"In this Sacrament of healing, we are reconciled to God and the Church." (CCC 1420-1498)
Sins committed after Baptism are forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as Confession or Penance). Reconciliation is one of the sacraments of healing. In the Sacrament or Reconciliation, the penitent (one seeking forgiveness) meets one on one with a priest to confess their sin(s). With sincere contrition and intent to not sin again, they receive formal absolution and often pastoral encouragement concerning the Christian struggle with sin.
Is there a Scriptural Basis for Confession?
After his Resurrection, Jesus told the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23). The Letter of James says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (Jam 5:16). Jesus saw his ministry as that of reconciling the sinner with God. The statement “your sins are forgiven” was spoken by Him over and over again. Through the sacraments, the Church continues Christ’s ministry, including his work of forgiving sinners.
Can't I pray to God and simply ask for forgiveness?
Sin is multi-dimensional. Sin affects the relationship between the sinner and God. It also affects the relationship between the sinner and the person to whom the sin was directed. Also affected is the reputation of the Christian community in which the sinner is a member. Their sin reflects on the entire community.
Confessing to a priest provides several benefits. When absolution is given the sinner is assured that the sin is forgiven by God. The Priest is an official representative of the Church. As such he can forgive the sin on behalf of the Christian Community, the Church. The priest is often the only person to whom the sinner can talk with to get advice on how to break the grip of sin in their life and to reconcile with one to whom the sin is against. As a representative both of God and of the community, the priest reconciles the sinner both to God and to the Church.
If I tell a priest about my sins can he tell anyone else?
No. Priests are sworn to uphold the seal of the confessional. They are not allowed to break this seal for any reason. There are no exceptions to this. "A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See." (Canon Law 1388.1)
It's been a long time since my last confession and I've forgotten how. How much or what do I confess?
Rejoice in your desire to participate in the sacrament. It is a grace-filled moment. Do not worry. The priest will be happy to help you. There is no shame in asking for help. There are many websites and smartphone apps that include an examination of conscience and a guide for going to confession. Simply search for “Guide to confession.”
When is the Sacrament of Reconciliation offered?
Thursdays • 5:00-6:00 PM
Saturdays • 4:00-4:45 PM
I want to go to confession, but I cannot make it at those times. What should I do?
If you cannot make it to our regularly scheduled confession time or would like more time to talk to the priest, you can call them to set up an appointment for confession. If you visit https://www.archstl.org/find-mass-times, you can search for confession times throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis.