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Beginning Catholic: The Sacrament of Reconciliation: Rising Again to New Life [Ecumenical] ^ | not fiven |

Posted on 04/04/2009 12:22:22 PM PDT by Salvation


The Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Rising Again to New Life

Many Catholics treasure the sacrament of Reconciliation.

The peace of mind and soul which this sacrament imparts to us is one for which there is no substitute. It is a peace that flows from a certainty, rather than from an unsure hope, that our sins have been forgiven and that we are right with God.

Although many converts to the Catholic Church initially fear it, they quickly come to love the sacrament of Reconciliation once they get over their nameless fears—fears which come from a misconception of what the sacrament really is.

Confession, Penance & Reconciliation

The sacrament of Reconciliation is also known as Penance and Confession, among other names. (There is an explanation of some of these names in the Catechism's section on the sacrament of Reconciliation.)

Although often called Reconciliation in common usage, the term "penance" best describes the essential interior disposition required for this sacrament.

In fact, there is a virtue of penance. This is a supernatural virtue by which we are moved to detest our sins from a motive made known by faith, and with an accompanying purpose of offending God no more and of making satisfaction for our sins. In this sense the word "penance" is synonymous with "penitence" or "repentance."

Before the time of Christ the virtue of penance was the only means by which people's sins could be forgiven. Even today, for those outside the Church in good faith, not possessing the sacrament of Penance, it is the only means for forgiveness of sins.

Continuing the work of redemption

The sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament in which the priest, as the agent of God, forgives sins committed after Baptism, when the sinner is heartily sorry for them, sincerely confesses them, and is willing to make satisfaction for them.

By his death on the Cross, Jesus Christ redeemed man from sin and from the consequences of his sin, especially from the eternal death that is sin's due.

So it is not surprising that on the very day he rose from the dead, Jesus instituted the sacrament by which men's sins could be forgiven.

A power granted by Christ

It was on Easter Sunday evening that Jesus appeared to his Apostles, gathered together in the Upper Room, where they had eaten the Last Supper. As they gaped and shrank back in a mixture of fear and dawning hope, Jesus spoke to them reassuringly.

Let St. John (20:19-23) tell it:

Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, 'Peace be to you!' And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore rejoiced at the sight of the Lord. He therefore said to them again, 'Peace be to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' When he had said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.'

To paraphrase our Lord's words in more modern terms, what he said was this:

As God, I have the power to forgive sin. I now entrust the use of that power to you. You will be My representatives. Whatever sins you forgive, I shall forgive. Whatever sins you do not forgive, I shall not forgive.

Necessary after Baptism

Jesus knew well that many of us would forget our brave baptismal promises and commit grave sins after our Baptism. He knew that many of us would lose the grace, the sharing-in-God's-own-life which came to us in Baptism.

Since God's mercy is infinite and unwearying, it seems inevitable that he would provide a second chance (and a third and a fourth and a hundredth if necessary) for those who might relapse into sin.

A power of the priesthood

This power to forgive sin which Jesus conferred upon his Apostles was not, of course, to die with them; no more so than the power to change bread and wine into his Body and Blood, which he conferred upon his Apostles at the Last Supper.

Jesus did not come upon earth just to save a few chosen souls, or just the people who lived on earth during the lifetime of his Apostles.

Jesus came to save everybody who was willing to be saved, down to the end of time. He had you and me in mind, as well as Timothy and Titus, when he died on the Cross.

It is evident then that the power to forgive sins is a part of the power of the priesthood, to be passed on in the sacrament of Holy Orders from generation to generation.

It is the power which every priest exercises when he raises his hand over the contrite sinner and says, "I absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." These are called "the words of absolution."

Countless benefits

It may be that at one time or another we have found the sacrament of Reconciliation a burden. Perhaps we even can remember an occasion when we said, "I wish I didn't have to go to confession."

But certainly in our saner moments we find Reconciliation a sacrament that we love, a sacrament we would not want to be without.

Just think of all that the sacrament of Reconciliation does for us!

First of all, if a person has cut himself off from God by a grave and deliberate act of disobedience against God (that is, by mortal sin), the sacrament of Reconciliation reunites the soul to God; sanctifying grace is restored to the soul.

At the same time, the sin itself (or sins) is forgiven. Just as darkness disappears from a room when the light is turned on, so too must sin disappear from the soul with the coming of sanctifying grace.

When received without any mortal sin on the soul, the sacrament of Reconciliation imparts to the soul an increase in sanctifying grace. This means that there is a deepening and strengthening of that divine-life-shared by which the soul is united to God.

And always, any venial sins which the penitent may have committed and for which he is truly sorry are forgiven. These are the lesser and more common sins which do not cut us off from God but still hinder, like clouds across the sun, the full flow of his grace to the soul.

Crime & punishment

The restoring or the increasing of sanctifying grace and the forgiving of mortal and venial sins—is there anything else that the sacrament of Reconciliation can do for us?

Yes indeed!

If it is a question of mortal sin, Reconciliation wipes out the eternal punishment which is the inevitable consequence of mortal sin. It also remits at least part of the temporal punishment due to sin.

The temporal punishment due to sin is simply the debt of satisfaction which I owe to God for my sins even after the sins themselves have been forgiven. It it a matter of "repairing the damage," we might say.

A simply example to illustrate this would be that of an angry boy who kicks at the table leg and knocks a piece of pottery off onto the floor. "I'm sorry, Mother," he says repentantly. "I shouldn't have done that." "Well," mother says, "if you're sorry, I won't punish you. But get down and pick up the pieces, and I'll expect you to buy a new dish out of your allowance."

Mother forgives the disobedience and absolves from the punishment—but she still expects her son to make satisfaction for his rebellious outburst.

It is this satisfaction which we owe to God for having offended him that we term "the temporal punishment due to sin." Either we pay the debt in this life by the prayers, penances, and other good works which we perform in the state of grace, or we shall have to pay the debt in purgatory. And it is this debt which the sacrament of Reconciliation at least partially reduces, in proportion to the degree of our sorrow.

The more fervent our condition is, the more is our debt of temporal satisfaction reduced.

Restoring lost merits

Still another effect of the sacrament of Reconciliation is that it restores to us the merits of our past good works if these have been lost by mortal sin.

As we know, every good work that we perform in the state of grace and with the intention of doing it out of love for God is a meritorious work. It entitles us to an increase of grace in this life and an increase of glory in heaven. Even the simplest actions—kind words spoken, thoughtful deeds performed—have this effect, not to mention prayers said, Masses offered, sacraments received.

However, mortal sin wipes out this accumulated merit, much as a man might lose his life savings by one reckless gamble.

God could with perfect justice allow our past merits to remain forever lost even when he forgives our sins. But in his infinite goodness he does not make us start all over again from scratch. The sacrament of Reconciliation not only forgives our mortal sins; it also restores to us the merits which we had so willfully cast away.

Additional graces to strengthen us

Finally, besides all its other benefits, the sacrament of Reconciliation gives us the right to whatever actual graces we may need, and as we need them, in order that we may make atonement for our past sins and may conquer our future temptations.

This is the special "sacramental grace" of Penance; it fortifies us against a relapse into sin.

It is a spiritual medicine which strengthens as well as heals. That is why a person intent upon leading a good life will make it a practice to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation often. Frequent confession is one of the best guarantees against falling into grave sin. It would be the height of stupidity to say, "I don't need to go to confession because I haven't committed any mortal sins."

All these results of the sacrament of Reconciliation—restoration or increase of sanctifying grace, forgiveness of sins, remission of punishment, restoration of merit, grace to conquer temptation—all these are possible only because of the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, which the sacrament of Reconciliation applies to our souls.

Jesus on the cross already has "done our work for us". In the sacrament of Reconciliation we simply give God a chance to share with us the infinite merits of his Son.

"Your sins are forgiven."

(Luke 5:20)

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; sacraments
Reconciliation, Penance, Confession -- all refer to this Sacrament.

This is an Ecumenical Thread. Please follow the Religion Moderator's Guidelines for Ecumenical Threads

1 posted on 04/04/2009 12:22:22 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: All
The origin of the Sacrement of Penance:

St. John (20:19-23) tell it:

Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, 'Peace be to you!' And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore rejoiced at the sight of the Lord. He therefore said to them again, 'Peace be to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' When he had said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.'

2 posted on 04/04/2009 12:25:42 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: nickcarraway; Lady In Blue; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...
Catholic Discussion Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Catholic Discussion Ping List.

3 posted on 04/04/2009 12:27:17 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Is Confession Still an Easter Duty?

Is Confession Still an Easter Duty?

April 2nd, 2009 by Cathy Caridi, J.C.L.

Q: When I was a kid, everyone was required during Lent to make his “Easter Duty.” Every parishioner received a card from the parish. When we went to confession before Easter, we handed the card to the priest. By Easter he had a huge stack of cards, showing which parishioners had made their Easter Duty and who hadn’t. But nowadays, people hardly ever go to confession like they used to, and nobody ever talks about Easter Duty. Has this requirement been abolished like so many other things? –Janet

A: As has been seen so many times before in this space, canon law is grounded in theology. The most fundamental theological teaching about the sacrament of penance—that reception of the sacrament is necessary when we are conscious of having committed grave sin (c. 988.1 )—will never change, because as Catholics we believe that this sacrament was instituted for this very purpose by Christ Himself. What can change over time, however, are the disciplinary practices (what one might call “housekeeping details”) pertaining to this sacrament, like that described in Janet’s question. Let’s take a look at what the current law says about confessing one’s sins at Easter time, and compare it to church law in the past.

Most American Catholics are at home with the traditional notion that while we should go to confession throughout the year, it is particularly necessary at Christmas and Easter time. In fact, however, there is no legal requirement to receive the sacrament at these particular times. Canon 989 states merely that everyone who has reached the age of discretion is required to confess his grave sins at least once a year. On the surface, it’s a very simple, straightforward canon, but let’s unpack it to be sure we understand exactly what is required of us.

The mention of the “age of discretion” refers to the fact that children who are too young to have made their First Confession are of course exempt from this obligation. The implication, therefore, is that once a child has reached the age of reason and has received the sacrament of penance for the first time, this annual requirement applies.

The canon notes specifically that a Catholic is required to confess his grave (i.e., mortal) sins. Thus if he is not conscious of having committed any such sins, there is no requirement to receive the sacrament. The preceding canon does note that it is recommended that the faithful also confess their venial sins (c. 988.2 ); but a recommendation is not an obligation.

Therefore, technically speaking, a person who does not commit any mortal sins throughout his life is not required to go to confession at any time, including the Easter season. Obviously canon 989 does not contain any particularly stringent requirements, and to many Catholics may actually seem quite lax! Was the law more demanding in the past?

Not at all. As was discussed in greater detail back in the September 8, 2007 column , the current Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1983 by Pope John Paul II, replacing the previous code of 1917. Our current canon 989 is virtually identical to the 1917 code’s canon 906. That canon, in turn, was based on the discipline decreed by the Church during the Council of Trent (1545-1563), formulated in response to protestant claims that sacramental confession of one’s sins to a priest was not of divine origin and was unnecessary. We can see that with regard to a Catholic’s obligation to confess his sins annually, nothing whatsoever has been changed for nearly 500 years!

It is important to keep in mind here that the code is mandating the absolute minimum that is acceptable for a practicing Catholic. If one adheres to the minimum requirements, he is not violating the law—but that does not necessarily mean that doing only the bare minimum is a good idea.

Nor is it a good idea to fall into the trap of thinking that it is not worthwhile to confess sins that are “just” venial. Pope John Paul, in his 1984 Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance , noted that venial sin “must never be underestimated, as though it were automatically something that can be ignored or regarded as ‘a sin of little importance’” (17). It is well known that the late pontiff himself confessed his sins every single day—and one might reasonably assume that they were venial, rather than mortal sins!

So what was happening in Janet’s parish when she was a kid? The practice she describes, which was not unique, was one means that parish pastors sometimes used in the past to try to ensure that none of their parishioners received Holy Communion at Easter time in a state of mortal sin.

For while the code does not mandate that we Catholics must receive the sacrament of penance at any particular time of year, it does specify that we receive Holy Communion during the Easter season. Canon 920 notes that once a Catholic has received his First Holy Communion, he is obliged to receive this sacrament at least once a year, during paschal time (i.e., between Easter and Pentecost). This, and not a perceived requirement to go to confession, is the actual origin of the term “Easter Duty.”

But it does tie in directly with a requirement to receive the sacrament of penance first, if one has committed mortal sin. Canon 916 simply restates Catholic sacramental theology when it asserts that anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not receive the Eucharist without first having gone to confession.

Consequently, a pastor like Janet’s might reasonably have expected that at Easter, Holy Communion would be received by everyone in his parish—including some who ordinarily might not receive the sacrament, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there were some parishioners who the pastor knew well were not regularly practicing their faith, or who might even be living scandalously sinful lives. If such people were to approach a priest distributing Holy Communion at Easter Sunday Mass, he might logically be concerned that they could still be in a state of grave sin. In order to obviate this problem, the pastor apparently established a system to determine whether in fact each parishioner had received the sacrament of penance before Easter. If he knew that everybody had done so, he might rest easier about giving them all the Eucharist. It was not a fool-proof system, of course, but it was a logical and sincere attempt to ensure that nobody was making a sacrilegious Communion in the parish.

A couple of significant problems with this approach are perhaps the reasons why it is not a current, widespread practice. Firstly, the system presumes that every parishioner will go to confession in his own parish. But there is no obligation to receive the sacrament of penance in a particular church or from a particular priest. Canon 991 states clearly that every Catholic is free to confess his sins to a confessor of his own choice, even to one of another rite. Lest anyone wonder whether this is an innovation in the 1983 code, the corresponding canon in the 1917 code was, once again, virtually identical. This means that anyone may lawfully go to confession in any Catholic parish; and this holds true even if, for example, the Catholic is a member of the Latin rite and he wishes to go to confession at a Byzantine-rite Catholic parish. (The different rites within the universal Catholic Church were discussed in more detail in the September 20, 2007 column .) So if Janet’s pastor did not receive a card from one of his parishioners, it was always possible that the person had gone to confession somewhere else. The pastor could not necessarily make any definitive conclusions about a parishioner’s failure to submit the card to him.

The second objection is more pastoral than canonical, and concerns a penitent’s privacy. While there are plenty of Catholics who are quite content to confess their sins face-to-face, in the sight of the priest (who may recognize them if he already knows them personally), there are also a significant number of faithful who prefer anonymity. There is certainly nothing wrong with a penitent preferring to use a confessional with a grill or other privacy-screen between him and the confessor; nor even with a person wishing to confess specifically to a priest who does not know him at all! Especially, though not exclusively, in cases where a penitent feels a particular embarrassment about having to confess a certain sin, it may be much easier to receive the sacrament in the darkened interior of a traditional confessional-box, from an unknown confessor whom he may very well never meet again. Even if a parishioner believes that the priest(s) of his own parish may not be able to identify him, the need to somehow reach around inside the confessional and hand the priest a card may very well enable him to do just that! Thus this system, while intended to encourage parishioners to go to confession before Easter, could actually discourage some of them from doing so.

To answer Janet’s question, therefore, the law concerning mandatory reception of the sacrament of penance has certainly not changed in our lifetimes. But the disciplinary practice at her childhood parish—which in any case was never a universal custom—is not in force throughout the Catholic Church today. The methods which the Church may use to urge or encourage Catholics to frequent the confessional can vary; but the need for us all to receive this sacrament regularly will always remain unchanged.

Cathy Caridi, J.C.L. is a licensed canonist who practices law and teaches in the Washington, D.C. area.

4 posted on 04/04/2009 12:32:11 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
most recent at the bottom Beginning Catholic: The Catholic Church's Origin [Ecumenical]
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5 posted on 04/04/2009 12:35:32 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Examination of Conscience
A Guide for Confession

Why Go to Confession? (Part 1) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte
Why Go to Confession? (Part 2) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte
How To Make a Good Confession (especially if you haven't gone in years)
Why Go to Confession? (Part 3) - Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte
Pulling Sin up by the Roots: The Need for Mortification

Reasons for Confession [Sacrament of Reconciliation]
Cardinal Stafford's Homily at Penitential Liturgy With an Examination of Conscience
How to Go to Confession
Fr. Z’s 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession
Learning to Confess

6 posted on 04/04/2009 12:38:47 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Beginning Catholic: The Sacrament of Reconciliation: Rising Again to New Life [Ecumenical]
Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest?
Why do Catholics have to confess their sins to a priest instead of praying straight to God? [Ecu]

When did confession to a priest start? [Ecumenical]
Confession, Confession Everywhere (Cardinal Says Youth Day Is Reviving the Sacrament)
In One Church, Confession Makes a Comeback (Catholic Caucus)
Priests should encourage recovery of Sacrament of Reconciliation
A Gift That is Always in Season (Sacrament of Penance) Catholic Caucus

[Sacrament of]Confession
Make a Good Confession
Those in Mortal Sin Can't Go to Communion, Says Pope
Holy Week Recovers Celebration of Penance (at St. Peter's Basilica) - photos!
Reasons for Confession [Sacrament of Reconciliation]

Lesson 19: Confession (Part 1) BY FATHER ALTIER
Lesson 20: Confession (Part 2) BY FATHER ROBERT ALTIER
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St. Ephraim the Syrian: On Repentance
What happened to confession – Changing mores reflective of use
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The Spiritual and Psychological Value of Frequent Confession
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7 posted on 04/04/2009 12:45:28 PM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Such a wonderful Mysterion of The Church!

“My child, do you want to crush the head of the serpent? Openly reveal your thoughts in confession. The strength of the devil lies in cunning thoughts. Do you hold on to them? He remains hidden. Do you bring them to the light? He disappears. And then Christ rejoices the prayer progresses, and the light of grace heals and brings peace to your nous and heart.” Elder Joseph the Hesychast

8 posted on 04/04/2009 12:48:30 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

Today may be the last day for those last chance Confessions.

Let’s go, Catholics!

9 posted on 04/08/2009 10:54:47 AM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
enter the Table of Contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church here
1449 The formula of absolution used in the Latin Church expresses the essential elements of this sacrament: the Father of mercies is the source of all forgiveness. He effects the reconciliation of sinners through the Passover of his Son and the gift of his Spirit, through the prayer and ministry of the Church:
God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the 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.

10 posted on 04/08/2009 10:55:39 AM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Well, if they miss, they can pray this with full body prostrations between the verses; it is the Lenten prayer of +Ephraim the Syrian:

O Lord and Master of my life!

Take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother,
for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

11 posted on 04/08/2009 11:30:30 AM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Salvation; All

Thanks for posting this.

This is something I struggle with (not the Sacrament but going to it). For me, I have some sins that I struggle with on an almost daily basis. I go to confession, but a few days later, I fall into them again.

I feel like a hypocrite sometimes, going to confession and knowing I’ll probably fall into the same sins anyway. For example, during the Act of Contrition, we pledge to “sin no more” and to “avoid all occasion of sin”, but yet I don’t do that a few days later. What do do about this? Anyone have any ideas?

I don’t want to “abuse” the Sacrament, by “promising one thing but doing another” but at the same time I feel it’s not right, in the state I’m sometimes in, to receive our Lord. It’s quite a quandary.

12 posted on 05/02/2009 6:01:12 AM PDT by FourtySeven (47)
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