Catholicism - Now I Get It!


Study Guide to CHAPTER 4:    "Now I Get . . . Confession"




Confession is officially known as the Sacrament of Penance and is sometimes called Reconciliation. What aspect of the Sacrament do each of these terms call to mind?

What powerful thing did Jesus do just before bestowing on his Apostles the awesome authority and power to forgive sins? (Hint: See John 20:22)

In the New Testament, which Apostle tells us that Jesus entrusted  the ministry of reconciliation to the Church?

In what sacrament is a Christian’s sins forgiven for the very first time?

According to 1 John 5:16, does more than one level of sin exist?

The Church only requires us to confess mortal sins, but we also receive great spiritual benefits by confessing venial sins. What are some of the benefits?


Suggestions for further reading

Confession – Its Fruitful Practice: With an Examination of Conscience by Benedictine Sisters of Adoration

Confession – A Little Book for the Reluctant by Msgr. Louis Gaston de Segur


Helpful articles from the online Catholic Encyclopedia

The Sacrament of Penance

Examination of Conscience


Imperfect Contrition  


Helpful Websites  (Penance Quiz) (How to Make a Good Confession) (What to do in the Confession booth) (An Act of Contrition) (Catechism on the Sacrament of Penance) (St. Thomas Aquinas on the Sacrament of Penance) (Sacrament of Penance in the Early Church) (Can a Non-Catholic Go to Confession?) (Doing Penance) (More Church Fathers) (More Resources on Confession) (Why Go to Confession)



What does the Bible say about Confession?

John 20:22-23   And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

2 Cor 5:17-20   Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

James 5:16   Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.



St. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (c. 250 AD) Of how much greater faith and salutary fear are they who...confess their sins to the priests of God  in a straightforward manner and in sorrow, making an open declaration of conscience....Indeed, he but sins the more if, thinking that God is like man, he believes that he can escape the punishment of his crime by not openly admitting his crime....I beseech you, brethren, let everyone who has sinned confess his sin  while he is still in this world, while his confession is still admissible,  while the satisfaction and remission made through the priest are still pleasing before the Lord. (The Lapsed 28)

St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (c. 387 AD) Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: "Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed" [Matt 18:18]. Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? “Whose sins you shall forgive," he says, "they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" [John 20:23]. What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [cf. Matt 9:8; 10:40; John 20:21]. (The Priesthood 3:5)

St. AUGUSTINE (c. 395 AD)  When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted....But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out....In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance. (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15; 8:16).

Additional Early Church quotes on Confession are listed at:



1. There are many beautiful Act of Contrition prayers. Why not take the time to familiarize yourself with one of them and recite it nightly after a prayerful examination of conscience.  Here is one Act of Contrition for starters

2. Fitting Confession into our busy lives take pre-planning. Check the parish Confession schedule well in advance, and make a note of it on your calendar. If your home parish does not offer times when you are available, check the Confession schedule at a neighboring parish. Confession schedules at most churches are listed with

3. Come up with a plan. If a sin is an ongoing problem for us, we must devise concrete ways to avoid it. How can we avoid the near occasions of sin? If we must spend time in a location or with a group of people that has contributed to our sinning in the past, pray intensely beforehand. Figure out an exit plan. If we are tempted to gossip, leave the room. Change the subject. Stuff our mouths with food. Do anything but sin. When we hurt others by deed or word, we offend the Lord and add to His Cross.

4. Upon leaving the Confession booth, thank God for his great mercy. We are forgiven for everything. We don’t deserve it.


Act of Contrition  (best so say each night before going to bed)

    O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.



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