Penance, also known as Confession or Reconciliation, is one of the sacraments of healing in the Church. The sacrament encompasses four parts: contrition, confession, satisfaction or penance, and absolution.
Contrition means that we are sorry for our sins, and we intend to try to do better. Confession is the act of stating our sins to a priest. This is always required with mortal or serious sins, but is also a good and pious practice with venial or less serious sins. Satisfaction or penance consists of prayers or particular actions the priest assigns to us to show our sorrow, and to make some amends for our actions. And finally absolution – the words Jesus Christ speaks to us, through the priest – freeing us from our sins.
Jesus set up this sacrament as a way to heal sin and human weakness. He told the apostles: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:21-22).
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