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The Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, Jesus showed himself to his apostles. He breathed on them 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 20:19, 22-23).

 

The forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is conferred by a particular sacrament called the sacrament of reconciliation, confession, or penance. To return to communion with God after having lost it through sin is a process born of the grace of God who is rich in mercy and solicitous for the salvation of men and women. One must ask for this precious gift for oneself and for others.

 

Our parish celebrates this sacrament weekly, every Saturday from 4:00 – 5:00 P.M. You may also make an appointment with one of the priests who will arrange a suitable time that fits into your schedule. The parish also celebrates communal services several times during the year, usually according to the liturgical season, e.g., Lent.

Examination of Conscience for Adults

My Relationship with God

Addressing your thoughts to Jesus and yourself together, ask yourself and him:

  • Am I faithful to daily prayer? If not, what is my attitude to God that allows me to neglect prayer? Confess this attitude and examples of it.
  • Am I faithful to Mass? If not, why? What is my attitude to God that allows this to happen? Confess this attitude and instances of it.
  • Am I going to Mass or saying my prayers as a duty and no more? Why do I give God the bare minimum? Confess this attitude.
  • When I am distracted at Mass is it because I am making other things more important to me than God? If so, confess–not just the distractions–the cause. Ask yourself and our Lord further questions:
  • Do I trust God’s loving care for me? How do I show this trust?
  • Do I make time to read Scripture that I may know and hear Jesus and his Father?
  • Do I really try to seek God’s will, not mine, in prayer?
  • Am I angry with, or afraid of, God?

Tell our Lord so, and hand such feelings over to him.

 

My Relationship with Those Nearest to Me

Ask yourself and our Lord:

  • Have I failed to respect any family member or friend? If so, why? Confess the answer and the disrespect.
  • Have I failed to accept anyone just as he or she is? If so, why? Confess the answer and the unacceptance.
  • Have I been patient with another’s differences from mine? If not, why? Confess the answer and the impatience, the domination, the manipulation.
  • Have I been tolerant with another’s shortcomings? If not, why? Confess the answer and the intolerance.
  • Have I been insensitive to another’s needs and weaknesses? If not, why? Confess the answer and the lack of sensitivity.
  • Am I refusing to forgive anyone, Lord when you have forgiven me? Am I nursing a grudge? If so, why? Confess the answer.
  • Do I criticize and find fault? If so, why? Confess the answer
  • Do I show positive acts of kindness to others? If not, why? Confess the answer

In the sight of the Lord

  • Bring each of those nearest to you in your life, one by one, into your mind and heart in the presence of the Lord.
  • Ask him to let you see that person through his eyes and to show you what attitudes he wants you to have toward that person.
  • Ask him what he wants you to do for that person.
  • Ask him to show you if you are an obstacle to the Father’s plan of love for any one of those who are nearest to you.

Take time to reflect on this in the Lord’s presence and ask him for his help and healing.

Confess whatever may be revealed to you as being a stumbling block in someone’s way to God.

 

My Relationship with Everyone

Now turn toward all people. Ask yourself and the Lord in his presence:

  • Do I despise any group of people? If so, why? Confess the answer and the disdain.
  • Do I discriminate against any group or individual because of race, religion, nationality, politics, age, profession, gender, any other reason? If so, confess the answer.
  • Do I consider any group or individual inferior to me? If so, why? Confess the answer.
  • When someone has needed me, have I refused to help? If so, why? Confess the answer and the refusal.
  • Lord Jesus, you prayed that all who believe in you might be one. Do I pray for this? If not, why? Confess the answer.
  • If so, what else do I do for Christian unity? If I do little or nothing, why? Confess the answer.

 

My Relationship with God’s Other Creatures

Ask yourself and our Lord:

  • Have I spoiled any part of creation? If so, why? Confess the answer and examples.
  • Have I abused animals by cruelty or neglect? If so, confess it.
  • Have I been wasteful? If so, confess it.
  • Am I too fond of money or of material things? If so, confess it.
  • Do I act as though everything I have is mine to do with what I like? If so, why? Confess the attitude and examples.
  • Am I open-handed and generous or tight-fisted and mean? If the latter, why? Confess the answer and examples.
  • Do I drive responsibly and with consideration for others? If not, why? Confess the answer and examples.
  • Do I make positive contributions to the community? If not, why? Confess the answer.
  • Do I take my vocation seriously and live up to my responsibilities? If not, why? Confess the answer.

 

My Relationship with Myself

Ask yourself and the Lord:

  • Do I feel angry often? If so, is it because I expect everything and everyone to march to my beat? Am I acting as though I were God? If so, confess it and examples of playing God.
  • Do I accept that the Father loves me? If not, why. Confess the answer.
  • Am I unwilling or afraid to say “Yes” to God? If so, why? Confess the answer.
  • Do I prefer my own plans? If so, confess this.
  • Do I cherish and care for my body as the gift of God? If not, why? Confess the answer and instances.
  • Have I been greedy, lustful, or lazy? If so, why? Confess the answer and the self-indulgence.
  • Do I live by the pleasure principle: “I want what I want when I want it” in any area of my life? Confess the answer.

Human freedom

  • Am I the prisoner of fear, anxiety, worry, guilt, inferiority, hatred of myself?
  • Do I hand over the past to God’s merciful love?
  • Do I allow it to trouble me still?
  • Hand these over to the Lord again and again, and he will set you free.
  • Do I plan prudently for future things that are within my choice and control and hand the rest to God’s wise love?
  • Do I fret with worry, anticipating what might happen?

Hand these over to the Lord again and again, and he will set you free.

 

Next Step

  • In the presence of our Lord, ask him to let you see yourself as he sees you. He loves you so much that he laid down his life for you.
  • Always look at your dark side only through the eyes of Jesus your savior, your healer, your brother, your shepherd, your Lord.
  • Recall the words of Jesus to the woman accused of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).
  • Since God acquits you, who are you to condemn yourself?

Now rest in God’s presence and be still.

Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary for her help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why do I have to confess to a person? Why can’t I just tell God I’m sorry?
A. The Catholic worldview is fundamentally sacramental; we recognize the importance of our senses to our experience of God. Our senses are the mode through which we experience all reality. Here the question is how can we best reconcile with God and be assured of God’s forgiveness? If God wants us to really experience forgiveness, God will use our primary mode of experiencing reality. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation we speak our words of repentance and hear God’s words of forgiveness. In this setting, the priest’s role is to stands in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), allowing God to heal the divisions we’ve caused, and allowing us to truly experience God’s tender mercy.

 

Q. What if I’ve been away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a long time?
A. Please know that you are always welcome back. While you are welcome to come to any of the standard Reconciliation times, it is often easiest to set up an appointment if you’ve been away for awhile.

 

Q. What if I don’t know what to do or say?
A. This is not uncommon. If we received our First Reconciliation when we were young, we remember there is a standard format, but we’ve forgotten how to follow that format. Just tell the priest and he’ll guide you through the process.

 

Q. What do I do if I’m not sure God will forgive me?
A. Forgiveness is central to the mission and message of Jesus Christ. God is able to forgive us even before we’ve been able to forgive ourselves. Here’s a passage from Luke’s Gospel that highlights this fact:
[Zechariah said, “And you, child [John the Baptist], will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:76-79).

 

Q. How should I prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
A. Sometimes we know what we need to confess. Other times we’re unclear, or we stay on the surface without going deeper. There is a form of prayer known as an Examination of Conscience that can help us prepare to make a good Confession. You’ll find several different Examinations on the USCCB website. You can also find an examination of conscience on this website.

 

Q. How often should I celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
A. The Church requests at least once a year (if we’re aware of serious sin), but more frequently is often better. Use your best judgment. If you prepare well and go, is it a grace filled experience? If you are wrestling with something specific, then going more frequently would be helpful. Basically, if it’s helping, keep up the pace. If you find yourself frustrated because you don’t have much to say, then you may be going more than necessary or need to focus on preparing better. Push yourself a little because it often feels easier not to go than to go.

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