Sins to the Priest

The priest should welcome you kindly and warmly. Make the Sign of the Cross, and say these words: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.

Do I have to go to confession every time I sin? ›

The Church strongly recommends that we confess our every day faults (venial sins) because it can help us “to form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies (patterns of weakness that can lead us to sin), … be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. (CCC 1458; CIC 988).

Are Catholics required to go to confession yearly? ›

According to the Church's command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.”Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without ...

How often are you supposed to go to confession? ›

Catholics are required to receive the Sacrament at least once per year. However, if you are aware of having committed any mortal (serious) sin, you should receive the Sacrament. That being said, all are encouraged to take advantage of the Sacrament on a regular and frequent basis.

How often is too often to go to confession? ›

A recommended frequency, based on the teachings of past popes and canon law, is between once a month and once a week. This practice "was introduced into the Church by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit", according to Pius XII.

Can divorced Catholics take communion? ›

Divorced people are full members of the Church and are encouraged to participate in its activities. May a divorced Catholic receive Holy Communion? Yes. Divorced Catholics in good standing with the Church, who have not remarried or who have remarried following an annulment, may receive the sacraments.

What percent of Catholics go to confession once a year? ›

Confession, Lenten Observances and Anointing of the Sick

About four-in-ten Catholics (43%) say they go to confession at least once a year, including 7% who report going monthly, 14% who say they go several times a year and 21% who say they go once a year.

What are the 3 requirements of confession? ›

Requirements of a Confession
  • It must be voluntary. ...
  • The confession must be made by the party to be affected by it. ...
  • The confession must be to another person.

What counts as a mortal sin? ›

A mortal sin is defined as a grave action that is committed in full knowledge of its gravity and with the full consent of the sinner's will. Such a sin cuts the sinner off from God's sanctifying grace until it is repented, usually in confession with a priest.

Is an act of contrition enough? ›

When we go to confession, imperfect contrition is sufficient to receive the pardon of our sins. However, in extraordinary circumstances where [when] we cannot get to confession, we can make an act of perfect contrition, which is sufficient to have our sins forgiven.

How do I stop confession compulsion? ›

Exposure response prevention therapy can help interrupt the ritual.
  1. Intrusive thoughts are among OCD's most agonizing symptoms.
  2. OCD sufferers may compulsively confess intrusive thoughts to receive reassurance and reduce anxiety.
  3. Practicing exposure response prevention therapy can help interrupt the cycle of confession.
25 Mar 2022


1. Penance and Anointing w/ Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P. (Aquinas 101)
(The Thomistic Institute)
2. How to Make a Confession? | Explaining the Sacrament of Penance
(Fr. Paul Vu)
3. How to go to Confession | A Guide to Confession
(Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington)
4. CONFESSION Explained in 5 MIN. - HOW to GO to Confession or Sacrament of Reconciliation - Easy GUIDE
(Catholic News World)
5. English First Reconciliation
6. The Sacrament of Penance 1 Concept of Penance

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