Sacrament of Penance
he Sacrament of Penance, also know as the Rite of Reconciliation, is the "liturgical celebration of God's forgiveness of the sins of the penitent, who is thus reconciled with God and with the Church. The acts of the penitent-contrition, the confession of sins, and satisfaction or reparation-together with the prayer of absolution by the priest, constitute the essential elements of the Sacrament of Penance" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 980, 1422, 1440, 1448).
Through the three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist) we receive the new life of Christ, but we carry this life in earthen vessels and remain subject to suffering, illness, and death. Moreover, this new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin. For this reason, the Lord Jesus – the divine physician of our bodies and souls – has given us two sacraments of healing: Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.
On the Day of His Resurrection, the Lord Jesus breathed on the Apostles, giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:23). This gift of grace to the Apostles allows mortal, sinful men to act as God's instruments in the forgiveness of all sins committed after Baptism, and this sacred power is exercised by bishops and priests in the Sacrament of Penance when they hear the confession of sins and pronounce absolution for the remission of sins by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ.
The Sacrament of Penance is a sacred mystery of conversion from sin, confession of guilt, forgiveness of the wrong done, and reconciliation with Christ and His Church. All Catholics over the age of reason should come to the Sacrament of Penance at least once each year during Lent or Eastertide and as often as necessary when conscious of serious sin, and anyone conscious of grave sin should not receive Holy Communion before being reconciled to God by sacramental confession and absolution.
"The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). With this ringing call to conversion, the Lord Jesus began His public ministry. It is impossible to be a disciple of Jesus without repentance and conversion, without the constant effort to be conformed by God's grace to the image of the crucified Lord. Baptism for the remission of sins is the foundation of this lifelong struggle against all forms of disordered self-love, but in ordinary circumstances, all grave sins committed after Baptism require the grace of the Sacrament of Penance for forgiveness.