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Sacrament of Penance - Rites of Reconciliation
What is the Sacrament of Penance?
Reconciliation is officially called the Sacrament of Penance. In the past, it was also called Confession. These titles are all aspects of the meaning of the Sacrament.
The Sacrament of Penance is a celebration of God’s love and mercy. It celebrates the call to repentance after a process of conversion of heart. This includes confessing our sins and receiving the forgiveness of God through the ministry of the priest. Through this process, a person is reconciled with the Church and continues to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
How do we celebrate it?
There are three forms of the celebration of penance.
Reconciliation for Individual Penitents (Rite I)
This form is celebrated by an individual person in the presence of the priest. The place where this happens is usually a Reconciliation Room (what used to be called a “Confessional’). A bible, a crucifix and candle are placed on a table in the centre of the space. The person may choose to sit facing the priest or to sit behind a screen and remain anonymous.
The Rite begins with a greeting, followed by words of encouragement from the priest. After short reading from scripture, the person reflects on his/her circumstances and confesses his/her sins and seeks reconciliation. The priest offers advice and gives a penance that is meant to help in starting a new life and to remedy any weakness. The priest pronounces absolution and the rite concludes with a short thanksgiving.
Reconciliation for Several Penitents with individual confession and absolution (Rite II). This form of the Rite begins with a celebration of the Word – readings from scripture, hymns, prayers, a homily and an examination of conscience, followed by a call to repentance. Private confession and reconciliation follow. The Rite concludes with a short thanksgiving, and a blessing and dismissal of the gathered assembly.
Reconciliation for Several Penitents with general confession and absolution (Rite III) This form of the Rite follows the same pattern as Rite II, but does not include individual confession and reconciliation. It includes a communal prayer of confession and general absolution. The use of this form is restricted to emergencies and other special circumstances.
Who celebrates it?
Baptised members of the Roman Catholic Church who feel called to be reconciled with God and with the faith community can take part in the sacrament of penance. This call to conversion and reconciliation occurs when one considers, judges and changes one’s life in the light of God’s love revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Prayer and participating in the Eucharist are the regular means of asking for forgiveness and being reconciled with God and the community. However, there are times when the faithful need the sacrament of penance/reconciliation in their struggle to be forgiven and forgiving, to discover anew the gift of God’s saving action in their lives and to be strengthened to continue living as disciples of Jesus.