One of the seven sacraments is called Reconciliation or Confession. Catholics have a gift that can be found no where else, going to Confession. In Confession, we go in to the Confessional and receive great blessings and graces from God in this sacrament. These graces help us to perfect our virtues and to detach ourselves from sin. The priest sits in Persona Christi, or in the person of Christ. This means that the priest acts as Christ on earth. This doesn’t mean he’s God, he’s doing what Jesus would do and he’s also acting on the authority of Jesus. Jesus gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins. ” I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 This authority is only given through the Catholic Church passed down through Jesus. Contrary to beliefs in other churches, this is not a valid authority in other denominations.
Can’t I just go directly to God for forgiveness? You can for smaller sins, if your life is in danger, or you can ask for forgiveness directly from God but if you go to Confession, you will receive so much more. You will receive large amounts of grace to resist sin and you will also be affirmed hearing the priest say the words of absolution. God and Jesus meant for all to go to Reconciliation and to benefit from the sacrament by putting it into place through the apostles.
When we go into the Confessional, we can either sit facing the priest or we can go behind a screen in anonymity. We make the sign of the cross and say, “Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been ( how many months or years) since my last confession and these are my sins. (State your sins here and their severity or frequency) For these sins and the sins I can’t remember, I am sorry for.” At this point, the priest counsels the person on the sins and gives them penance, then absolves them of their sins. The words of absolution are very comforting to hear and you have a sense of relief that your sins are gone. You don’t get that when you confess to a minister of a different church.
The Seal of the Confessional is the absolute vow that the priest will not reveal what is discussed in the confessional. Even if a person confesses they committed a grave sin, that sin cannot be revealed to anyone else. The priest can’t even reveal anything if they are subpoenaed to court.
When we sin, we separate ourselves from God. When we go to Reconciliation, we “Reconcile” with God again because we repent and amend our lives, detaching ourselves from sin.
Penance is given by the priest to maybe help us with understanding a teaching or some prayers. Penance is meant to “make up” or in reparation to God for what we have harmed with our sins.
Reconciliation/Confession is a wonderful gift from God to people who want to rid themselves of the shame, guilt and burden of sin. You can walk out of the Confessional feeling refreshed, lighter, relieved and knowing the true gift of God’s mercy when we really don’t deserve it.
Photo credit: Pinterest