The Sacrament of Reconciliation, also commonly known as Penance or Confession, is a celebration of God's mercy and the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. It is sometimes called a second baptism. Catholics who are aware of serious sin (a breaking or serious straining of the relationship between them self and God or neighbor) are to confess their sins before receiving communion. Catholics are obliged to confess serious sins at least once a year during Easter time from the first Sunday of Lent to Trinity Sunday.
At St. Charles Borromeo Parish, the sacrament of reconciliation is celebrated each Saturday from 3–4 p.m. in the church or by appointment. Twice a year we also hold a communal preparation reconciliation service with individual confessions in preparation for Christmas and Easter.
One can either receive the Sacrament face to face with a priest or anonymously from behind a screen. The rite begins with a greeting followed by a brief prayer or scripture reading. The penitent then confesses his or her sins. It is helpful to a priest if he is told how long it has been since the last confession and whether the penitent is married or single. Serious sins need to be named and one should strive to identify the pattern of one's sins. This helps one begin to identify the root cause of one's sins. The priest will help the penitent discover such causes and provide advice and encouragement for recommitting to being a disciple of Christ.
A general confession might be more suitable if the penitent has never received the sacrament before or if it has been a number of years since one's last confession. One's relationship with God, neighbor, world and self can be used as a guide for an examination of conscience. The Ten Commandments can also be used. An appropriate penance, which is a sign of one's sorrow for one's sins and recommitment to following Christ, is then given.
The person confessing should then offer a prayer that expresses sorrow and the desire to be closer to God, including any special areas of need. There are several acceptable forms of the Act of Contrition. The Priest will then raise his hands over the penitent's head, or extend them if behind the curtain, and give absolution. He may also include special prayers for the penitent's needs.
Penance, whether in the form of prayer or action, is a sign of genuine repentance, an act of reparation and healing for the harm one's sins have caused to self and others and a firm desire to live more fully as Christ has taught. A penitent must intend not to sin again and take reasonable steps to prevent falling into sin again.