The Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation)

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The Sacrament of Penance (or Reconciliation) is a Sacrament in which we are sorry for our sins, confess them to a priest, receive forgiveness for them and are reconciled with God and the Church.

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Does this Sacrament give more than forgiveness and reconciliation?
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Yes, it does give more than forgiveness and reconciliation because it restores to us the grace of God that we lose through our sin, it strengthens our resolve to avoid sin and makes us more determined to live good Christian lives.
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How can the Church forgive sins? Surely only God can forgive sins.

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Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave the Church the power to forgive sins when he breathed on the Apostles and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.’ (John 20 22:23)
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How does the priest forgive sins?

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The priest forgives sins by the power of God when he says the words of absolution.
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What are the words of absolution?

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The words of absolution said by the priest are:

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"God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

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What conditions are required to receive absolution?

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Three conditions are required to receive absolution: Contrition, Confession and Satisfaction.
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What is Contrition?

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Contrition is true sorrow for our sins because they have offended God who is so good and because Jesus suffered and died for our sins, and also a sincere determination to try not to sin again.
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What is Confession?

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Confession is personally admitting our sins to a priest.
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What is Satisfaction?

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Satisfaction is repairing the harm done to myself or to my neighbour by my sin. I repair the harm done to myself by carrying out the penance that the priest gives so that I can make amends to God. I repair the harm done to my neighbour by saying sorry and making up with him. If I have taken something from him I must return it to him.
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How should I prepare for Confession?

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I should prepare myself for Confession by praying for the grace to make a sincere confession of all my sins; and I should examine my conscience carefully and try to remember all my sins since my last Confession.
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What should I do when I go to confession?

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I should ask the priest for a blessing, by words such as: "Bless me father; I have sinned against God."
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I should tell the priest how long it is since my last confession.
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I should tell the priest what my sins are, how many times I have committed each sin and also any circumstances which would change the gravity of the sin.
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I must confess all mortal sins, and ought to confess any venial sins.
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I should answer truthfully any question that the priest may ask, listen to his advice and accept the penance that the priest will give me to make satisfaction for my sins.
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I should make an Act of Contrition, with words such as: "O my God, because You are so Good, I am very sorry that I have sinned against You, and, by the help of Your Grace, I will not sin again. Amen."