The Sacrament of Penance, commonly called Confession, was instituted
by Jesus Christ himself. This institution occurred on Easter Sunday,
when Christ first appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection.
Breathing on them, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose
sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they
are retained” (John 20:22-23).
Catholics also believe that the sacraments are an outward sign of an
inward grace. In this case, the outward sign is the absolution, or
forgiveness of sins, that the priest grants to the penitent (the person
confessing sins); the inward grace is the reconciliation of the penitent to
God (which is why the sacrament is also sometimes called the Sacrament
of Reconciliation). The reconciling of man to God is the purpose of
Confession. When we sin, we deprive ourselves of God’s grace. And by
doing so, we make it even easier to sin some more. The only way out of
this downward cycle is to acknowledge our sins, to repent of them, and to
ask God’s forgiveness. Then, in the Sacrament of Confession, grace can
be restored to our souls, and we can once again resist sin.
All sin is an offense against God and a rejection of his perfect love and
justice. Yet, Jesus makes a distinction between two types of sins. We call
the most serious and grave sins, mortal sins. Mortal sins destroy the
grace of God in the heart of the sinner. The second type of sin, venial
sin, that of less grave matter, does not cut us off from Christ. However,
venial sin does weaken grace in the soul and damages our relationship
In order for a sin to be mortal, it must meet three conditions: (1)Mortal sin
is a sin of grave matter; (2) It is committed with full knowledge of the
sinner; and (3) It is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner. This
means that mortal sins cannot be committed “accidentally.” A person who
commits a mortal sin knows their sin is wrong but still deliberately
commits the sin anyway. These sins are “premeditated” and are thus
truly a rejection of God’s law and love.
The essential elements of the sacrament of reconciliation are the act of
the penitent who comes to repentance and the absolution of the priest,
who in the name of Christ, grants forgiveness and determines the ways
of making satisfaction.
Communal Penance Services – There are usually two Communal
Penance Services at St. Stephen: one during Advent and one during
Lent. Other neighboring parishes also provide communal penance
Additional Penance Information