The Sacrament of Penance must be seen within the context of conversion from sin and a turn to God. Peter wept bitterly over his triple denial of Christ but received the grace of conversion and expressed it with a threefold confession of love for Jesus (cf. Lk 22:54-62; Jn 21:15-19). Paul was converted from persecuting Christians to becoming one of the greatest disciples of Christ who ever lived (cf. Acts 9:1-31). These moments of conversion were only the beginning of their lifelong commitment to living in fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sin harms our relationship with God and damages our communion with the Church. Conversion of heart is the beginning of our journey back to God. Liturgically this happens in the Sacrament of Penance. In the history of the Church, this Sacrament has been celebrated in different ways. Beneath the changes, there have always been two essentials: the acts of the penitent and the acts of Christ through the ministry of the Church. Both go hand in hand. Conversion must involve a change of heart as well as a change of actions. Neither is possible without God’s grace.
1. You always have the option to go to penance anonymously, that is, behind a screen or face to face, if you so desire.
2. After the priest greets you in the name of Christ, make the sign of the cross. He may choose to recite a reading from Scripture, after which you say: “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been (state how long) since my last confession. These are my sins.”
3. Tell your sins simply and honestly to the priest. You might even want to discuss the circumstances and the root causes of your sins and ask the priest for advice or direction.
4. Listen to the advice the priest gives you and accept the penance from him. Then make an Act of Contrition for your sins.
5. The priest will then dismiss you with the words of praise: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. You respond: “For His mercy endures forever.” The priest will then conclude with:”The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.” And you respond by saying: “Thanks be to God.”
6. Spend some time with Our Lord thanking and praising Him for the gift of His mercy. Try to perform your penance as soon as possible.
In order to approach God and ask for God’s forgiveness, examine your actions and see where you have failed to follow God’s will in your life:
Do I respect my parents, grandparents, my teachers, my church, and all who do their best to care and look out for me?
Do I respect my body and the body of others?
Do I speak words that build up my friends or do I tear them down by speaking of their weaknesses all to make me look better?
Would I choose myself as a friend?
Am I kind to strangers and those who seem alone and not part of the group?
Have I given thanks to God for the blessings of my life…my family, food, shelter, good health, and my many talents?
O most merciful God! I sincerely desire to leave all my evil ways and to confess my sins with all sincerity to you. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Give me a lively faith and a firm hope in the Passion of my Redeemer. Mary, most holy, pray for me that I may make a good confession. Amen.
Oh my God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy. Amen.
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