Our frail human nature suffers many different types of breakdowns; some are physical in nature, but many more are breakdowns in our relationships with God and others. These breakdowns in our relationships, all of which involve a turning away from God, are called sin and require recognition of the fault and some process of restoring the relationship with whomever was wronged. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that sins are evaluated according to their gravity. Sins may either be mortal or venial, as is evident in Scripture. Mortal sin involves a grave violation of God's law. Venial sin involves a lesser violation that nonetheless offends charity in the heart of man. (CCC, 1854)
We refer here to Reconciliation, but the sacrament has many names. Understanding the various names helps in our understanding of the tremendous benefits that this sacrament brings to those who open their hearts to receive it.
It is called the Sacrament of Conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin. It is called the Sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. It is called the Sacrament of Confession since the disclosure or confession of sins is an essential element of this Sacrament. In a profound sense, it is also a "confession"—acknowledgment and praise—of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man. It is called the Sacrament of Forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution, God grants the penitent "pardon and peace." It is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go, first be reconciled to your brother." (CCC,1423-24, citing Mt 5:24)
The Church reminds us that sins are not only personal but also communal in nature. Thus, this sacrament is at once individual and communal and is celebrated in both forms for the benefit of the person and the community. This rite provides a deeper sense of God’s love and mercy that acknowledges our desire for forgiveness and reconciliation with those whom we have harmed. It is through this action that we renew ourselves and continue our journey of conversion and commitment to living the Gospel message. "The whole power of the sacrament ... consists in restoring us to God's grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1468)
The Church recommends frequent confession of sins, even venial sins, because this helps us to form our consciences, fight agains evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. (CCC, 1458) The best way to prepare yourself to receive the sacrament is to make an examination of conscience in the Light of the Word of God. "The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and apostolic teaching." (CCC, 1454)
For a guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, click here.
St. Matthew's offers confession Monday through Friday during the week from 11am until Noon, on Saturdays from 4pm until 5pm and during our monthly Eucharistic Holy Hours (the third Monday of each month). To make an appointment for confession with a priest, call the rectory (202.347.3215).
The season of Lent is a special time when we are reminded of our call to conversion. During Lent, it is traditional for Catholics to participate in this sacrament through personal confession and reconciliation, either individually or as part of a communal service of reconciliation in which the sacrament is individually administered. St. Matthew's holds a Lenten Communal Penance Service, Come Home for Easter (Vuelve a Casa para Pascua), each year during Holy Week featuring a brief service followed by the opportunity for individual confession with any of twenty priest confessors, including foreign-language confessors. During Lent, watch St. Matthew's weekly bulletin or this website for more information on the Lenten Communal Penance Service.
Advent is another season during which the faithful are called to prepare for the celebration of Christ's coming by participating in this sacrament. Join us each Advent for Come Home for Christmas, our Advent Communal Penance Service, and reconcile with God as you prepare your heart to receive Jesus Christ!