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Guidelines For The Sacrament Of Reconciliation 2017-05-03T15:22:36+00:00

Sacrament Preparation

Guidelines For The Sacrament Of Reconciliation

Revised December 1999

Table of Contents:


Introductory Letter

December 21, 1999

Dear Co-workers:

As we enter into another year and a new century, we have been asked by our Holy Father to celebrate it as a special time of reconciliation. Thus it is appropriate that the attached Guidelines for the Sacrament of Reconciliation be implemented for our diocese. The work of developing these guidelines began in September of 1999, and they are the culmination of this process. On December 9, 1999 the College of Consultors recommended that the Guidelines for the Sacrament of Reconciliation be implemented.

Although young children are usually the candidates for this sacrament, much of the curriculum in these guidelines is directed towards adults. Children follow the example of their parents, and it is hoped that you will be able to use the material included here to help parents to deeper their understanding and appreciation of the gift and importance of this beautiful sacrament. Doing so can only foster the celebration of this sacrament by parents and their children.

The implementation of these guidelines can only strengthen the sacramental preparation programs of our parishes and missions. But, more importantly, they will enable the next generation of the Church in Southeast Texas to grow in relationship with Jesus, knowledge of the Catholic faith, and to be better able to celebrate and live the mercy and forgiveness of God.

May God continue to bless and guide you and may Mary assist you in coming to know, love, and live her Son, Jesus.


Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, D.D., J.C.D.

Administrator of the Diocese of Beaumont



Guidelines For The Sacrament Of Reconciliation

Office of Evangelization and Catechesis
Diocese of Beaumont

Effective December 21, 1999

Approved For Implementation In The Diocese Of Beaumont

December 21, 1999
Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, D.D., J.C.D.
Coadjutor Bishop Designate of Dallas
Diocesan Administrator of Beaumont


These guidelines provide parishes with a strong curriculum of catechesis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation for both parents and children, and suggest a variety of models to use. While the goal is to deepen our peoples’ understanding and encourage more frequent celebration of this important sacrament, it is understood that each pastor will have to apply them to his particular parish and to those families whose children come forth seeking to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time.

I want to thank the following members of the committee for their faithful attendance and hard work at the meetings to develop these guidelines:

  • Sr. Lauren Beck, CVI
    Saint Mary, Orange
  • Deborah Scalf
    Saint Elizabeth, Port Neches
  • Rev. T. R. Blanco, OSA
    Our Lady of Guadalupe
  • Rev. Paul Sumler
    Infant Jesus, Lumberton
  • Denise Broussard
    Saint Mary, Fannett
  • Reverend Monsignor Dan Malain
    Saint Charles Borromeo, Nederland
  • Gina Harris
    Saint Pius X, Beaumont
  • Peggy Micko
    Saint Jude Thaddeus, Beaumont
  • Debbie Williamson
    Saint Anne, Beaumont
  • Dr. Lorraine S. DeLuca, Director
    Office of Evangelization and Catechesis

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Reconciliation, one of the sacraments of healing, is the means through which the Church continues Jesus’ work of salvation. It is a sacrament of continual conversion, by which we obtain God’s mercy for the offenses committed against God, and at the same time, are reconciled with the Church which we wound by our sins. (CCC, 1422)

Goals of Preparation for First Reconciliation:

  1. To provide parents with an updating on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Rite of Reconciliation. (See Curriculum for Parents, pages 2 -9)

  2. To provide catechesis for children based on the above understanding of Reconciliation, and also an understanding of the Rite of Reconciliation. (See Curriculum for Children, pages 10-11)

  3. To engage parents in the process of preparing their child for this sacrament.

Requirements for Participation in Reconciliation Preparation:

  1. Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation takes place prior to preparation for Eucharist.

  2. The person has reached the age of discretion. (Cans. 97.2, 988 and 989)

  3. The person has completed at least one year of catechesis in either a parish Religious Education Program or Catholic School.

  4. The family is registered as members of the parish. If unregistered, registration occurs at the time of Catechesis for Parents (for territorial parishes).

  5. Preparation takes place in the parish in which the family is a member.

  6. Sacramental preparation is separate from and in addition to the regular religious formation/education that occurs in school or parish programs.

Requirements for Reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

  1. Candidate has been baptized.

  2. Candidate is able to understand the nature of sin, by being able to distinguish the difference between sin and an accident.

  3. Because of the differences in when a person reaches the “age of discretion,” in the case where a candidate cannot make this distinction, reception of the sacrament is delayed for a short period of time, until that distinction can be made.

Celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

First reception of the sacrament takes place in the parish in which the family is a member.


  1. Parents or guardians

  2. Candidates

  3. Lay Catechists

  4. Priest / Deacon

Catechesis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Curriculum for Parents

The times of sacramental preparation usually “teachable moments” for parents as well as for their children. They are opportune times to update parents concerning the Church’s teaching about the sacraments. The reason for holding Parent Sessions is to aid parents in developing an adult understanding of the place of sacraments in their lives, and hopefully, this will encourage more frequent reception on the part of those who may not have been connected with the Church.

The curriculum for catechesis of parents (below) is divided into several parts accompanied by sample questions. You are invited to develop other questions. The doctrinal elements are referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the paragraph numbers are noted in parentheses.

  1. Definition and Meaning of Sacrament

    1. The Sacraments as Mysteries (1066-1068, 1076, 1104)

      1. Sacraments are mysteries, signs, celebrations of our life with God, and how God touches our life at special times.

      2. Sacraments are means and mysteries of SALVATION. (1127-1130)

        1. of God’s saving action in and for the world

        2. of God’s saving action in and for each of us

        3. of God’s saving action in and through Jesus

        4. of God’s saving action in and through God’s community of the believing faithful — the Body of Christ — the Church

      3. Sacraments are mysteries because we experience but cannot fully explain in a real and tangible way how:

        1. God touches us and saves us through the sacraments

        2. God of the universe and all creation, the Triune God who sent the Son to show us how to respond to God and others in love, the God who sent the Spirit to guide us in our mission, how this God can break into our lives and become part of the very fabric of our lives, giving it a depth and meaning that does not exist apart from God.

        3. God does this in a way that remains mysterious, but that also uses the very humanity of our lives.

    2. Traditional definition: “A sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace.” Sacraments as Signs of:

      1. Faith: (1122-1124, 1253)

        1. When we gather to celebrate sacraments, we are expressing the fact that the faith relationship we have with God is integral to our lives.

        2. We celebrate what already exists.

      2. Worship: (1119)

        1. When we gather to celebrate sacraments we join in Jesus’ worship of his Father. As Jesus gave praise to his father throughout his life, we are called to do the same, with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

        2. We begin every celebration with the sign of the cross.

      3. Unity of the Church: (1118, 1267-1271)

        1. The faith of the Church expressed through the sacraments is a faith which is passed on to its members.

        2. Sacraments are signs of our unity in faith.

        3. Sacraments are celebrated using the same Rite throughout the world.

        4. Sacraments are celebrated in community.

      4. Mission of Jesus and the Church: (1122)

        1. When we participate in the sacraments, we have the responsibility to go forth and bring to the world what we have received.

        2. When we have been strengthened, nourished, fed, forgiven, we are called to bring that experience to all we meet, thus proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom.

      5. Christ’s Presence: (1115, 1136, 1187)

        1. Every time a sacrament is celebrated, God’s saving action, which was and is brought about through Jesus, becomes visible and present.

        2. We recognize that Jesus is with us as we celebrate that the presence of God / Jesus / Holy Spirit is in our lives in a very tangible way.

    3. Sacraments as Instituted by Christ (1114, 1210)

      1. The church reflected upon Jesus’ life and actions and saw how totally Jesus’ life was a “sacrament” — a sign — of God’s love for us. It was visible in his healing, forgiveness of sin, feeding of the thousands, raising the dead to life.

      2. Jesus “instituted” the sacraments informally when he commanded us to do as he did — to be “Christ” in the world. He did not leave us with a formal system, but through the sacraments we formally celebrate his life and actions.

    4. Sacraments as Causes of Grace (1996-2011)

      1. Grace is our loving relationship with God, God’s life and love within us.

      2. Grace is the self-communication of God present to all people at all times — God sharing God’s life with us.

      3. Grace is a free gift of God that we freely accept through faith.

      4. Sacraments are celebrations or “channels” of God-with-us in a special way, the source of “sacramental grace”.

      5. Reason for grace —  that God’s presence may have an effect on:

        1. Our life as individuals

        2. Our life as community – the Church

        That we as individuals, and the Church as a community may complete the mission of Jesus, which is to continue to make God’s presence known in the world today — by the way we live, act, love.

    • Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
      1. Which of the understandings of the sacraments is the most important to you, and why?

        The Sacraments as Signs of:

        1. Faith – Sacraments celebrate the faith that is already an important part of one’s life.

        2. Worship – In celebrating the sacraments we worship the Father with and through the Son and the Spirit.

        3. Our Unity as Church – What is expressed in the sacraments is the faith of the Church, which is passed on to its members, and reflects our unity in faith.

        4. Mission of Jesus and the Church – When we participate in the sacraments, we have the responsibility to go forth and bring to the world what we have received, to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom.

        5. Christ’s Presence – Jesus is in the world to save, heal, and nourish us in our journey to the Father.

      2. What is the individual importance of sacraments?

      3. What is the communal importance of sacraments?

      4. Which aspect of the sacraments do you think is the most important – the individual or the communal?

  2. The Meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

    • Question for Reflection and Discussion:

      (The following question may be used to enable participants to reflect on their understanding of this sacrament at the beginning of this segment.)

      1. Which of the following best describes your thoughts concerning the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

        1. I find it to be a helpful part of my spiritual growth.
        2. I need the sacrament but I just don’t take the time to receive it.
        3. I don’t really know if I need it or not.
        4. I just never think about it.
        5. I am not sure I really understand the meaning of the sacrament.
        6. I really don’t need it in my life.
        7. None of the above
    1. Celebration of God’s love and forgiveness (1846-1848)

      1. Reconciliation is based in the Love of God, a love that is unconditional, everlasting, all embracing, a love that never stops whatever we do, regardless of how we respond or fail to respond to God, others, ourselves. See 1 John 4:8 (God is Love)

      2. Reconciliation as a process of responding to God and God’s call to return to God.

      3. Reconciliation is based is our need to receive forgiveness and be reconciled with God.

      4. Reconciliation celebrates God’s love and mercy, our recognition of this and willingness to accept it and to return to a loving relationship with God.

    2. Reconciliation as a process of conversion (1423, 1426-1430)

      1. God initiates this call to return, and each time we respond, we experience a process of conversion.

      2. Conversion is central to the sacrament of Reconciliation.

      3. The conversion process is:

        1. Continuous, life-long.

        2. Brought on when we recognize the difference between what our life is and what it should be.

        3. Metanoia, turning to God, responding to God’s call.

      4. Conversion leads to:

        1. Contrition, the desire to change and take steps to repent and to repair broken relationships.

        2. Confession, the telling and externalizing of what is within.

      5. Conversion is prior to telling; confession does not bring about conversion.

    3. Reconciliation as a Sacrament of Healing (817, 953, 1420-1421, 1440-1449)

      1. Church’s view of this Sacrament stresses its healing aspect. This is shown by fact that the term “Reconciliation” is used today rather than terms “Penance” or “Confession”.

      2. Earlier terms put more stress on sin and forgiveness as an individual action and experience based on a God-me relationship.

        1. Confession – emphasis put on the telling of one’s sins to a priest.

        2. Penance – emphasis on doing something to make reparation of one’s sins.

        These are not incorrect understandings of the Sacrament, but the word Reconciliation encompasses these understandings and more.

      3. Reconciliation stresses restoration of a damaged or broken relationship with God, but also with the rest of God’s Church, with all those who make up the people of God, the Christian Community.

      4. With Baptism, we become members of the Church, which also begins our relationship the family of God.

      5. The role of priest is to be a sign of God’s mercy and love (1465), and represent the Christian community in reconciling the person with the Church. The prayer of Absolution expresses this idea:

        “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and 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.”

    • Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
      1. Which of the following best describes your view of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

        1. An important and helpful part of my faith journey.
        2. A fearful encounter that I avoid.
        3. An unnecessary part of the Catholic experience.
        4. A sacrament that I do not really understand.
        5. None of the above
      2. Which of the following identifies your experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

        1. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a comforting experience.
        2. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an obligation I perform as a Catholic.
        3. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a new beginning with God, self, and others.
        4. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a response to God’s call of love and forgiveness.
        5. None of the above
      3. Which of the following understandings of the Sacrament of Reconciliation do you most identify with?

        1. The Sacrament of Reconciliation as an experience of a celebration of God’s love and forgiveness.
        2. The Sacrament of Reconciliation as an opportunity for conversion (a lifelong process of reorienting and recommitting my lifestyle toward God).
        3. The Sacrament of Reconciliation as an experience of healing (restoration of a damaged or broken relationship).
        4. All of the above
        5. None of the above
  3. The Nature of Sin
    1. Definitions of sin (398, 415, 1440, 1487, 1849-1850)

      1. Sin is the weakening or breaking of a love relationship between a person and God.

      2. Any deliberate infidelity to the will of God.

    2. Scriptural understanding of sin

      1. There is no word in Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that denotes “sin”, but there are passages that describe sin as:

        1. “to miss the mark” – failure to attain a goal

        2. “rebellion”

        3. “breach of agreement or covenant”

      2. Understanding of sin today goes back to Hebrew understanding re: covenant

        1. Relationship used to discuss sin

        2. Free will enters into determining sinfulness of an action

      3. Christian Scriptures (New Testament) adds elements to these ideas — sin as:

        1. An act

        2. A state or condition (Paul & John)

        3. A power (Paul & John)

        Also adds the idea that Jesus is conqueror of sin.

      4. The condition that makes sin possible is Original Sin. (390, 397, 416, 417)

      5. Sins that reverse our fundamental option for God, are mortal sins.

      6. Sins that reflect poorly on our commitment to God, but which do not reverse our course toward God, are serious sins.

      7. Less serious sins are venial sins.

      8. Below these are imperfections.

    3. Sin as individual and communal (817, 845, 953, 1868-1869)

      1. Baptism begins a special relationship with God and the Christian Community, so sin must be talked about in the context of those relationships.

      2. There are two aspects to sin:

        1. Personal-individual aspect

        2. Communal aspect (1 Corinthians 12:12-22, 24-27)

    4. Sin as understood in the context of freedom and free will (1739, 1862, 1874)

      1. Only God’s freedom is unlimited – absolutely.

      2. We are not completely free — psychology teaches us that — but this does not mean we are never responsible for our actions.

      3. Freedom defined:

        1. “Freedom is … the relatively limited capacity to decide who we shall be.”

        2. “Freedom is … the fundamental capacity for making a choice to be someone, to be a particular kind of human being.”

        in relationship to — God, self, others.

    5. Sin as reflecting our “Fundamental Option”

      1. Our “Fundamental Option” is our orientation in life toward God. This determines how we act out of free will — based on the kind of person we are. God calls us and chooses to be in relationship with Godself, and we have the freedom to respond to that call.

      2. This orientation has to be judged by the totality of our lives:

        1. Do we or do we not choose to have a relationship with God?

        2. Do our attitudes and actions move us toward or away from God?

        3. If yes, do our actions show or not show this choice of responding to the gift of our relationship with God?

        4. The seriousness of a sin depends upon a person’s basic attitude or “fundamental option” in life, the basic stance a person continually takes towards life, their common way of thinking towards self or God, towards one’s will or God’s will.

        5. Our actions flow from and are signs of our fundamental option.

        6. We understand Venial, Serious, and Mortal Sin when we examine actions in light of this fundamental option / orientation.

    6. Venial Sin (1855, 1862-1863)

      1. A human act which is not fully human, not fully consistent with our fundamental orientation toward God.

      2. The focus is on action in Venial Sin, that it contradicts who we fundamentally are.

      3. Venial sin is a weakening of our relationship with God. Such sin can be very grave, but not “death-dealing” in terms of our relationship with God, self, and others. We can act in an unloving way while still maintaining a love relationship with God.

    7. Serious Sin (1854, 1858)

      1. The seriousness of a sin is determined by how much an action violates the Gospel and endangers our relationships with God, self, and others.

      2. Serious sins, as all sins, affect the whole community of the Church.

    8. Mortal Sin (1854-1856, 1861)

      1. Mortal means “death dealing”.

      2. Mortal sins reflect a complete break of one’s relationship with God.

      3. In terms of our fundamental option Mortal sins reflect a complete orientation of life away from God, taking a life stance that completely shuts God out.

      4. This can be the result of one or series of actions.

      5. Definition of Mortal Sin – fundamental option to seek one’s will and reject a love relationship with God.

      6. More proper to speak of being in a state of mortal sin, state of non-relationship with God.

      7. This usually denotes a chosen state rather than just the result of one action. One act can change a person’s whole direction of thought, but not often. Interior attitude of person important that results in not choosing God.

    9. Traditional conditions for judging a Mortal Sin (1857-1859)

      1. The action is sinful, wrong.

      2. The person knows it is sinful.

      3. The person consents to doing action and does it.

    10. Judging a Mortal Sin Today

      1. Mortal sin can be the result of one or a series of actions, but since the focus today is on Mortal Sin as a “state” rather than one action, one’s interior attitude is important.

      2. Today three questions add to the three conditions that bring in some subjective factors. We can now ask:

        1. How serious was the act I performed or failed to perform?

        2. What was my motive, as far as I can reasonably determine?

        3. What were the circumstances surrounding my decision to do what I did, and how did those circumstances affect my decision?

      3. These questions show that the understanding of sin is more complex today than the way it was previously viewed.

      4. This view recognizes that there are circumstances, addictions, dependencies, situations that affect us, but still we are responsible, for the most part, for our actions.

      5. We must measure ourselves by:

        1. The Ten Commandments

        2. The Beatitudes

        3. The Law of Love – Judging ourselves on how we follow Jesus’ words and actions in love of God, others, ourselves.

  4. Summary – The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Sin
    1. The Sacrament of Reconciliation

      1. Allows us to be healed.

      2. Restores our relationship with God and the Church.

      3. In preparing for Reconciliation, a good Examination of Conscience:

        1. Helps us confront our weakness and realize that we must rely on God and God’s grace to be restored to wholeness.

        2. Helps us to see the good aspects of our lives, and gives us the strength to develop our virtues, to grow closer to God.

      4. Today, Sacrament of Reconciliation celebrates:

        1. Healing.

        2. Restoration.

        3. Meeting God in a grace-filled moment, all possible because of the unbounded love and mercy of God, who constantly calls us back to Godself and God’s people.

      5. Reconciliation is a way to aid us in our struggle to be the person God wants us to be.

    • Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
      1. What have you heard in this presentation that affirms your understanding of sin?

      2. What have you heard in the presentation that is different and challenges your notion of sin?

      3. How can understanding the communal dimensions of sin and reconciliation affect a person’s attitude toward this sacrament?

      4. Which of the following best describes your understanding of the meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

        1. A time to confess your sins.
        2. A time to receive the love and forgiveness of God.
        3. A time to clear your conscience.
        4. A time to restore broken relationships with my relationships with God, self, and others.
        5. None of the above.
  5. The Rite of Reconciliation for Individuals

    1. Preparation to Receive the Sacrament

      1. The penitent prepares for Reconciliation by:

        1. An examination of conscience, which focuses on how one has failed to follow the example and teaching of Jesus.

        2. Recognizing and praying to God for forgiveness of one’s sins.

    2. Greeting and Welcoming

      1. The priest greets the penitent.

      2. The penitent begins with the sign of the cross. Celebration of this sacrament begins as all sacraments do, placing us in the presence of the Triune God.

      3. If unknown to the priest, it is proper for the penitent to share some information that will help the confessor, such as briefly indicating one’s state in life, and time of last confession.

    3. The Word of God

      1. Reading of the Word of God is meant to call the penitent to conversion through the recognition of one’s sins and the forgiveness and mercy of God.

      2. This may be done by confessor or penitent, or take place prior to celebration of the sacrament as part of the preparation by the penitent.

    4. Confession of Sins

      1. Confessing one’s sins facilitates reconciliation with God, self, and others.

      2. In confessing one’s sins to the priest, the penitent:

        1. Expresses that conversion of heart, interior conversion has occurred, and the desire and resolution to change ones’ life.

        2. Takes responsibility for one’s actions.

        3. Recognizes that those actions have harmed the Body of Christ and that reconciliation with the Church is needed.

    5. Act of Penance

      1. Penance is the opportunity to makes amends for, to “expiate” or “make satisfaction for” one’s sins.

      2. Penance consists of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service, or other action that is meant to help an individual configure oneself to Jesus, to restore the penitent to the person he or she became in Baptism, a son or daughter of God and co-heir with the risen Christ.

    6. Prayer of the Penitent

      1. Through the Act of Contrition, other prayer or scripture passage, the penitent expresses:

        1. Sorrow for one’s sin.

        2. The need for God’s pardon.

        3. The desire to change one’s life.

    7. Absolution

      1. With Absolution, the priest indicates that the sins of the penitent have been forgiven.

      2. The word “absolution” comes from the Latin “ab” – away from, and “solver” – to loosen. Absolution loosens one from sin so that one can walk away from sin and no longer be bound by it.

      3. The prayer or formula of absolution expresses:

        1. God is the source of all mercy and forgiveness.

        2. God reconciles sinners through the paschal Mystery of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

        3. Forgiveness, pardon, and peace come through the Church.

    8. Proclamation of Praise and Dismissal

      1. Freed from the power of sin, person expresses praise and thanksgiving to God.

      2. One goes forth to live a new life of freedom, bringing forgiveness and reconciliation to others.

    • Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
      1. As I understand the Sacrament of Reconciliation NOW, I see receiving this sacrament:

        1. as a gift rather than an obligation.
        2. as an obligation but necessary part of living my life as a Catholic.
        3. as a positive experience that helps my relationship with God, self, and others.
        4. I am not sure. I need further understanding.
        5. All of the above.
        6. None of the above.
      2. Why might the term “confession” or “penance”, often used to name the Sacrament of Reconciliation, be inadequate to describe the reality of what takes place in the reception of the sacrament?

(For additional material on the Historical Development of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, see the Appendix.)

Catechesis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Curriculum for Young Children (Grades 2-4)

  1. Through the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist), we become members of God’s family and members of the Catholic Church.

  2. The Sacrament of Reconciliation forgives sins committed after Baptism.

  3. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God offers us mercy, forgiveness, and peace.

  4. Sin is the choice we make to act in an unloving way against God, others, and self.

  5. By serious or “mortal” sin, we cut ourselves off from God’s grace and friendship. By venial, less serious sin, we hurt our relationship with God and others.

  6. The Great Commandment (Law of Love), Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, the life of Jesus, and the Precepts of the Church, tell us how to live and to love God and others.

  7. We examine our conscience, looking at those ways we have not lived as God wants us to live.

  8. When we are sorry for choosing to sin, God forgives us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  9. Reconciliation or being reconciled means “coming back into relationship” with God, others, and self.

  10. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest acts in the place of Jesus and the Church. When we confess our sins to the priest, he is bound by the seal of the confessional. This means he will never repeat what he is told during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  11. Overview and meaning of the Rite of Reconciliation for Individual Reception:

    1. Introductory Rites

      1. Greeting/Welcoming

      2. Sign of the Cross

      • The priest welcomes us in God’s name and in the name of the Church. We begin the celebration of this sacrament, as we begin all sacraments and prayers, with the Sign of the Cross.

    2. Celebration of the Word of God

      • We listen to the Word of God, a story from the Bible, which tells us about God’s love and forgiveness.

    3. Confession of Sins

      • We confess our sins to God by telling our sins to the priest.

    4. Receiving of Penance

      • The priest gives us a penance, which are prayers and action we do to make up for the harm our sins have caused. Our penance shows God we are sorry.

    5. Act of Contrition

      • Through the Prayer or Act of Contrition, we tell God we are sorry for our sins and say we want to try to do better.

    6. Absolution

      • The forgiveness we receive from God through the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

    7. Closing Prayer of Praise and Dismissal

      • Prayer that praises and thanks God because our sins have been forgiven in this wonderful sacrament. We go forth, at peace, knowing we are God’s friends.




Models for Parent Sessions

Below are different suggested formats for using the material contained in the Curriculum for Parents.

Two Session Model

This format would complete catechesis for parents over the period of a couple of months, at the same time the child is learning about the sacrament.

Session I

  • Definition and Meaning of Sacrament
  • The Meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Session II

  • The Nature of Sin
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Sin

Single Session Model

This format would complete catechesis for parents during a single session that could take place on a Saturday, during the same time the child is learning about the sacrament.


  • Definition and Meaning of Sacrament
  • The Meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Break for Lunch


  • The Nature of Sin
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Sin


A Family-Based Model

Either of the above Models can be used in conjunction with a Family-based model. In this model, parents receive a sacramental book and work with their child at home to prepare the child for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It is suggested that this take place in the first half of the year, to coincide with the material being covered during regular religious education classes either in the parish or school, with reception occurring at the beginning of December.

This model would consist of the following (with suggested times):

  • Parent Session(s)
    • at the beginning of the program (single session)
    • or September and October (two sessions)
  • Parents receive books
    • end of August or September
  • Books completed and returned
    • middle to end of November
  • Candidate Session
    • one week prior to reception, all the candidates are brought together for a mini-Retreat, either with or without parents

A Session/Retreat for Parents and Children

This is a special evening for parent(s) and the child who is receiving the sacrament. The goal is to provide an interactive experience for parents to assist their children in learning about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Elements of the Session/Retreat:

  1. Covered Dish Dinner

    • The room and tables are prepared for dining and help set the stage for the evening. If the Good Shepherd story has been used with the children, sheep can be used as a centerpiece on the tables. Candles would also be appropriate. Soft music is playing as people arrive.

    • Opening Prayer is used that asks God’s blessing on the evening as well as the food to be shared.

  2. Video and Discussion

    • When dinner is completed, parents/children watch a video together. A Child’s First Penance (Liguori) or Pardon and Peace Remembered (St. Anthony Messenger Press) would be appropriate, and the questions that accompany the video can be used.

    • Parents are given the questions for discussion before they watch the video, since this will help in the discussion.

    • After viewing, parent(s) and child discuss the video using the questions.

    • This section of the evening is concluded with some of the following questions, directed to the children:

      • What did you like about the video?

      • What did you learn about the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

    • Discuss with the parents how they can know their child is ready to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (when the child can understand the difference between sin and an accident). If they feel confident that their child:

      1. Is developing a personal relationship with God, and is aware of God as loving.

      2. Has some sense of sin, knows right from wrong, and can communicate his or her sense of wrongdoing as well as sorrow for sin.

      3. Understands that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a special way Catholics meet the forgiving Jesus through the mediation of the priest.

      4. Wants to receive the sacrament. Awareness of sin usually gives rise to a sense of need for forgiveness. Any child who is unwilling to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not ready to receive it, and should never be forced into it.

  3. Visit to the Church

    • During this part of the evening, parent(s) and child will go through the Church and find items listed on a paper, with a description for the parents to help them explain the item to the child. The items include the following:

      • Tabernacle
      • Sanctuary Lamp
      • Crucifix
      • Holy Water Font
      • Altar
      • Baptismal Font
      • Paschal Candle
      • Ambo
      • Holy Oils
      • Reconciliation Room / Confessional
    • Each child is given a crayon, and after finding each item, he or she fills in a letter at the bottom of the page, which spells out “God loves me”. When they reach the Reconciliation Room, the child is given the chance to sit down and be comfortable with the room.

    • After everyone has completed the assignment, all gather in the front of the church, and the evening concludes with a prayer.


Historical Development of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

(Additional Material for Parent Sessions)

  1. Reconciliation in the Early Church

    1. Historical development of this sacrament sheds light on today’s understanding of Reconciliation.

    2. Originally, early Church leaders did not understand the need for such a sacrament.

    3. Baptism was seen as the means of turning one’s life completely towards God. Through Baptism, a person was freed from a sinful past and reconciled with God.

    4. Thus, the committing of grave sins — i.e.: murder, adultery, apostasy (denying Jesus) — represented a rejection of Jesus and the ideals of community.

    5. Such actions meant a person was no longer part of Christian Community.

    6. Church leaders gradually realized that the committing of such affected the entire community, as well as an individual’s relationship with God and the community.

    7. Second Coming of Jesus did not occur; thus the Church had to deal with people who left community and then desired to be reinstated.

    8. These grave sins were very public sins, which necessitated public show of sorrow and desire to repent.

    9. Person was required to do public penance, fasting, prayer, but not done alone. Members of community joined in and participated. Often took a number of years before person rejoined community.

  2. Reconciliation – the Fourth Century

    1. Development of a more legalistic view concerning sin and penance. Stress not as much on relationship between person with community, and the person with God, but on the breaking of law.

    2. Understanding of Penance changed from conversion and change of heart, to a penalty for violating law.

  3. Reconciliation – the Seventh Century

    1. By the 600s, in Ireland, the practice developed among the monastic life, of personal confession to a person gifted in dealing with the issue of sin and spiritual direction.

    2. People began to go to monasteries to celebrate forgiveness, and receive sacrament in this way.

    3. This practice eventually spread when the monks traveled to Europe to proclaim the Gospel there.

    4. Those converted followed this way of receiving the sacrament.

  4. Reconciliation – the Eleventh Century

    1. Reconciliation was viewed in more personal terms than in the Early Church.

    2. Understanding of that period stressed:

      1. Person must make satisfaction for sins — do penance to make reparation.

      2. Person is required to confess their sins and number of times committed.

      3. Person must be truly contrite, should desire not to sin again, have a “conversion” or change of heart.

      4. Absolution is necessary by a priest.

  5. Reconciliation Today – in the Post Vatican Council II Church

    1. The Church today stresses the understanding of the early Church, the communal nature of sin, and forgiveness of, while not totally rejecting, what has developed through the centuries.

    2. Teaches that a person has a relationship with God and the people of God, the Church, and that both relationships are intertwined; they are not separate but dependent upon each other.

    3. Saint Paul uses this image of the Mystical Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13-22, 26-27) to discuss a Christian’s unity with all others in the Church. This image affects our understanding of sin and reconciliation. Sin effects the relationship one has with God, as well as the rest of the community, which is the Body of Christ. For the Christian, sin is departure from the ideals, goals, and faith of the Community.


Recommended Resources For Parent Sessions

Updated 2002


(The following videos are available in the Diocesan Video Library.)

  • Celebrating Reconciliation with Families. (Harcourt Religion Publishers)

  • Echoes of Faith: The Sacraments. (RCL)

  • Lord of Mercy. (Brown ROA Publishing Media)

  • Pardon and Peace. (Franciscian Communications)

  • Pardon and Peace Remembered. (St. Anthony Messenger Press)

  • Reconciliación, Fruto Del Perdon. (RCL)

  • Reconciliation: Celebrating Forgiveness. (Twenty-Third Publications)

  • Penance: Sacrament of Peace. (Twenty-Third Publications)

  • Sacraments of Faith: Reconciliation. (Winston Press)


  • Parent Meeting Models, 1997. (Center for Learning, Villa Maria, PA, 1-800-767-9090)
  • Catholic Updates. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1-800-488-0488,http://www.AmericanCatholic.org
    • “What are Sacraments?” (C0895)
    • “Have Sacraments Changed?” (C0997)
    • “Sacraments: It All Starts With Jesus” (C0893)
    • “Understanding Sin Today” (C0197)
    • “The Sacrament of Reconciliation: Celebrating God’s Forgiveness” (UPD 036)
    • “Why Confess My Sins?” (C0384)
    • “How to Go to Confession Using the New Ritual” (C0176)
    • “Ten Tips for Better Confessions” (C0890)
    • “Catholic Morality, Has It Changed?” (C0896)
    • “A ‘New’ View of Sin: Our Growing Awareness of Social Evil” (C0881)
    • “Guilt, A Tool for Christian Growth” (C0286)
    • “How to Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation Today” (C0800)
    • “How Catholics Understand Grade” (C1000)
  • Scripture from Scratch. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1-800-488-0488,http://www.AmericanCatholic.org
    • Sin in the Bible: The Path Away From God (N0296)


Recommended Resources for Children

Updated 2002

Acceptable Texts

  • Benziger
    • First Reconciliation, 1996. (Primary Grades 2-3)
    • Reconciliation, 1996. (Middle Grades 4-6)
    • (Guide for family-based catechesis is available for both texts.)
  • Harcourt Religion Publishers
    • Celebrating Our Faith: Reconciliation, 2000. (Middle Grades 4-6)
    • Celebrar nuestra fe: La Reconciliación, 2000. (Middle Grades 4-6)
    • Celebrating Our Faith: Reconciliation/Eucharist – Level II, 2002. (Middle Grades 4-6)
    • Celebrar nuestra fe: Reconciliación/Eucaristía — Nivel II, 2002. (Middle Grades 4-6)
  • Hi-Time Pflaum
    • Together in Jesus – Reconciliation Preparation, 2001.
  • Silver Burdett Ginn
    • The Gift of Reconciliation, 2000.
    • El Regalo de le Reconciliacion, 2000.
    • (Guide for family-based catechesis is available for both texts above. Bilingual copy of Family Guide has English for child and Spanish for parents.)
    • We Celebrate Reconciliation: The Good Shepherd, 1990. (Primary Grades 2-3)
    • We Celebrate Reconciliation: The Lord Forgives, 1990. (Middle Grades 4-6)
  • Saint Anthony Messenger Press
    • On Our Way With Jesus: A New Approach to Sacramental Preparation For Children, 1997.
      (Includes a family guide with student text and a parent and catechist video presentation)
    • Experience Christ Present, 2000.
      (A video formation program for parents of children who are planning to receive Eucharist and Reconciliation, and for their children. May be used in conjunction with Catholic Updates.)
  • William H. Sadlier
    • First Reconciliation, 1995.
    • Primera Reconciliacion, 1996.
    • (Guide for family-based catechesis is available for both texts above. Bilingual copy of Family Guide has English for child and Spanish for parents.)


(The following videos are available in the Diocesan Video Library.)

  • A Child’s First Penance. (Liguori Publications)

  • Celebrating Reconciliation with Families. (Harcourt Religion Publishers)

  • The Stray. (St. Anthony Messenger Press)