The Sacrament of Reconciliation is more commonly known as “Confession” while a few know it as “Penance.” While Confession and Penance are both parts of the Sacrament, they are not the whole Sacrament. The Sacrament begins with a confession of sins. Yet, we should ask ourselves why we are confessing our sins. Doesn’t God already know what I’ve done? Yes, God does but we are called to confess our sins aloud in order to admit that we realize that we have sinned and are in need of God’s forgiveness. Some ask why confess my sins to a human priest. Can’t I just confess directly to God? Again, our willingness to confess our sins out loud to a priest is a sign of our admitting our wrongdoing. Likewise, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are asked to complete a ‘penance’ to show our willingness to acceptance ‘punishment” for our sins so that we can be forgiven.
So, why is this sacrament now known as “The Sacrament of Reconciliation?” Sin damages and/or breaks our relationship with God depending on the severity of the sin. By coming to the Sacrament we profess our desire to have our relationship with God reconciled and that is why we call it the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As such, this Sacrament is really underutilized. Years ago people would go to confession monthly, if not weekly. There was mentality of “Catholic Guilt” that seemed to say ‘well I must have done something wrong so I better go to confession. After the Second Vatican Council, people realized they didn’t have to go to Confession without knowing they had done something wrong. Unfortunately, many people went from going weekly or monthly to not going at all. We have lost a sense of sin. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a great gift. Let us use the gift wisely, counting on God’s mercy and compassion.
We follow a similar model of preparation for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist. In mid-August, we begin the registration process for all children who will be making one of their Sacraments during the following school year. Registration forms are mailed out to families, and parent meetings happen in September. The Sacramental Preparation process is outlined at these parent meetings. Monthly preparation sessions happen in October & November. A mini-retreat and rehearsal happen in early December and are followed by the celebration of the Sacrament.
For children who are Baptized, it is the policy of the Diocese of Rochester that First Reconciliation precedes First Eucharist. Children may prepare for BOTH Sacraments in the same year.
Select the image or use this link to open a Parent Guide for First Penance from the Diocese of Rochester. The guide will open in a new tab.
The Diocese of Rochester also offers answers to these Frequently Asked Questions.