The Sacrament of Reconciliation


La confessione, Molteni Giuseppe, Fondazione Cariplo (1838), license

God loves us and wants for us to be with Him in Heaven. But, to do so, we must be friends with God. When we sin, we lose friendship with God (see “Sin“). Therefore, we must reconcile ourselves to God before we can one day be with Him in Heaven.

To reconcile ourselves to God, we must obtain His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

This Sacrament is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation because we are reconciling ourselves with God and the Church; it is also called the Sacrament of Confession because we are confessing our sins to God; and also the Sacrament of Penance because we are sorry for our sins.

The Church requires that we attend confession at least once a year. The saints recommend at least once a month. You are required to go to confession immediately if you have committed a mortal sin. You are not required to go to confession if you have committed a venial sin. You can learn more about sin, here.

The Examination of Conscience

A Tronie Of An An Old Man At Prayer, Jacques Des Rousseaux (1632), license

Before we can go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and seek God’s forgiveness of our sins, we must first identify our sins through a process called the Examination of Conscience.

It is a process by which we evaluate our thoughts, words and actions based on the Commandments, Beatitudes and the teachings of Christ.

To conduct the Examination of Conscience, please visit this page.


Check with your parish when the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered. Often times, on the schedule, it is called “Confession.” Usually, the sacrament is offered:

  • One day during the week
  • On a Saturday afternoon before Saturday Vigil Mass; and
  • Sometimes before each Mass on Sunday

You can also contact the office to book a separate appointment with a priest. Feel free to contact any parish office to book your confession if you need one immediately. You may even ask a priest who is passing you by if he can hear your confession. Some priests are happy to oblige.

Confession is heard either in the confessional or the office. The confessional is a dedicated room designed for the Sacrament. It is composed of:

  • A seat for the priest
  • A seat and kneeler for you
  • A mesh screen divider to provide some anonymity
  • A crucifix to remind you of God’s infinite love for you

Outside a parish, confession can be heard anywhere as long as there is some privacy for you and the priest.

Before your confession

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Leonello Spada (1600s)

Trust in God’s mercy. God loves you. God wants for you to be with Him forever.

If you have gone to confession with a contrite heart and with a deep love for God, God has forgiven you. God will forgive every sin as long as you have a contrite heart. Have no fear.

If you forget to confess a sin, God will still forgive you of that sin. There is no reason to panic. When you come back to confession, you must confess the sin you forgot to confess.


  1. Begin by saying, “Father, forgive me, it has been {indicate the number of days, months, years} since my last confession.”
  2. Confess your sins to God before the priest. Include the sin and the number of times the sin was committed since your last confession.
    1. For sins of sexual impurity, you are allowed to say, “Father, I have been impure with myself” or “I had an impure relationship with …”. The priest will understand what you are trying to say.
    2. Do not withhold any sin. If you do not confess all your sins, your confession is invalid and you have not been forgiven or reconciled. Do not be afraid. The priest has heard every sin imaginable. Your sins, even if he knows you, will not surprise him nor change his view of you.
    3. Do not make up sins. This also makes the sacrament invalid.
    4. Do not justify your sins. You are not confessing other peoples sins, only your own.
  3. The priest will not say much as he listens to your confession. This is normal. He is not judging you. He is listening to you.
  4. The priest, in wanting you to become more holy today than before, will give you advice to help you overcome the sinful tendencies you are struggling with.
  5. The priest will give you penances you must complete after the Sacrament of Reconciliation. These penances can include prayers and acts of charity.
  6. The priest may give you an opportunity to recite the Act of Contrition.
  7. The priest will then say, explicitly, that you have been absolved from your sins. In other words, to God, your sins have been thrown into the depths of the ocean and eternally pardoned.

After your confession

San Antonio Abad, Francisco de Zurbarán (1664)

After the sacrament, you must execute the penances assigned to you by the priest. Also, make sure to thank God for His mercy since you are now reconciled to God and His Church.