The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and our bodies… has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1421)
While Baptism gives us new life in Christ, this can be weakened or even lost by sin. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation (also called Penance), we obtain forgiveness from God’s mercy for these offenses, and are restored and reconciled with him. We are also reconciled with the Church which is wounded by these sins.
During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also showed the effect of this forgiveness. He welcomed forgiven sinners into the community of God’s people which had often alienated or excluded them. Jesus calls all the baptized to conversion, which is a constant endeavor. St. Peter’s conversion after he had denied Jesus three times is a good example. Jesus’ look of mercy after St. Peter realized his sin drew tears of repentance from Peter. Not only was St. Peter forgiven, but Jesus later made him the head of the Church.
After his resurrection, Jesus gave his apostles the power and authority to forgive sins as he did. Given the great sensitivity and respect due to persons, every priest who receives penitents and forgives their sins in God’s name in the sacrament of Reconciliation is bound to absolute secrecy – and there are no exceptions.
For those who receive the sacrament of Reconciliation with the proper disposition of repentance for their sins and the intention to avoid them in the future, the sacrament is often followed by peace and serenity of conscience and a strong spiritual consolation.
Baptized children can be prepared to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation usually by the age of 7 or 8. This preparation is always done in parishes and is usually carried out during the same period that the child is preparing for the First Communion. Contact your neighborhood parish to inquire about this period of preparation.
Children older than 7 or 8, adolescents, or adults wishing to be prepared for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are invited to participate in a process called Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Please click here to learn more about RCIA.
If you have already received the sacrament of Reconciliation before and wish to locate Reconciliation services in nearby parishes, please click here to find a parish near you.