Sacrament of Reconciliation
1422 “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”
WHY A SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION AFTER BAPTISM?
1425 “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” One must appreciate the magnitude of the gift God has given us in the sacraments of Christian initiation in order to grasp the degree to which sin is excluded for him who has “put on Christ.” But the apostle John also says: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And the Lord himself taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses,” linking our forgiveness of one another’s offenses to the forgiveness of our sins that God will grant us.
1426 Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us “holy and without blemish,” just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is “holy and without blemish.” Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized, such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.
THE EFFECTS OF THIS SACRAMENT
1468 “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.” Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.
1469 This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church, which suffered from the sin of one of her members. Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland:
It must be recalled that . . . this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliation’s, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.
1470 In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin. In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and “does not come into judgment.”
SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION FOR PENANCE
“The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Penance are: reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace; reconciliation with the Church; remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin; peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation; an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle.” (CCC, #1496)
It is important for every disciple of Jesus Christ to participate in the Sacrament of Penance. Because we need to be in a state of grace grave sins need to be confessed before receiving Holy Communion. Confessing venial sins is strongly recommended by the Church. St. Bede’s regularly scheduled time for this Sacrament is Saturday from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. in the Church or by appointment with one of the parish priests. Only priests can forgive sins in the name of Christ.
The first time a person receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he/she needs to develop an understanding of the sacrament. There are various circumstances where catechesis is required. Persons learning about the Catholic faith in the RCIA process gain knowledge of the Sacrament during the weekly meetings. Children in the normal course of their formal religious education receive the sacrament during the 2nd grade. This pertains to parish children enrolled in the School or Religious Education Program and is offered after a previous year of instruction (first grade.) Children who move into the parish from other areas that receive at a later date are included in the 2nd graders First Reconciliation. Other circumstances would be a Catholic who has been baptized but did not receive any other sacraments or any person with special physical/emotional/psychological needs. In these cases, individual or group sessions are set up to meet the needs of the person and the requirements of the Catholic Church.
Sacramental Preparation Meetings
Recognizing that parents are the primary educators of their children, an evening is planned prior to the reception of First Reconciliation, First Eucharist and Confirmation. Parents are required to attend these meetings during the time their child is preparing to receive these sacraments. The purpose of these meetings is to help the parents become more involved in their child’s preparation for these sacraments as well as their continued spiritual formation.