Monday, February 28, 2011



A.            Meaning

This is a sacrament by which sins committed after baptisms are forgiven through the absolution of the priest. It is a sacrament of spiritual healing. It extends the Lord’s healing, forgiving, and touches to His people.

B.            Historical Background

1.             The New Testament Period

Biblical References:        

a.           John 20:22-23

“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.”

b.           Matthew 16:19

“And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose shall be in heaven.”

c.           Matthew18:18

“Truly, I say unto you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loose in heaven.”

2.             Second to Third Centuries:
·                     Available to the baptized.
·                     Bishops forgive serious sins like apostasy, murder, and adultery.
·                     Emphasized reconciliation.

3.             Fourth to Sixth centuries:
·                     Canonical penance: a public penance which was to be celebrated once in a lifetime since baptism was normally received late in life and was seen as a calling for a deeper conversion. It is reserve for serious sins. The offender would recline in a form of liturgical excommunication and was forced to leave the celebration of the Eucharist during the offertory along with catechumens, to be reconciled later with a rite known as the ‘reconciliation of the penitent”.
§     Other form of penance: almsgiving, fasting, charity to the poor and sick, and prayers.
§     At the end of the 6th century, the canonical penance came to be simply known as confession.

4.             Seventh to Eleventh Centuries:
·                     Celtic’s influence to confession – private confession became normative for priests and religious and under their direction it spread among the laity us well.
·                     LIBRI POENETENTIALES: is a list of every kind of sin, the exact type of penance attached, thus the minister became a judge instead of a healer and a reconcile.

5.             Eleventh to fourteenth Centuries:
            1.         Satisfaction became the emphasis.
            2.         Confession of sins.
            3.         Contrition: the conversion of the heart.
            4.         Absolution.
6.             Middle Ages to Vatican 11.
a.                     St. Thomas Aquinas’ Theology:        
1.             It is sacrament.
2.             It consists of contrition of the heart, oral confession to the priest, satisfaction (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) and absolution by the priest.
3.             Effect: forgiveness of sins.

b.                     The Council of Trent’ Doctrine:                     
1.             Confession of grave sins or serious sins is necessary by divine law.
2.             Detailed confession of serious sin is needed.
3.             The confessor is a judge and that the sacrament is tribunal.
4.             Emphasis the punishment of the guilty person.

7.             Vatican 11:
Purpose: as declared by the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (no. 11).
a.                             To obtain pardon from the mercy of God.
b.             To be reconciled with the church whom sinners have wounded by their sins and who by her charity her people, and her prayer collaborates in their conversion.

C.         Purpose:
1.             Through penance, Christians are united with Jesus.
2.             Christians are reconciled with the people who were of offended by their sins.
3.             Receive forgiveness for their rejection of God’s covenant.
4.             Helps Christians to avoid sins.
5.             It makes the sinners realize his sinful state, thus becoming a humbling experience before God.
6.             Remission of the eternal punishment and temporal punishment.
7.             Helps us to avoid sins in the future.

D.         Effects:
1.             Reconciliation with god and with his church.
2.             Minister functions as a healer not as a judge.
3.             Conversion inspired by the church’s proclamation of God’s word.
4.             An act, in which the church proclaims its faith, give thanks to god for the freedom, which Christ has made men free, hence, hastens one’s meeting with Jesus.
5.             Forgiveness of sins.
6.             Remission of the eternal punishment and temporal punishment.
7.             Helps us to avoid sins in the future.

E.         Other Names of the Sacrament

1.             Sacrament of Confession.
2.             Sacrament of Reconciliation.
3.             Laborious Baptism.

F.         Recipient:  Any Christian who admits having sinned and would want to be reconciled to His heavenly Father.

G.         Conditions for the Reception of the Sacrament
1.     A person must learn to forgive himself as well as others.
2.     The sinner must be truly sorry for his sins.
3.     The sinner must take make an act of penance.
4.     The sinner should confess his sins to the priest.
5.     The priest must say the words of absolution.

H.         Four Parts of the Sacrament of Penance. 
1.             CONFESSION OF SINS: an external sign that an internal sorrow is genuine.
a.             Examination for conscience.
b.             Identification of sins as the penitent knows it to be.
c.             Includes any circumstances, which would change the nature of sin.

2.             CONTRITION: an expression of regret for sins committed and the intention of avoiding sins in the future.

3.             SATISFACTION OR ACT OF PENANCE: making reparation for an offense against God and neighbor.

4.             ABSOLUTION.

I.          METONIA: the change of heart when God's love moves us to sorrow.

J.          The Sacrament of Penance is called as Laborious Baptism because:
1.             It restores baptismal holiness.
2.             Cannot be done without tears and labor on the part of the penitent.

K.         True Sorrow for sins happen when:        
1.             It is internal: when it comes from our heart and not merely from our lips.
2.             Supernatural: when it comes with the help of God's grace, it comes from emotion which springs from faith and not merely from natural emotions.
3.             Supreme: when we hate sin above every other sin or evil.
4.             Universal: when we are sorry for every mortal sin.

L.         How to make a GOOD CONFESSION.
            1.         Examine our Conscience.
            2.         Be sorry for our sins.
3.             Resolution or Amendments.
4.             Actual Confession.
5.             Be willing to perform the penance given.

M.         CONTRITION - is the sincere sorrow for having offended God and hatred for sins we have committed with a firm purpose of sinning no more.

N.         Kinds of Contrition

1.             Perfect Contrition - when we are sorry for our sin because sin offended God whom we love above all things for His own sake.
2.             Imperfect Contrition - when we are sorry for our sins because they are hateful in themselves or because we fear God’s punishment.

O.         Qualities of a Good Resolution
1.             Firm - determine to avoid sin at all cost.
2.             Efficacious - use all means to avoid occasions of sins.
3.             Universal - when we are determined to keep away from all mortal sins.

P.         Qualities of a Good Confession
1.             Humble - when we show by our manners that we are truly sorry.
2.             Sincere - when we tell our sins honestly and frankly.
3.             Entire - when we tell everything.

Q.         GENERAL CONFESSION: it is a repetition of all previous confessions or at least of some of them.

R.         Seal of Confession: the most solemn obligation of a priest to keep secret what has been revealed to him in the confession.
Penalty for Violation: Excommunication

S.         Ways of Administering Penance
1.     Within a communal penance.
2.     Individually

T.         Chief Means of Satisfying Temporal Punishment
1.     Attending mass.
2.     Prayer.
3.     Fasting.
4.     Almsgiving.
5.     Works of mercy.
6.     Patient endurance of sufferings.
7.     Indulgences.

U.         INDULGENCES:  the remission granted by the Church of temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven.
1.             Kinds of Indulgences
a.             Partial Indulgences: the remission of some of the temporal punishment due to us for our sins.
b.             Plenary Indulgences: the remission of all the temporal punishment due to us for one's sins.

2.             Conditions for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence
a.             All attachment to sin even venial must be excluded.
b.             Performance of a special act of devotion, charity, or a visit to a church, recitation of special prayers.

V.         To have a Good Confession, the following steps should be followed:

1.             PRAY:  "Come Holy Spirit, help me to remember when my last good Confession was.  Enlighten my memory to recall the SERIOUS SINS I have committed since my last confession and about how many times I've committed them.  Give me COURAGE to overcome my fear and shame to tell all my serious sins.
Fill me with sincere sorrow for my sins.  Strengthen me to CHANGE my life after confession.  Help me to tell all my serious sins truthfully, to answer any questions, of the priest honestly and to do my penance."

2.             THINK:  When was your last confession?  About how many weeks, months or years?  What serious sins did you commit?  About how many times did you commit them?  About once, twice, or thrice a week or a month or a year.

3.             BE SORRY:  "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, I detest all my sins because I fear the lost of heaven and the pains of hell.  But most of all, I have offended you, O my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve with the help of you grace to confess my sins and to amend my life.  Amen."  Read this act of contrition thoughtfully and sincerely before you confess and pray it or read it in the Confessional after the priest gives you your penance.

4.             PROMISE:  Even if you happen to break the promise "to change my life by trying to avoid my sins in the future," at least here and now you do not plan to continue your sins in the future.  You plan to avoid the persons, places, and things that very easily lead you into sins.

5.             TELL:  All your serious sins and how many times as closely as possible - average times a week, a month or a year.  Write on a slip of paper what you're going to tell so you don't forget and just read it calmly, no need to go nervous.

6.             LISTEN:  To the penance that the priest gives you and be sure to understate it.  Answer honestly any questions the priest may ask you.

7.             ACT OF CONTRITION: Before leaving, pray and read the Act of Contrition (No. 3 above).

8.             DO:  The penance that the priest has given you outside before your next confession so you may receive Holy Communion before doing your penance if there is no time.


            Sacramental confession is no formality. It is a very important personal act in our spiritual life, a decisive stage in the long process of our moral conversion. It is the key to peace of mind and improvement, but in order to obtain these benefits, we must be clear about some fundamental truths and apply them to our personal situation.

A.            Fundamental Truths.
1.             God loves us immensely and wants our eternal happiness.
2.             We can enjoy this eternal happiness only if we user our freedom to live according to His will.
3.             Any refusal to behave according to God’s will is a SIN, the gravity of which depends on:
·                  the action that we do or omit.
·                  the degree of awareness, our intention and freedom, and
·                  the circumstances
4.             As a refusal to respond to God’s love, sin is an act of ingratitude, pride and rebellion against Him.
5.             Whenever we sin we turn away from God, and we give other creatures or ourselves the attention and love that should be directed to Him.
6.             In so doing we cause a damage to ourselves and others because we upset the order established by the Creator,
7.             In His Divine love, God is always willing to forgive us. He actually never ceases to call us back to Him and to proper behavior.
8.             In order to enjoy God’s forgiveness we must respond to his invitation to:
·                     stop sinning,
·                     abandon situations of sins, and
·                     return to Him with a contrite heart.
9.             We must also seek His forgiveness through the ministry of the Church, according to Jesus’ mind when he gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. (Jn. 20: 22f).
10.          The reception of God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of penance brings about in us a real spiritual resurrection: we rise again to a new life of grace. Through this sacrament we are reconciled with God, with the Church, with our neighbor and with ourselves.

B.            Steps to be taken.
The most important thing is not to “go to confession,” but “to make a good confession,” that is,
a.             to approach this sacrament sincerely sorry for our sins;
b.             to confess them in all humility and honesty;
c.             to be ready to make amends for them;
d.             to be determined to avoid committing sin in the future, and to live according to the will of God.

In order to do all this; an essential step is to make a thorough examination of conscience.

This includes:
a)            becoming aware of the gravity and number of one’s sins, either in thoughts, words or deeds, whether they consist in something good that we should have done and which we failed to do (sins of omission);
b)            realizing that, by our sins, we have offended God, have been the cause of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death and caused harm to our neighbor and ourselves.

Valuable helps in making a good examination of conscience are:
a)            prayer to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment and sincerity;
b)            reading  of some pertinent Scripture passage which helps us rediscover the gravity of our sinfulness, the greatness of God’s love for us and his readiness to forgive us;
c)             going over sets of questions concerning our duties to God, our neighbor and ourselves.

C.            Prayer before Making the Examination of Conscience.

Come Holy Spirit, into my soul and help me
know my sins.
Feel sorry for them, and confess them humbly
that I may be able to enjoy the Father’s forgiveness.

By your light illumine the darkness of my mind,
by your fire, warm my cold heart,
by your grace fill me with your love and power.

May I realize the wrong that I did and the good that I failed to do.
Help me feel truly sorry for all my sins,
strengthen my determination to avoid them in the future,
and to live in your love, your peace and your joy.


Question and Answer: Penance and Reconciliation.

1.         What is the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation?
                                    Penance and Reconciliation is the sacrament of God’s loving forgiveness by which we are set free from sin and reconciled with the Church which we have wounded by our sins. This sacrament helps us to grow in God’s grace, and it strengthens us to avoid sin and to lead holier lives. (1422)
Be merciful, as your Father is merciful (Lk 6:36).

2.             From whom do we receive the gift of this sacrament?
            We receive the gift of the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation from Jesus, who gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. (1441)
He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:22–23). (RSV)

3.             Who may receive the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation?
            Any Catholic who has committed sin may receive the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. (1446)

4.             How do we know that God is willing to forgive sins?
We know that God is willing to forgive sins because in the Gospel Jesus has told us this many times and in many ways. (1489)
For the Son of Man came to seek out and save what was lost (Lk 19:10).

5.             Can every sin be forgiven?
            Yes, every sin can be forgiven through the sacrament of Penance. Jesus said to the apostles:
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven (Mt 16:19).

6.             How is the sacrament of Penance given?
The sacrament of Penance is given when we go to confession with sorrow for sin, accept the penance that the priest gives, and receive absolution: "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." As when receiving the Eucharist or Communion, we answer, “Amen.” (1448–1449)

7.             What makes up the sign of the sacrament of Penance?
            The sign of Penance is made up of three "acts of the penitent," plus the words of the priest.

8.             Who is a penitent?
A penitent is someone who is sorry for his or her sins. Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you (Lk. 15:18).

9.         What are the three acts of the penitent?
      The penitent’s three acts are contrition (sorrow), confession (telling our sins), and satisfaction (making up for the harm done when possible, and doing or saying the penance given by the priest). We also may perform or say other penance beyond what is required. (1450)

10.        What steps does a person follow in receiving this sacrament?
To receive this sacrament with spiritual profit, a person first needs to examine his or her conscience, then to be sincerely sorry for sin, resolving to avoid it in the future. This sorrow is based on spiritual motives such as love of God and hatred of sin. The person then confesses the sins and accepts the penance. (1450, 1460)

11.        What is perfect contrition?
Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin especially because sin displeases God, who is all good and loving, and deserves all our love. (1452)

12.        What is imperfect contrition?
                        Imperfect contrition is sorrow for sin for reasons that are good but not the very best, such as sorrow based more on fear than on love. (1453)

13.        What does one do after receiving this sacrament?
                        One who has received the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation must say or do the penance given by the priest, avoid everything that would lead to sin, and make up as much as possible and necessary for the harm done. The sign of Penance is made up of three "acts of the penitent," plus the words of the priest.
How the harm is to be made up for is explained under various commandments, such as the 7th and 8th. (1459)

14.        Who acts for Jesus in this sacrament?
                        The priest acts for Jesus in the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. When we confess our sins to the priest, we are confessing them to Jesus, who forgives us through the priest. (1461)
All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us this ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18).

15.          What is the seal of confession?
The seal of confession is the most solemn obligation of a priest to keep secret what has been revealed to him in confession. The priest may never break this seal even to save his own life. (1467)

16.          Should we ever speak of what we heard or said in confession?
With regard to overhearing someone else’s confession, we are strictly bound to secrecy; regarding our own confession we are not. However, it is better not to talk about the advice given, the penance, etc.

17.          Should we ever be so embarrassed that we do not go to confession?
            Embarrassment or fear should not keep us from this sacrament, for the Lord awaits us with love despite our sins. The priest is Christ’s representative, bound by the seal of confession never to reveal anything told to him in the confessional. Also, we are free to confess to any priest. (1465)

18.        What does absolution mean?
            Absolution means, "releasing." Through this sacrament, we are released from our sins—set free from them. (1449)
            He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy (Prov 28:13).

19.        Does the priest ever refuse absolution?
            A priest could refuse absolution only in rare cases, for example, if  the person is not sorry for his or her serious sins or has no intention of avoiding them in the future, or when there is no confidence in God’s forgiving Spirit. This is what Jesus referred to when he spoke of sin which cannot be forgiven. Unless there is true sorrow, there is no forgiveness. We must have confidence in God’s mercy and pray to his Spirit for a contrite heart.
Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven you, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven (Mt 12:31).

20.          Are there any sins, which the ordinary confessor cannot absolve?
            Some sins are so grave that the sinner is excommunicated. Absolution in these cases must be sought from the Pope, the bishop or a priest authorized by them. The exception to this occurs in the danger of death when any priest, even one deprived of permission to hear confessions, can give absolution for all sin and excommunication. (1463)

21.        What is a penance?
            A penance is something, which must be done or accepted to make up for confessed sin. It should correspond to the type of sins and their gravity. Generally penance take the form of prayer, acts of mercy or self-denial. (1459–1460)
Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and
with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments (Joel 2:12).

22.        Who is a confessor?
            The word "confessor" may have two meanings. It can mean a priest who hears confessions, or in another unrelated sense, it can mean a saint, other than a martyr, who witnessed to ("confessed") the faith. (1466)

23.          When must a person receive the sacrament of Penance?
A Catholic who has committed a mortal or serious sin must receive the sacrament of Penance. A mortal sin can be forgiven even before confession if a person has perfect (pure) sorrow for having offended our loving God. But normally, he or she must still go to confession before receiving Holy Communion. If we have committed serious sin, we should go to confession soon. (1456)

24.          What should a person do who has committed a mortal sin?
A person who has committed a mortal sin should say a prayer of perfect sorrow with the intention of going to confession soon. This obtains forgiveness and God’s grace. But the person must go to confession before receiving Communion.

25.          Are there any requirements for confessing mortal sins?
In confessing mortal sins, a person should say what kind of sins they were and—as far as possible—tell how many times these sins were committed, as well as any circumstances that might alter their nature.

26.          Can a person confess sins with the intention of committing them again?
            A person cannot confess sins with the intention of committing them again. No sin is forgiven by God unless there is true sorrow for it (even imperfect sorrow, such as fear of divine punishment) and a firm resolution not to commit it again.

27.        How often must we receive the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation?
            The Church requires us to receive the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation at least once a year if we have serious sins. It is a good idea to receive this sacrament more frequently because it greatly helps our spiritual growth. (1456–1457)

28.        Why is it beneficial to receive this sacrament frequently, even if we have committed only venial sin?
This sacrament helps us to realize that every sin offends God. It helps us develop greater self-knowledge, grow in grace and love of God and neighbor, and grow spiritually as a living and active member of the Church. (1458)

29.          When may general absolution be given?
            In certain rare cases, such as during a war or a natural disaster, general absolution may be given to a group without individual confession. As always, the penitents must be sorry and intend not to sin again. One whose grave sins are forgiven by a general absolution is obliged to make an individual confession as soon as possible before receiving another general absolution, unless a just reason intervenes. (1483)

30.          What is a communal celebration of the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation?
            A communal celebration of this sacrament consists of a common preparation including readings, a homily, an examination of conscience, individual confession and absolution, and a common request for forgiveness and thanksgiving. This form expresses clearly the ecclesial nature of the sacrament. (1483)

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