Reconciliation/ Confession / Penance
The Rite of Confession
The Sacrament of Penance is available using the 1st Rite at Berala at 9.30 AM on Saturdays. The Sacrament is also available by appointment through the Parish Office. During Advent and Lent, there will be extra sessions of Sacramental celebrations. Please check the bulletin during these periods of the year for times and places.
The Sacrament of Penance is a liturgical action instituted by the Church for the reconciliation of sinners to communion with God and with the Church. Catholics are obliged to go to confession to receive the sacrament of penance at least once a year – usually during the Easter season – or whenever they are conscious of serious sin. Receiving this sacrament is encouraged at other times as a means of restoring full unity with God and His Church, and for spiritual growth. Sin is a concept that makes little sense outside the biblical and Christian tradition. Sin “presupposes not only the authority of some transcendental law, but also a personal relationship between man and a personal God.” Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th century theologian, observed that “without the sense of sin, for man as he is, there is no genuine religion,” and without a genuine relationship with God, then man is unable to cooperate with God’s work of grace, and God’s work of salvation. Due to Pride, many deny the existence or possibility of personal sin, and if a person is unable to admit to one’s failings, then a person is also unable to accept the need of a Saviour and a Redeemer. “To be saved, man must first be freed from his sins, liberated from himself, for ‘whoever commits sin is the slave of sin.'” Salvation comes through the work of God’s grace and through the grace that is received in and through the life of the Church.
Four Steps in Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation Individually
We enter the reconciliation chapel and we exchange a greeting with the priest. We can sit face-to-face with the priest or remain anonymous behind a screen. Many people worry about what the priest thinks of them when they tell him their sins. They imagine that in confessing their sins the priest sees them at their worst. Actually the very opposite is true. Everybody sins; however, only some sinners choose to do penance. When you tell your sins to the priest and express your desire to repent, the priest sees you at your best. The priest sees you, not in your sinning, but in your repentance. Another comfort for the penitent is that the priest is bound to a strict confidentiality about everything that is told in confession. After saying hello we move to prayer. Even though there are only two people present, we are about to celebrate a sacrament of the Church, an act of worship. The whole Church and Christ himself is made present through the priest, who is ordained to speak in the name of the Church and in the person of Christ. Christ says “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16:19.
We begin “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The priest will say a prayer.
Story Telling (Liturgy Of The Word): While in this atmosphere of prayer, we turn to Scripture and hear again of God’s faithful love. While the reading of Scripture is optional from a legal viewpoint, the rite recommends it, because it is very important for the meaning of the sacrament. Every sacramental action is a response to the Word of God. When we examine our lives in the light of God’s love, we come to realise that our love for God, our neighbour and ourselves falls far short of God’s love for us. When we consider the difference between these two loves—how much God has loved us and how we have loved in return—we become aware of our sinfulness. Sin, in a sense, is basically ingratitude: our lack of response to the generosity of the loving Creator. The Creator calls us to life, growth and wholeness.
Sin is the refusal of that gift of life and a call to growth. To be aware of sin, we must first be aware of God’s love. Those who do not see the constant role that God plays in their lives are not aware of sin. They can recognise that they do bad things or that they break the law, but sin—in this religious meaning of the word—requires a holy person or at least one who is seeking holiness. That’s why Scripture is important for reconciliation: it helps us to understand better how God loves us. Following the reading from Scripture (or the opening prayer, if the Scripture is omitted) the priest invites you to say whatever is in your heart: sins, fears, joys, questions, doubts. The priest responds by applying the sacred Scripture to the situation of the penitent and suggests a penance—something that you might do or a prayer you might say to show or express your conversion.
3. Reconciling: After the exchange with the priest, you turn once again to prayer. You will tell God that you are sorry for your sins—this may be a prayer that you know by heart or you may pray in your own words. Here are two samples of the ‘Act of Contrition’.
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins not because of your just punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who is all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Short Act of Contrition
O My God I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good, and with your grace I will try not to sin again.
The priest then prays the prayer of absolution. If you are not separated by a screen, he may place his hands on your head in the biblical gesture of healing and invocation. The words of absolution are not merely a legal formula. They are the very heart of the sacrament. While our sins disrupt and rupture the beauty and harmony of creation, God our merciful Father has restored this harmony by the paschal victory of Christ. This restoration and reconciliation give name to the sacrament: Reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation the Holy Spirit is sent among us “for the forgiveness of sins.” The fruits of forgiveness and reconciliation are “pardon and peace.” We receive these gifts of the Holy Spirit “through the ministry of the Church” and the ministry of the priest who is ordained to speak in the name of the Spirit-filled Church: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (And the penitent answers) Amen.”
4. Commissioning: The individual rite closes very simply. The priest says: “The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace,” or: “Go in peace and God bless you” or some similar words of dismissal. You respond: “Amen,” or “Thank you, Father.”