Many people don’t feel they need to go to Confession or at least don’t think they need to go to another person—a priest—to hear their confession. And this isn’t just a “modern” thing or something of our current culture. Oh to be sure, our culture has tried hard—and pretty successfully—to eliminate “guilt” from our human psyche. Guilt is consider at best as old fashioned and at worst—one of those Catholic Institutional things that hold us in our place—a sort of tether on our Free Will, if you will.
Here is some general information on the Sacrament, which I believe is timely as we are soon to enter into the Season of Lent, a time of repentance. This is taken from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
296. What is the name of this sacrament? 1422-1424 It is called the sacrament of Penance, the sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of Forgiveness, the sacrament of Confession, and the sacrament of Conversion.
297. Why is there a sacrament of Reconciliation after Bap-tism? 1425-1426, 1484 Since the new life of grace received in Baptism does not abolish the weakness of human nature nor the inclination to sin (that is, concupiscence), Christ instituted this sacrament for the conversion of the baptized that have been separated from him by sin.
298. When did he institute this sacrament? 1485 The risen Lord instituted this sacrament on the evening of Easter when he showed himself to his apostles 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 20:22-23).
299. Do the baptized have need of conversion? 1427-1429 The call of Christ to conversion continues to resound in the lives of the baptized. Conversion is a continuing obligation for the whole Church. She is holy but includes sinners in her midst.
300. What is interior penance? 1430-1433, 1490 It is the movement of a “contrite heart” (Psalm 51:19) drawn by divine grace to respond to the merciful love of God. This entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, a firm purpose not to sin again in the future and trust in the help of God. It is nourished by hope in divine mercy.
301. What forms does penance take in the Christian life? 1434-1439 Penance can be expressed in many and various ways but above all in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These and many other forms of penance can be practiced in the daily life of a Christian, particularly during the time of Lent and on the penitential day of Friday.
302. What are the essential elements of the sacrament of Rec-onciliation? 1440-1449 The essential elements are two: the acts of the peni-tent who comes to repentance through the action of the Holy Spirit, and the absolution of the priest who in the name of Christ grants forgiveness and determines the ways (penance) of making satisfaction.
303. What are the acts of the penitent? 1450-1460, 1487-1492 They are: a careful examination of conscience; contrition (or repentance), which is perfect when it is motivated by love of God and imperfect if it rests on other motives and which includes the determination not to sin again; confession, which consists in the telling of one’s sins to the priest; and satisfaction or the carrying out of certain acts of penance which the confessor imposes upon the penitent to repair the damage caused by sin.
304. Which sins must be confessed? 1456 All grave sins not yet confessed, which a careful examination of conscience brings to mind, must be brought to the sacrament of Penance. The confession of serious sins is the only ordinary way to obtain forgiveness.
305. When is a person obliged to confess mortal sins? 1457 Each of the faithful who has reached the age of discretion is bound to confess his or her mortal sins at least once a year and always before receiving Holy Com-munion.
306. Why can venial sins also be the object of sacramental confession? 1458 The confession of venial sins is strongly recommended by the Church, even if this is not strictly necessary, because it helps us to form a correct conscience and to fight against evil tendencies. It allows us to be healed by Christ and to progress in the life of the Spirit.
307. Who is the minister of this sacrament? 1461-1466, 1495 Christ has entrusted the ministry of Reconciliation to his apostles, to the bishops who are their successors and to the priests who are the collaborators of the bishops, all of whom become thereby instruments of the mercy and jus-tice of God. They exercise their power of forgiving sins in the name of the Fa-ther and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
308. To whom is the absolution of some sins reserved? 1463 The absolution of certain particularly grave sins (like those punished by ex-communication) is reserved to the Apostolic See or to the local bishop or to priests who are authorized by them (in the Archdiocese of Hartford the arch-bishop grants this faculty to forgive sins reserved to the bishop to his priests). Any priest, however, can absolve a person who is in danger of death from any sin and excommunication.
309. Is a confessor bound to secrecy? 1467 Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to people every confessor, with-out any exception and under very severe penalties, is bound to maintain “the sacramental seal” which means absolute secrecy about the sins revealed to him in confession.
310. What are the effects of this sacrament? 1468-1470, 1496 The effects of the sacrament of Penance are: reconciliation with God and therefore the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with the Church; recovery, if it has been lost, of the state of grace; remission of the eternal punishment merited by mortal sins, and remission, at least in part, of the temporal punishment which is the consequence of sin; peace, serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation; and an increase of spiritual strength for the struggle of Christian living.
311. Can this sacrament be celebrated in some cases with a general confession and general absolution? 1480-1484 In cases of serious necessity (as in imminent danger of death) recourse may be had to a communal celebration of Reconciliation with general confession and general absolution, as long as the norms of the Church are observed and there is the intention of individually confessing one’s grave sins in due time.
In considering both our need for, and desire of, Confes-sion, we might want to consider a few less theological issues and some more practical points. Some psychologists tell us that to confess publically—to a priest yet privately in the Sacrament of Confession—enables us to remove a weight from our conscience by admitting and acknowledging our wrong doings. This can be very freeing. As we approach God in this Sacrament, we also stand before Him in private and receive His mercy and for-giveness; wiping away fear from long-held private acts. Or more simply stated, we get something “off” our chest. It is freeing! And, practically speaking, if we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is all powerful and all loving, AND furthermore, if we understand that Christ Himself instituted this Sacrament of Reconciliation then we must recognize that He—GOD—feels that we need it. That we can only benefit from receiving it. The only question left to ask is: what am I waiting for? Mercy and for-giveness…It does a soul good!
At Saint Catherine of Siena Church the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered every Monday night from 6-7 p.m., all year long and on Saturday afternoons from 4-4:30 p.m., or by ap-pointment by calling the parish office at 658 1642; during the Season of Lent, the Sacrament is offered in every Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Hartford—just in case you want a priest from another church to hear your confession