Sacraments and Worship . . .

The Sacraments of Healing: Reconciliation

Much of Jesus’ public ministry was spent in healing the sick and forgiving people their sins. Jesus, ‘who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continues, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation’. (CCC 1421).

At our baptism all sins, original and personal, were washed away. However, the Lord Jesus fully aware that we are all sinners, and in constant need of his mercy, gave to his apostles, and their ordained successors, the authority to forgive sins. On the day he rose from the dead: The doors were closed in the room where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.’ After saying this, he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. For those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’ (John 20:19-23).

Penance, at one time in the Church’s history, could be received only once in a person’s lifetime. A person might have spent many years as a penitent before they were able to receive absolution. The more frequent reception of penance came about largely under the influence of Saint Patrick, (387-493), and the Celtic Monks. For many centuries it was the confession of one’s sins and the performance of arduous penance that was of paramount importance. Since the Second Vatican Council, a greater emphasis has been placed on reconciliation, (re + conciliare), which means to unite, and in discovering the causes and effects of our sinfulness. ‘In the Sacrament of Reconciliation’, (so called since the introduction of the new Rite in 1973), ‘we acknowledge our sinfulness and admit our need to be reconciled with God, the Church and our neighbour. Those who approach this sacrament obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion’. (Lumen Gentium 9:11)

There are two types of sin: venial, or sin of a less serious nature; mortal, being the most serious kind of sin from which one falls from a state of grace. For sin to be mortal it must be of grave matter; committed with full knowledge of the facts and with free consent. Dame Julian of Norwich reminds us that regardless of how terrible our sins may be, ‘our falling does not hinder him from loving us’.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, (Luke 15:11-32), Our Lord illustrated the love a human father had for his son who had been ‘lost and was found’. How much more does our heavenly Father long for us to return to him. When we do, he readily forgives our sins and heals our spiritual sickness. For our part all that we need to do is recognize our need for conversion, repent of our sins and confess them to a priest. Having received absolution we must say, or do, the penance given to us. Should we have wronged our neighbour in any way then we must endeavour to make amends.

The Church teaches that if we have committed serious sin we must confess our sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Holy Communion.

The Prayer of Absolution given by the priest God, the Father of mercies through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and has 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.

Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Preparation is as for the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Adults will normally be prepared through the RCIA journey of faith which also starts in September. Please contact the Cathedral Office for more information for both child and adult preparation.

Further information about reconciliation times can be obtained from the bulletin or the Cathedral Office: Tel: 0115 9539839 email: