Reconciliation: A Short Guide

Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. (Pope Francis) 

Download this guide as a PDF brochure

 What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation (officially called the Sacrament of Penance, and also known as Confession) is a Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ in his love and mercy to offer us forgiveness for the times we have sinned and turned away from God. At the same time, we are reconciled with the Church because it is also wounded by our sins.

Every time we sin, we hurt ourselves, other people and God. In Reconciliation, we acknowledge our sins before God and the Church. We express our sorrow in a meaningful way, receive the forgiveness of Christ and his Church, make reparation for what we have done, and resolve to do better in the future. 


The forgiveness of sins involves four parts:

  • Contrition: A sincere sorrow for having offended God, and a firm resolve not to repeat our sin.

  • Confession: Confronting our sins in a profound way to God by speaking them aloud to the priest.

  • Penance: An important part of our healing is the penance the priest gives us in reparation for our sins.

  • Absolution: The priest speaks the words by which we are reconciled to God and are absolved from our sins. 


How to Prepare for Reconciliation

We should begin with prayer, placing ourselves in the presence of our loving God.

We then review our lives since our last confession, searching our thoughts, words and actions for that
which did not conform to God’s command to love God and one another. This is called an examination of conscience. Some guided questions which may assist are below, based on the Ten Commandments.

Following the examination of conscience, tell God how truly sorry you are for your sins, and make a firm resolution not to sin again.


Examination of Conscience

  • Have I prayed to God and thanked God for the gifts I have received?
  • Have I used God's name inappropriately?
  • Have I participated at Mass on Sundays?
  • Have I shown respect for my parents?
  • Was I violent or aggressive (physically, verbally, psychologically) with anyone?
  • Was I prideful, stubborn, or rude with anyone? Was I disrespectful?
  • Did I hold a grudge? Did I refuse to forgive? Did I seek revenge?
  • Did I engage in impure thoughts or actions?
  • Have I acted in ways that promote life in all its stages?
  • Have I been faithful to my spouse?
  • Did I steal or damage another's property?
  • Have I been honest and just in my dealings with people and in business relations?
  • Have I been responsive to the needs of the poor and marginalised? Have I respected the dignity of others?
  • Have I respected God’s creation?
  • Did I engage in gossip? Did I lie? Did I speak badly of others? Did I judge anyone unfairly?
  • Did I envy anyone? Was I jealous of others or of their belongings? 


Rite of Reconciliation – What to do

1. Priest gives a blessing or greeting.

2. Make the Sign of the Cross and say “Bless me father, for I have sinned. My last confession was…” (Give weeks, months, years).

3. Confess all your sins to the priest. (If you are unsure or uneasy, the priest will guide you.)

4. The priest assigns a penance and offers advice to help you be a better Catholic.

5. Say an Act of Contrition, expressing your sorrow for your sins.

6. The priest, acting in the person of Christ, then absolves you from your sins.

Act of Contrition

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.

Hear these words again, spoken directly to you:

God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  

After the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Rejoice! You have received the forgiveness of Christ! What should you do when you leave? Remember the words you recited in the Act of Contrition to do your best, with God's help, to not sin again.

Before you leave the confessional, the priest will give you your penance, which may consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy or sacrifices. These works help to join us with Christ, who alone died for us. The goal of our life’s journey is to grow closer to God. We can do this through prayer, spiritual reading, fasting and the reception of the Sacraments. 


“When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”
- Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 3

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001

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