281. What is the Sacrament of Penance [Reconciliation] ?
Penance is a Sacrament whereby the sins, whether mortal or venial, which we have committed after Baptism are forgiven.
282. Does the Sacrament of Penance increase the grace of God in the soul?
The Sacrament of Penance increases the grace of God in the soul, besides forgiving sin; we should, therefore, often go to confession.
283. When did our Lord institute the Sacrament of Penance?
Our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Penance when he breathed on his Apostles and gave them power to forgive sins, saying: ‘Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.’ (Jn20:23)
284. How does the priest forgive sins?
The priest forgives sins by the power of God, when he pronounces the words of absolution.
285. What are the words of absolution?
The words of absolution are: ‘I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
286. Are any conditions for forgiveness required on the part of the penitent?
Three conditions for forgiveness are required on the part of the penitent – Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction.
287. What is Contrition?
Contrition is a heartfelt sorrow for our sins, because by them we have offended so good a God, together with a firm purpose of amendment.
288. What is a firm purpose of amendment?
A firm purpose of amendment is a resolution to avoid, by the grace of God, not only sin, but also the dangerous occasion of sin.
289. How may we obtain a hearty sorrow for our sins?
We may obtain a hearty sorrow for our sins by earnestly praying for it, and by making use of such considerations as may lead us to it.
290. What consideration concerning God will lead us to sorrow for our sins?
This consideration concerning God will lead us to sorrow for our sins; that by our sins we have offended God, who is infinitely good in himself and infinitely good to us.
291. What consideration concerning our Saviour will lead us to sorrow for our sins?
This consideration concerning our Saviour will lead us to sorrow for our sins; that our Saviour died for our sins, and that those who sin grievously ‘have wilfully crucified the Son of God and openly mocked him.’ (Heb6:6)
292. Is sorrow for our sins, because by them we have lost heaven and deserved hell, sufficient when we go to confession?
Sorrow for our sins, because by them we have lost heaven and deserve hell, is sufficient when we go to confession.
293. What is perfect contrition?
Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin arising purely from the love of God.
294. What special value has perfect contrition?
Perfect contrition has this special value; that by it our sins are forgiven immediately, even before we confess them; but nevertheless, if they are serious, we are strictly bound to confess them afterwards.
295. What is confession?
Confession is to accuse ourselves of our sins to a priest approved by the Bishop.
296. What if a person wilfully conceals a serious sin in confession?
If a person wilfully conceals a serious sin in confession he is guilty of a great sacrilege, by telling a lie to the Holy Spirit in making a bad confession.
297. How many things have we to do in order to prepare for confession?
We have four things to do in order to prepare for confession: first, we must heartily pray for grace to make a good confession: secondly, we must carefully examine our conscience: thirdly, we must take time and care to make a good act of contrition: and fourthly, we must resolve by the help of God to renounce our sins, and to begin a new life for the future.
298. What is satisfaction?
Satisfaction is doing the penance given us by the priest.
299. Does the penance given by the priest always make full satisfaction for our sins?
The penance given by the priest does not always make full satisfaction for our sins. We should therefore add to it other good works and penances, and try to gain Indulgences.
300. What is an Indulgence?
An Indulgence is a remission, granted by the Church, of the temporal punishment which often remains due to sin after its guilt has been forgiven.
– From the Penny Catechism, Imprimatur: John Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, 18th July 1971