Rite of Reconciliation
Preparation for Children's First Reconciliation
Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation typically takes place during a child's second-grade year, prior to reception of first holy communion, for our Church law identifies "the age of reason" as being "about 7 years old." In St. Joseph Cathedral Parish parents are guided through how they may best provide this preparation for their children. The first celebration of this sacrament takes place privately, and is scheduled at a convenient time for the young person and his/her family.
Pre-sacramental preparation for first reconciliation (also called first confession or first penance) includes not just practical instructions on "how to go to confession" but also seeks to instill in the young person both an awareness of personal sinfulness and a proper spirit of sorrow for sin (repentance). Typically, other foundational elements of the Catholic religion, such as basic prayers, are also taught by this time.
Children who are older than seven years of age typically take part either with family members or peers in an appropriate but individualized program of formation. Please contact the Parish Office to explore what is done in any unusual circumstance.
Preparation for Every Subsequent Confession, for Youth and Adults
Preparation for any subsequent confession is always an individual undertaking. It begins with an honest, practical examination of conscience, one especially focused on identifying the possibility of any mortal sin committed. Mortal sin, after all, is a conscious rejection of God and thus a choice to separate self, even eternally, from Him.
The ordinary means for the forgiveness of mortal sins is individual, integral confession of those sins by the penitent, and absolution received for them by a priest. Venial sins are forgiven by any sincere prayer of contrition, including the penitential act at the beginning of Mass, or by worthy acts of faith and charity, such as reception of holy communion or community service or almsgiving.
For a sin to be mortal, these conditions must be all together true: it must involve objective grave matter, and be freely committed with sufficient prior reflection and full, deliberate consent of the will (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1857). If indeed a Catholic has thus chosen to disobey and offend God by committing a mortal sin, this sin must be mentioned in confession. Venial sins may be mentioned in confession but this is not required.
The other required preparation for reconciliation is always the formation of a true spirit of repentance, that is, of sorrow for sin. A firm resolve to do one's best in the future to lead a holy life and avoid circumstances (thoughts, words, deeds, companions and situations) which might lead to sin is also required: one typically expresses this sorrow for sin by praying a prayer of contrition at the time of confession. The priest in confession will always help guide the penitent in understanding both wrong that has been done and how holiness may be regained.
Preparation is inmportant. Ask God in a short prayer for help, repentance and strength of will. If you can, read a brief passage from the Bible about reconcilliation, and think about your life. Waht choices are you making that are moving you away from the Lord? If available, use an examination of conscience for your reflection. Go to the Reconciliation Room (confessional) in the church; you may choose to confess either face-to-face with the priest or anonymously. Here are the usual steps:
- As the priest welcomes you, make the Sign of the Cross with him.
- Respond "Amen" if he says a prayer for you.
- The priest may read a passage from Scripture, recite from memory a Scriptural passage, or invite you to read from the Bible.
- You may begin your confession with the words: "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been (what period of time) __________ since my last Confession. These are my sins."
- Then, tell the priest your sins as best you can remember. Speak of what you ask of God besides His forgiveness.
- The priest may discuss your spiritual situation or offer advice. Ask him if you wish this.
- Accept the penance offered to you by the priet. it may be a prayer, a work of charity or another action which will help make up for your sin.
- You will be invited by the priest to express your sorrow. This is called an Act of Contrition. You can eithe read one, recite one from memory, or express this in your own words. A traditional one is printed below for your convenience.
- The priest then offers the prayer of absolution: "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." Make the Sign of the Cross and say "Amen" at the end of this prayer.
- The priest may add: "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good," to which you respond: "His mercy endures forever."
- As you leave, conclude with "Thank you," or "Thanks be to God." Right away spend a few moments in prayer reflecting in gratitude on God's loving mercy. Perform the assigned penance as soon as practical.
Private Prayer before Confession:
God, I humbly admit that I have sinned. Give me the grace to make a good and honest confession of my sins. Help me realize you ahve provided this Sacrament not to burden, but to unburden, me.
Make me realize that whatever my sins - great or small, many or few - through the priest's absolution you certainly forgive me. Knowing of your forgiveness, allow me to forgive myself, even if I find myself trapped in a habit of sin.
Let me be at peace. Let me trust in you. And, Lord, I pray for the priest who ministers your forgiveness to me. Thank you for calling him to the priesthood and for his helpful ministry to me and others.
Traditional Acto of Contrition:
"O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because of your just punishments. 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 sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen."