Most of us would know this Sacrament as Confession
it also goes by other names: reconciliation,
Sacrament of Forgiveness or Conversion.
This sacrament is a sign and experience of God's unconditional forgiveness.
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 retrain, they are retained."
We are called to be one people united with Christ and one another. Sadly, in our weakness this unity is often ruptured through failures to love (i.e. we sin). Yet God's love for us does not cease when we fail. In this Sacrament, through the Ministry of the Priest, God forgives the sins of those who confess them and reconciles them to Himself and the whole Christian Community. By expressing our sorrow for our sin in the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, we experience forgiveness and healing. Our relationship with God and our unity as Church is made whole again.
Reconciliation is a sacrament which can be celebrated repeatedly throughout one's life, and indeed Catholics are encouraged to receive this sacrament frequently. At a minimum, Catholics must make a confession of sins when they are conscious of mortal sin before the reception of Holy Communion. The precept of the Church says that Catholics ought to confess their sins in the sacrament of Confession at least once a year during the Easter Season.
The Blessings in Frequent Confession
There are many blessings in frequent confession (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1425-1498). Among such blessings are the following:
It restores divine life to those who have lost it through mortal sin.
It increases grace and one's capacity for grace and helps one to grow in Christian maturity.
It brings order and peace into one's life by causing one to pause at regular intervals and ask oneself the all important question: Where am I in my relationship with God?
It improves personal relations with others by making one aware of attitudes and actions that cause pain to others.
It motivates one to practice the basic Christian virtues: faith, hope, charity, humility, self denial, repentance, detachment from the pagan ways of modern life.
Making a good confession entails contrition (sincere sorrow for offending God), confession of sin (confronting our sinfulness in an honest manner) and satisfaction (making amends by following the priest's advice and doing the penance he imposes). A good confession requires preparation by prayer, examining the conscience and the making the resolve not to sin again.
In our parish Catholic children usually make their First Reconciliation at age 7 along with First Communion. They prepare for this through the Children's Religious Education Program.