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by Paul Turner

Our Catholic Church treasures the sacrament of reconciliation. When we regret what we've done wrong, we may confess our sins to God through the ministry of a priest. As a result, many Catholics experience profound peace, acceptance, forgiveness and freedom from the burden of their transgressions.

Many parishes offer a communal celebration of penance, especially during Advent and Lent. But private reconciliation is usually available every week of the year, and a priest will generally arrange to meet with you if the appointed times prove inconvenient.

If you'd like to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, here's what to do:

* Prepare. Prayerfully recall your sins. Some will be specific actions. Some represent a more general pattern of behavior.

* Go to the priest. Visit when he's in the reconciliation room at your parish, or ask for an appointment. You may either kneel anonymously behind a screen, or sit in a chair where you may speak face to face.

* Be welcome. You and the priest may greet each other. Make the sign of the cross. He may urge you to have confidence in God. You may indicate the interval since your last confession or anything else that will help. Just use common sense. Either you or the priest may read from Scripture if you like.

* Confess your sins. Some penitents begin with a formula like, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." But you don't have to. Let the priest know your sins. If you like, you may discuss the sins you're confessing, so the priest can give you the best counsel.

* Receive a penance. The priest will recommend some action after you leave, to indicate to God the sincerity in your heart. Usually he suggests prayer or self-denial. If it sounds difficult, let him know.

* Pray for forgiveness. The priest may invite you to say a prayer of sorrow aloud. If you remember the Act of Contrition you may use it. But you may also speak simply from your heart. Just tell God you're sorry and you'll try to do better.

* Receive absolution. This is the best part. The priest proclaims absolution, and God forgives your sins.

* Conclude. The priest may say, "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good." If so, answer, "His mercy endures forever." Or he may conclude informally.

* Change! Go forth, and with God's help, begin to live a new life of freedom from the slavery of sin!

For additional bulletin insert resources, try Index of Bulletin Inserts

(This bulletin insert originally appeared in Ministry & Liturgy, copyright (c) 1996, Resource Publications, Inc. It may not be reproduced without permission. For permission contact Customer Service at Resource Publications, Inc., 408-286-8505 during business hours (Pacific Time) weekdays. E-mail permission requests to

(Paul Turner, pastor of St. John Regis Parish in Kansas City, MO, holds a doctorate in sacramental theology from Sant' Anselmo University. )

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