Confessions are heard every day at St Patrick’s before each Mass, and during or after Mass whenever a priest is available. To go to Confession, go to the open door of one of the confessionals. If you are unsure how to go to Confession or have not been for some time, tell the priest, who will be happy to help you.

Confession is the popular name for the Catholic sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. This sacrament was instituted by Christ during His life on earth, who gave the Apostles and their successors His own authority and power to forgive sins in His name. This sacrament forgives all sins committed after baptism. It is God who forgives sins, through the priest who administers the sacrament. Through Confession we are reconciled to God and to the Church. When we confess our sins to a priest, it is really to God that we are confessing. Nothing the priest hears in confession can ever be repeated or acted upon. This is the ‘seal’ of the confessional. There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule, ever.

The four elements to the sacrament of Confession are contrition (being sorry for our sins and resolving to try not to sin again); confession (telling our sins to a priest); absolution (when, through the words of absolution spoken by the priest, we receive God’s merciful forgiveness); and satisfaction (doing the light penance which the priest imposes, which normally consists of saying some familiar prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary).

We should feel contrite for our sins because they pull us back on the path to heaven. They also weaken the Church, making us weak links in the chain of faith and witness. Our forgiveness depends on our being truly sorry and having a firm purpose of amendment. The penance we are given is a token offering. Only Christ’s own merits truly make up for the damage caused by sin. We are obliged always to confess all grave sins. It is also recommended to confess venial sins, which helps us grow in holiness and virtue.

The Church requires us to go to Confession at least once a year. Most of us should go never less than once a month, and when we have to. If the sin is grave, go to confession immediately. Do not risk your immortal soul by putting off the work of forgiveness and reconciliation.