Saturday 9.30 am at St Thomas Aquinas Church, Bowral
Though we often think of the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation) as a highly individualised and private sacrament, we must not forget its communal dimensions. In this sacrament, we are not only reconciling ourselves with God, but also reconciling ourselves with our community and the Church as a whole. Every time we sin, we distance ourselves from God and our neighbour. We may not have sinned against this particular person, but when our relationship with God is broken, our relationships with others suffer since we no longer have God as our guiding light. The sacrament helps us renew our lives to be witnesses of the Good News of Christ, and build us up as members of the body of Christ.
HOW DO I GO TO CONFESSION / RECONCILIATION?
For starters, don’t worry about the words!! You can be as formal or as casual as you like. It doesn’t matter whether it’s been 3 months or 30 years since you have been, the priest will help you through the process. Here is a simple structure.
You should take some time to Examine Your Conscience (examples are provided below)
You can either kneel behind the screen to protect your anonymity or sit facing the priest;
Start with the sign of the cross as it is always an indication that you are ready. Cordial greetings are welcome, but not required;
If you feel comfortable with a formula you could say “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been …….. since my last confession and my sins are …………………..;
Whether or not you use a formula, start by saying how long it has been since you last attended the sacrament ;
Then, in your own words, tell God what you are asking forgiveness for. Here, you need to be fairly specific – not general “I’ve sinned in many ways, for these I’m sorry (for help please refer to the Examination of Conscience.);
Indicate to the priest when you have completed your confession;
The priest may then offer some words of encouragement and advice about how to tackle the issues you mentioned. (Remember, the sacrament is not a counselling session, it is all about God’s mercy and forgiveness and ongoing love for us in our struggle with human weakness).
When the priest has finished, he will give you a penance. This is usually in the form of a well-known prayer or scripture reading or possibly some action which relations to your confession;
Then you recite the Act of Contrition. There are many versions of this and while you can use your own words, I think it’s a good idea to have a particular one up your sleeve. The one I learnt at school and which children still recite is:
“O my God I am very sorry that I have
sinned against you, because you are
so good and with your help I will not sin again.”
If you choose to use your own words, they must contain your acknowledgement of sin and your intention not to sin again.
When the act of Contrition is completed, the priest will extend his hand and pray the prayer of absolution finishing with the blessing of the sign of the cross. This beautiful prayer is to be heard by the penitent in full.
That’s it!! The priest may offer a formal dismissal or just say Goodbye!
EXAMINATON OF CONCIENCE FOR ADULTS
Here are some thoughts that you may find helpful to examine your conscience.
BASED ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
Have I treated people, events, or things as more important than God?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church, or people?
Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Do I go to Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation (Jan. 1; the Ascension; Aug. 15; Nov. 1; Dec. 8; Dec. 25)? Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship to God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body? Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?
Honor your father and your mother.
Do I show my parents due respect? Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents where possible? Do I criticize them for lacking skills I think they should have?
You shall not kill.
Have I harmed another through physical, verbal, or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?
You shall not commit adultery.
Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself?
You shall not steal.
Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another?
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of another?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse.
Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
Am I content with my own means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?
BASED ON RELATIONSHIPS
My relationship with God:
Do I believe in God?/ Do I believe in a personal God?
Do I believe in a historical God who works with us today?
Do I ever simply "reflect:" or- "think" about God?
Do I think about God's purpose in creating the universe? In creating me?
Do I attempt to know more about God's revelation?
Do I believe that God's revelation is significant for me and the world? Am I ashamed to admit to "worldly people" that I am a man/woman of God.
Do I worship regularly? Do I sing and respond to the prayers of the Mass? Am I neighborly and courteous, unrushed and politely behaved?
Is Holy Eucharist a true encounter with Jesus, or simply a weekly ritual snack? Do I give my children an enthusiastic example about worship?
Is my spiritual life reserved to one hour on Sunday?
Do I take advantage of other services (daily Mass, home Mass, prayer group, devotions, etc.)?
Do I take time each day to pray? Do JI invite my family and co-workers to pray with me? Am I embarrassed to pray with others?
My relationship with others
Do I work as hard at my marriage as I do with my business?
Is my spouse my best friend, or am I living out the ghost of a past relationship?
Am I courageous enough to admit when I (or we) might need counseling to save or improve our marriage?
Am I a good person to live with. Am I courteous, helpful, gentle, sincere, understand? Do I remember birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions, romantic times, etc.?
Am I a good parent? Do I understand that discipline is a genuine form of love? Am I guilty of buying my children's affections, or substituting gifts for my own presence?
Do I listen to my children, take them seriously? Do I follow their progress closely in school, meet with teachers, encouraging them to be ready to move successfully out of the nest?
Am I a good worker? Do I give my best to the job?
Do I believe that quality enhances my personal worth before God, even if no one else sees what I do?
Am I honest? Do I award myself little "perks" against company policy?
If I am supervisory, do I strive to create an atmosphere that is both productive and constructive? Can I be frank and helpful to those under me?
Am I constantly working my own professional advancement and that of my employees?
Am I keeping abreast in my field? Do I pay my taxes? Do I provide sufficient benefits for my workers? Am I adequately insured and protected in the areas of health, life insurance, old age and home ownership?
Am I solicitous for my parents and grandparents? Do I remember all of my elderly relatives?
Conversely, do I butt out of the affairs of my married children and grandchildren unless I am specifically consulted?
Am I concerned about the quality of life in my community? Do I observe local laws? (zoning, air quality, etc.)
Am I concerned and outspoken about my local schools, police, human services, etc.?
Do I attempt to understand the insidiousness of racial problems? Do I too easily excuse myself from concern for the “truly needy?”
Am I concerned about universal problems like arms control, pollution, warfare, unemployment, etc.? Am reading and constantly learning about these subjects?
My relationship with myself
Do I live a well-ordered, healthy life? Do I eat well nutritionally, rest and exercise? Do I periodically see my physician?
Do I take vacations, broaden my experience and enrich my leisure through the arts, etc.?
Am I addicted to mindless forms of entertainment, like hours and hours of daily TV?
Are the uses of tobacco alcohol, drugs, food, etc. out of proportion with the rest of my life?
Am I careful about myself that I would reach out for help if I needed it?
Do I see my life as my greatest gift, and try to live each day to the fullest?