The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a conversion of heart away from sin and toward God. It begins with remorse for having offended God and entails both a change in one’s life and a determination to avoid the further occasion of sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1427-33).
The sacrament consists of four parts or acts of the penitent:
- Contrition: In order to be forgiven, we need to have sorrow for our sins. This means turning away from evil and turning to God. It also includes determination to avoid such sins in the future (USCCA, 265).
- Confession: For there to be true repentance, the words of remorse must be spoken aloud. Confession is the baring of the soul, the humble prostration before the Father who runs to meet the repentant sinner, and welcomes with embracing love (Liturgy Documents Vol. 2, 160).
- Act of Penance: Consists of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, and/or sacrifices. Such pennies help become co-heirs with the risen Christ. (Liturgy Documents Vol. 2, 160).
- Absolution: The penitent is invited to express sorrow, in one’s own words or from a choice of prayers. With the imposition of hands, the priest’s absolution completes the sacrament by being a visible sign of God’s mercy and pardon to the repentant sinner, a sign made in, by, and through the Church.