Sacrament of Reconciliation
We have found that sometimes it can be difficult to explain the sacrament of reconciliation to young people as they often ask questions like: "why do I have to tell a priest my sins when I can just ask God for forgiveness myself?"
We have attempted to put together an explanation which will hopefully answer all those questions. We have used several quotes from the Youth Catechism.
The sacrament of Reconciliation is where we celebrate the gift of forgiveness and become
cleansed of our sins. It is an opportunity for you to confess your sins to God and become
reconciled with God and the Church (YouCat #239). God has given us this gift of forgiveness
because he loves us so much: “We are forgiven because God loves us. Nothing we do will ever
(Romans 8:38-39). St Padre Pio also reminds us:“Love Jesus! Have no fear! Even if
you had committed all the sins in this world, Jesus repeats these words to you: Your many sins
are forgiven, because you loved much”.
When you celebrate this sacrament you tell a priest your sins, as he has been given the
authority by Jesus. This can either be a list of specific sins you have committed, or a chat with
the priest about areas of your life that you need to ask forgiveness for too. The Church urgently
advises us to do this at least once a year (YouCat #234).
Many people say, “I can go directly to God; why do I need a priest?” God, though, wants it
otherwise. We rationalize our sins away and like to sweep things under the rug. That is why God
wants us to tell our sins and to acknowledge them in a personal encounter. Therefore, the
following words from the Gospel are true of priests: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are
forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23, YouCat #228). Under no
circumstances may a priest later repeat something he has learned in confession (YouCat #238).
Even the Pope has to have the courage to confess his failings and weaknesses to another priest
– and thereby to God (YouCat #233).
“God esteems repentance so highly that the slightest repentance in the world, as long as it is
genuine, causes him to forget any kind of sin, so that even the devils would have all their sins
forgiven, if only they could have remorse”
– St Francis De Sales
Essential elements of every confession are an examination of conscience, contrition, a purpose
of amendment, confession and penance (YouCat #232). These mirror closely what we find in the
story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).
The son left his Father's house and went into a far country. This is going away from God. Then he
descended to the level of pigs. This is losing his Christian and human dignity through sin. He
comes to his senses and says: I will say to my Father, "Father I have sinned against heaven and
against you". The Father forgives his son and then the son says he would just like to be treated
just like a paid servant.
The examination of Conscience is when the person reflects on what they have done wrong. This
feeling sorry for what they have done is known as contrition. The purpose of amendment is a
resolution to avoid, by the grace of God, not only sin, but also being tempted by sin.
Confession is where he confesses his sins to his father and penance is where the son says he
would like to be treated just like a paid servant to put right the damage.
“We recognise that we need forgiveness over and over again, and that forgiveness brings
responsibility. Therefore we need the humility that constantly asks God for forgiveness”.
- Pope Benedict XVI (2011)