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The Sacrament of Penance

In the Rite of Reconciliation of Individual Penitents

By Greg Jensen, M.Div., with some texts from the Rite

This is a "how-to" document. It is my understanding of the conversion process which is assisted by the Sacrament of Penance in the Rite of Reconciliation of Individual Penitents. This sacrament is for people who have seriously damaged their relationship with God or the church, and is also encouraged for all as a regular practice. Note that Penance (formerly "confession") is not the only sacrament of reconciliation. In the mass we also begin with a penitential rite, and in the eucharist we celebrate Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.

First: Where Ever You Are

  • have a change of heart
  • recognize and be sorry for sin
  • examination of conscience

Second: In Holy Trinity’s Reconciliation Chapel

  • Make the sign of the cross
  • Be welcomed by the priest (answer Amen). If the priest does not know you, it may be helpful to let him know your state in life (married, ordained, in religious life, single, etc.), the time of your last confession, your difficulties in leading the Christian life, and anything else that may help your confessor in his ministry.
  • Hear the Word of God (the priest might just recite a bit of scripture, or might omit this)
  • Confession

say a general formula like:

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters (remember the priest is representing the whole church), that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God., followed by. . .

  • Then confess of your individual sins (your confessor will assist you if needed)
  • and receive penance from the confessor
  • Prayer of the penitent

Your options are:

1. My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.

2. Remember, Lord, your compassion and mercy which you showed long ago. Do not recall the sins and failings of my youth. In your mercy remember me, Lord, because of your goodness.

3. Wash me from my guilt and cleans me from my sin. I acknowledge my offense; my sin is before me always.

4. Father, I have sinned against you and am not worthy to be called your son. Be merciful to me, a sinner.

5. Father of mercy, like the prodigal son I return to you and say "I have sinned against you and am no longer worthy to be called your son." Christ Jesus, Savior of the world, I pray with the repentant thief to whom you promised paradise: "Lord, remember me in your kingdom." Holy Spirit, fountain of love, I call on you with trust: "Purify my heart, and help me to walk as a child of the light."

6. Lord Jesus, you opened the eyes of the blind, healed the sick, forgave the sinful woman, and after Peter’s denial confirmed him in your love. Listen to my prayer: forgive all my sins, renew your love in my heart, help me to live in perfect unity with my fellow Christians that I may proclaim your saving power to all the world.

7. Lord Jesus, you chose to be called the friend of sinners. By your saving death and resurrection free me from my sins. May your peace take root in my heart and bring forth a harvest of love, holiness, and truth.

8. Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Lamb of God; you take away the sins of the world. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit restore me to friendship with your Father, cleanse me from every stain of sin in the blood you shed for me, and raise me to new life for the glory of your name.

9. Lord God, in your goodness have mercy on me: do not look on my sins, but take away all my guilt. Create in me a clean heart and renew me with an upright spirit.

10. Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

absolution (answer Amen)

  • Proclamation of praise of God/dismissal

Priest: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good."

Penitent: "His mercy endures for ever."

Priest: prayer

Third: When You Leave the Reconciliation Room

  • Satisfaction: do penance and make right the wrong so far as this is possible, and change your life.


Communal penance services with individual confession, the only things you would do one-on-one with the confessor is confession of your individual sins, and receiving penance and absolution from the priest. The rest is done together with the whole assembly.

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