Forgive us our trespasses…

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail) c. 1669 Oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail) c. 1669 Oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg- (Rembrandt)

The key to a healthy understanding of the value of confession lies in the recognition of the real, objective social nature of the drama of sin and forgiveness. This recognition has always been part of the traditional ritual practice of confession, even after the “one-on-one” encounter between the penitent and the confessor replaced ceremonies that included a public recognition and confession of certain sins. And although the absolution from sins is indeed a personal judgment based on the authority of the individual priest, the ritual includes a prayer that the penitent be granted pardon and peace “through the ministry of the Church.”

Forgiveness is not conditional. All that is required is for the sinner to accept the divine mercy unconditionally offered to him. The power of God’s mercy builds our defense, so to speak, on our acknowledgment of the truth of His love and our inability to respond to it. The rite of confession is an acknowledgment by the Church of the objectivity of God’s mercy. To “go to confession” means to join the Church in the celebration of this truth.

The Sacrament of Penance is a beautiful Sacrament through which we are reconciled to God, ourselves and our neighbours. Remember the words of St. Paul: “God is rich in mercy; because of His great love for us, He brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin” (Eph 2:4).

From the Compendium of the Catholic Church

298. When did he (Christ) institute this sacrament?

1485

The risen Lord instituted this sacrament on the evening of Easter when he showed himself to his apostles and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23).

Why Is Confession Necessary?

Non-Catholics, and even many Catholics, often ask whether they can confess their sins directly to God, and whether God can forgive them without going through a priest. On the most basic level, of course, the answer is yes, and Catholics should make frequent acts of contrition, which are prayers in which we tell God that we are sorry for our sins and ask for His forgiveness.

But the question misses the point of the Sacrament of Confession. The Sacrament, by its very nature, confers graces that help us to live a Christian life, which is why the Church requires us to receive it at least once per year . Moreover, it was instituted by Christ as the proper form for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, we should not only be willing to receive the sacrament, but should embrace it as a gift from a loving God. ally 2

From the Compendium of the Catholic Church

231. What is sacramental grace?

1129, 1131
1134, 2003

Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given by Christ and is proper to each sacrament. This grace helps the faithful in their journey toward holiness and so assists the Church as well to grow in charity and in her witness to the world.

What Is Required?

Three things are required of a penitent in order to receive the sacrament worthily:

He must be contrite—or, in other words, sorry for his sins.
He must confess those sins fully, in kind and in number.
He must be willing to do penance and make amends for his sins.
How often should you go to Confession?

While Catholics are only required to go to Confession when they are aware that they have committed a mortal sin, the Church urges the faithful to take advantage of the Sacrament often. A good rule of thumb is to go once per month. (The Church strongly recommends that, in preparation for fulfilling our Easter Duty to receive Communion, we go to Confession even if we are aware of venial sin only.)

forgive us our trspassese as we forgive

Confession 3. When last have you taken the time to apologise?

Within the Sacrament of Reconciliation there are three rites of Reconciliation which all play a role in completing the process of Reconciliation. These rites are ordered the first rite, the second rite and the third rite of Reconciliation. The first rite of Reconciliation is Individual confession, the second rite is a communal celebration and the third rite is general absolution in a communal Rite of Reconciliation.

 The First Rite of Reconciliation (Individual Confession):
In this century, we as Christians complete this first Rite of Reconciliation most commonly than any other rite. Many churches today have a Reconciliation Room, where a penitent and a priest  are seated and the penitent begins confessing their sins. This is completed in a special process with four key elements. These elements are confession, act of contrition, absolution and penance. In this process the penitent begins confessing their sins, and acknowledging what they have done wrong and wanting to turn back to God. After they say a prayer of contrition which shows acknowledge of their sins the priest then absolves them from their sins. After this is completed the priest then gives the penitent penance which is a prayer or prayers that they have to say in order for their sins to be forgiven. This is the first rite of Reconciliation called individual confession. This is the rite which is now commonly used in the church and is most preferred.
 The Second Rite of Reconciliation(Communal Celebration):
Many churches provide opportunities for people to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a part of a communal celebration, rather than individually (the first Rite of Reconciliation). If there are communal celebrations, then they are usually held in Lent or Advent as these are the penitential season of the Church year. The celebration begins with a hymn, and a greeting by priest, immediately followed by a prayer expressing forgiveness . There are scripture readings from the Old testament as well as Gospels. After a brief homily and personal reflection time, each person then begins to confess to a priest individually and receives absolution. In this process there is more than one priest going around the church and they all use the same procedure as the First Rite (confession, act of contrition, absolution and penance). After the prayers of penance have been said the priest then says a blessing over the congregation and ends with “Go in peace”. This rite is still practiced although not as commonly as the first Rite of Reconciliation.
 The Third Rite of Reconciliation (General Absolution in a Communal Rite of Reconciliation):
This Rite of Reconciliation is only used in some circumstances where there is no opportunity for individual confession such as in war or national emergency’s. This Rite, in some ways  is similar to the second Rite, sometimes with hymns, scripture readings and a homily. However in this Rite individuals do not get to go up and speak to the priest individually. Instead of this procedure, the priest gives a general absolution of sins after the community have reflected on their sins, privately and have said a prayer acknowledging their repentance. The people who attend this Rite are expected to have a genuine sorrow for their sins and must want to live a better life in the future. If any penitent needs to confess a very serious sin, then they will be asked to confess it individually.
These are all the Three Rites of Reconciliation (individual confession, communal celebration and general absolution in a communal Rite of Reconciliation) which all portray different ways in which people confess sins and are able to confess sins, not always particularly individually.

Read more here.

Confession 2: The History of Confession

History of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Church

Jesus educated and lived by the message of reconciliation in his parables and in his healings, as we see this through bible stories. We as Christians believe that the life of a Christian is one of reconciliation and with our self, others and God. The Catholic church, from the earliest times, has had a deep understanding and believed profoundly in the mercy and forgiveness of God. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has been used as an opportunity to reconcile  with their selves, God and the community. Below is information about how Reconciliation was celebrated in the Early Church and how it has developed.

The Sacrament in the First and Second Centuries:

In these early centuries, it was believed that baptism was to the sign of the converted person’s new life in Christ which involved the forgiveness of sin. It was understood that baptised people gained forgiveness through taking the Eucharist and participating in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. When confessing sins, they were said directly to God. For mortal or serious sin, the Church began a process of community penance.

They believed that forgiveness could only be received once in a life time, but a person had fallen into a very deadly sin again, they would be unable to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist and Anointing. However, the Christian community would pray for the person at death.

The Sacrament in the Third to Fifth Centuries:

In these centuries a formal ritual for forgiveness of sin was gradually developed. This was a public ritual , which was celebrated a s a community, and presided by a bishop, in which the person in need of forgiveness was received into the order of penitents. The sinner would have to start fasting, prayer and works of charity in the community as a procedure of penance and conversion. The bishop, would then bring them back into the community, on behalf of the community in a liturgy which was usually celebrated just prior to Easter.

The ceremony of forgiveness was kept as side for major sins in the community, and forgiveness could be taken out of action for a period of time between three to fifteen years. Sometimes the sins were known to the whole community, and overtime the penitent would sometimes confide their sins to a bishop or priest.

The Sacrament in the Sixth to Ninth Centuries:

In England and Ireland, the practice of looking for private spiritual help from monks became popular in these countries. As this spiritual help became more common, it led  to a private ritual of Reconciliation which was then frequently used in the Church . In the late sixth century, when monks from England and Ireland came to Europe, the practice of private reconciliation became typical. After this happening, public penance then shifted to the practice of private confession. This took over that once-in-a-life-time public ritual that used to be commonly practiced. Only in some Eastern Churches have public forms of confession followed by private confession.

The Sacrament in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries:

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, procedure for reconciliation in the Church was made. This consisted of:

  • Confession: this is when the person tells his/her sin to the priest, which represents Jesus in the Church
  • Contrition: this is when the person is genuinely sorry for his/her sin and expresses this sorrow.
  • Absolution: this is when the priest then offers forgiveness on behalf of God and the Church.
  • Satisfaction: under the direction of the priest the person does something to apologize for the damage they have caused by his/her sin. This also can be referred to as a “penance”.

Sixteenth Century

At the Council of Trent, it was said Confession or Penance was now a sacrament of the church. This declaration confirmed the practice that was already in place. The church then suggested that Catholics now had to use this sacrament at least once a year.

Twentieth Century

The Second Vatican council suggested that they call for the revision of the Sacrament of Penance. So in 1973 the revised Sacrament was publicized, which also promoted the three rites in which may be celebrated today. After this, there was a new emphasis on God’s love and mercy and the opportunity of the Sacrament offered for reconciliation. After this the importance of the community dimension was strained. Catholics were then encouraged to also have community celebrations of reconciliation as well as an individual celebration  and acknowledgement of sin.

Read more here.

CONFESSION 1: Forgotten,ignored and definitely underrated.

 


The symbolism in this picture prompts a prayer from me:

I need Your mercy and forgiveness Lord: I reach out for  Your love, to be closer to You, to be reconciled with You;  I admit that I have strayed from Your path and that I have offended You in my thoughts, actions or words; I reach for greater intimacy with You my  Lord God and Saviour; I want Your Grace Lord, to renew me and open my eyes to You and in order to see how You want to use me for Your glory. Amen. 

I still call this Sacrament Confession however, this term is interchangeable with that of  RECONCILIATION. Ever since my first Reconciliation, this Sacrament remains an integral and indispensable  part of my relationship with Jesus. It has always been special because of  the Grace I receive through this Sacrament.

At a prayer group recently the topic of Reconciliation came up and I was surprised to find out that it is looked upon as a daunting experience. Yes, I am nervous at the thought of  confessing my sins to God but  I know that God instituted this Sacrament through Jesus, using His priests as conduits here on earth for the my benefit of my soul and my openness to the Grace which I receive at Holy Communion. I have experienced two Grace-filled times during  Holy Communion after having received absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was just beautiful, so I continue to seek the tangible peace of the Lord again and again. Reconciliation plays a huge part in this search for me. All Catholics are free to receive this gift of Grace. The good Lord hands it out for free through His Sacraments of the Church.

A direct quote : from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

” I. What is This Sacrament Called?

1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father5 from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”6
It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.”7 He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”8 ”

Sacraments are God’s gift to the Church. They both symbolize God acting in the lives of people and they bring about what they symbolize. One way to think about how symbolic action has a real impact is to think of an embrace between husband and wife or between close friends. To those looking on, the embrace is a symbol of the closeness of the relationship between the people. For the people themselves the embrace actually brings them closer together as through it they feel more strongly bonded to each other. Sacraments are a little like that.

When a person is baptized, those observing the symbolic action of either immersion in water or of water being poured  – are prompted to think of wide range of associations that water brings to mind. Examples include water that cleanses, rain that refreshes parched land; the sea, lakes and rivers teaming with life; floods that destroy; and our fear of drowning. For the person who is baptized the experience of symbolic drowning and cleansing has an impact on their interior life of feelings and values. Through God’s grace bestowed in the Sacrament of Baptism a Christian’s life takes on a new meaning and their relationship with God and the Christian community becomes deeper and richer.

All of the sacraments involve people making use of material things acting in symbolic ways. God’s Grace works in the body, mind and spirit of a person as they participate in sacramental action. Sacraments have a real effect on the life of those who accept them as gifts from God. In and through sacraments people, are invited to reflect upon the meaning and significance of their relationship with God, with others and all of creation.

 

 

I knew I was in Rome when…

I felt a thrill at seeing a nun in a blue habit in the queue to go through immigration at the airport. I was tempted to take a photo but thought it may look suspicious just there. I was not, however,  to be disappointed because on an hourly basis every day I would spot nuns walking to and  fro throughout the streets of Rome. It’s part of life there and it felt great to be in a city steeped in Catholic Tradition.

A picture of two Dominicans I snapped en route to the Catacombs.

These wonderful women brought back many special memories of my primary school years, having been taught by Dominicans. They were the ones that had instilled in me the value of working hard and seeing tasks through to the end. They taught me also, how to revere Holy objects as items meant for the use of  worshipping God, to respect Jesus in the Eucharist, and value and importance of the Sacrament of  Reconciliation. They taught me that Jesus loves me and that He is God. I was taught he Catechism from dedicated women who love Jesus and live their lives to serve Him. Their teaching has stayed with me always. These were special times for me.

Across the road in front of the Colosseum.

I found out that both novitiates at seminarians study in Rome. They attend colleges together. For some reason I just assumed they would study separately. Always wondered where nuns get their sensible shoes from.

The apartment we stayed in was just behind the Pantheon, smack bang  in the middle of  the shops where nuns priests and religious, purchase their finery. I learned too that our Papa’s tailor is to be found behind these shop doors! There are designated stores for the sale of ceboria, chalices, statues, albs, etc, etc. Just beautiful items to peruse. (More about these later.)

By the look of these clothes, they seem different, ‘set apart’, meant for a special purpose. Like those used by nurses. All that’s missing is a nun with an exemplary posture, wearing a veil.

I never realised just how many Orders of nuns there are. I saw a vast array of coloured habits, even a  lilac one! So much I still need to learn about and investigate.

I have to mention that we the nuns we came into contact with were all between the ages of eighteen and thirty five. This is so encouraging, when all you hear about in the secular press is about the decline in numbers of priests and nuns in the Catholic Tradition.

On the bus.

A longer veil.

Coming from England, it was refreshing to feel at one with the Catholic Religious culture on display. I still retain respect for nuns. Even more so as an adult Christian. I long to feel the peace that they radiate.

A Prayer to Mary for Our Nuns

(I found this prayer here)

     Oh Mary —Queen, Spouse, and Mother of God— we ask you to intercede with God for one of the Earth’s most valuable and needed resources, our nuns.

     May their contemplative prayer be a source of power and energy which leads the entire world to better see the face of God.

     May their service be cheerful, effective, rewarding, and Christ-like, because He has entrusted to their care His sick, His poor, His troubled brothers and sisters, and His children.

     May their purity and their burning love for Jesus give them unspeakable joy and ignite that same love in our hearts.

     May their detachment from material things and their attachment to the divine King and His Kingdom shower both them and us with eternal riches.

     May their obedience and fidelity to the Church and to God’s will give them strength, courage, peace, and contentment, and be an inspiration for all of us.

     In short, may they be perfect brides of Christ —and more and more like you.

Amen.

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