“Catechesis for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation first depends on the person’s acknowledgment of God’s faithful love, of the existence of sin, of the capacity to commit sin, and of God’s power to forgive sin and reconcile the sinner with himself and with the Church. “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The normative point of reference for catechesis for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is the Rite of Penance.” (National Directory for Catechesis, # 36, B1)
Aims of the Sacramental Preparation Program
• Emphasizes God’s love for creation and his plan for salvation of all
• Acknowledges God’s unconditional love
• Teaches that God desires everyone to be reconciled to him
• Portrays God as a loving Father who runs out to embrace the repentant sinner
• Recognizes the existence of good and evil in the world and a person’s capacity to choose between right and wrong
• Teaches the steps of the Rite of Penance and Reconciliation: repentance, confession, acceptance of an act of penance, and absolution
• Explores the meaning of the symbols, prayers, gestures of Penance and Reconciliation
• Makes the connection between Baptism and Penance and Reconciliation
• Points to Penance and Reconciliation as a sacrament of ongoing conversion
• Challenges Christians to be forgiving, even as they are forgiven
• Encourages regular celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
Readiness for the reception of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
“Like the preparation for Confirmation and First Communion, parents and the parish catechetical leader, together with the pastor, are responsible for determining when children are ready to receive First Penance and Reconciliation. Readiness for reception of this sacrament includes knowledge of the person of Jesus and the Gospel message of forgiveness, knowledge of sin and its effect, and understanding and experience of sorrow, forgiveness, and conversion.” (NDC # 36, B2)
Since the family is so intimately involved in the moral formation of the children, it is imperative that the family be closely involved in the preparation of the children for the celebration of the sacraments.
The family should also be involved in discerning the child’s readiness for the sacrament.
The following may be used as a guide to determine a child’s readiness for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Remember that actions speak louder than words. A child’s understanding of these basic concepts does not necessarily have to be articulated aloud.
Does the child have an understanding that:
• Sin is freely choosing to do wrong
• Sin hurts both the sinner and the community
• Penance and Reconciliation pardons sins committed after Baptism and brings the sinner back to God and the community
• Penance and Reconciliation brings an increase spiritual strength for Christians
• Followers of Christ are called to continual conversion and renewal
• God’s mercy is celebrated in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
• To receive God’s mercy we must express contrition for our sins and desire not to sin again
• We do penance such as prayers or actions, which form good habits of virtue
• The priest forgives in the name of Christ and the Church.
Examination of Conscience
(Thinking back on the events of the day)
From early in the Church’s history, we have recognized the need to reflect on and pray about the events of the day so as to be more aware of God’s healing grace. A daily time of self-reflection is an opportunity to recognize and remember God’s loving care and God’s hope that we will know and recognize the fullness of his love and forgiveness. It invites us into reflection on the day’s activities within a context of remembering God’s love.
Making an Examination of conscience helps us to look through the lens of God’s vision for us and identify areas in our lives in which we are struggling. The questions that we ask when we examine our conscience helps us to recognize whether we are following God’s Rules, and the teachings of Jesus and helps us remember the ways we want to grow spiritually.
Making an examination of Conscience helps us focus on taking a serious look at our lives in order to bring to mind, or become aware of, the times we have failed to respond to God’s call to love. Besides helping us know what we need to tell the priest, making an examination of conscience also helps us to better understand ourselves but helps us see the ways we can change.
Suggest to your child that when they have looked at their lives and are aware of something they did wrong (an unloving choice), they should spend some time thinking about how and why this happened. Encourage your child to be honest with themselves and not just make excuses for what they did or didn’t do. After they have given this some thought, ask them to figure out what they could do differently the next time a situation like this presents itself. If they could imagine themselves doing it, it would be even better.
We make an Examination of Conscience to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation, but this prayerful exercise is something that we should all be in the habit of doing every day of our lives.
Parents please NOTE: Facing our short comings can be a difficult thing. Keep in mind that our most important message to our children is the good news of God’s forgiveness, not the sad news of our failings. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we do what we shouldn’t do. But God wants us to know that even then, that He loves us and forgives us. As we encourage our children to look realistically at personal failures, we want to make sure we do so in an atmosphere of love and acceptance.
Some points to keep in mind:
• Children should not be expected to think back over their entire lives. A day or a week may be all they can handle.
• The number of sins we confess is not as important as our sincerity. It is best to have children concentrate on one or two things for which they are really sorry and want to change. Again it is important to talk about how and why your child chose to act in an unloving way; how and why they did something wrong.
• Occasionally a child may not honestly be able to think about how he or she did wrong. If that is the case, ask your child to think about how he or she would like to be better.
• It goes without saying that the time spent looking at our lives should be a prayerful time, quiet and free from distractions.
Before walking your child through an examination of conscience, explain to your child that God created us in his image to be holy and happy people. God knows what is best for us and has given us guidelines for living, the Ten Commandments. We can also look at the life of Jesus, his words and his actions, to show us how to live in friendship with one another. Jesus’ life reminds us of God’s law of love – to love God and love others as you love yourself. Daily we can examine how we have responded to this call to love as Jesus loves. We can look at choices we have made during the day, thank God for the good ones, and ask the Holy Spirit’s help for the choices that were not so good.
Explain to your child that together, you will be looking at some questions to help them decide how well they are following God’s rules and following Jesus. It is important that your child understands that God created us to do good things, but because we are human, we struggle to follow God’s rules as well as imitate Jesus. God will help us follow his rules more closely if we ask him to and he will always love and forgives us.
*Helping your child make an examination of conscience does not mean that your child is to recite sins to you. The telling of sins should be to God through the priest at reconciliation. Reflect and talk about each of the questions with your child. It’s OK to talk with your child about any bad habits or unloving choices they are struggling with as well as what they can do to stop those behaviors (ways they can change).
There are many ways in which we can examine our conscience. Following are three different models for you to use. We suggest you alternate between the three different models. With Examination II and III you might want to break it up, by reflecting on a few of the questions at a time every day.
Steps to help us think back on our day ……
Examination of Conscience :
1. Find a quiet time and place (perhaps in your child’s bedroom right before bed time).
2. Begin with a prayer. Ask God to help you think about your day.
3. Imagine you’re looking at a TV program. It is the story of your life.
The first part is about you at home. As you see yourself at home, ask yourself these questions:
• Was I like Jesus?
• Was I kind? Helpful? Forgiving? Truthful? Fair?
• Did I obey? Share? Pray?
• Did I love God and others as I should have?
Think about your answers. If there was a time you didn’t show love for God and others, try to figure out why this happened. Try to see how you could do better.
4. The second part of this exercise is about you at school. (Use the same questions as
5. The third part of this exercise is about you playing. (Use the same questions as at
6. Now it’s time to talk to God about it. Thank God for the times you saw yourself showing a real love for Him and other people. Tell Him you are sorry for the times you didn’t, and ask him to forgive you. Tell Him the ways you are going to try and change. Tell God you are going to try hard to be more like Jesus from now on. Ask God to help you. Pray the Prayer of Sorrow.
Examination of Conscience II
In prayer we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We remember the teaching of Jesus. “Love one another as I love you.”
We think about what we have done to show love.
We tell God we are sorry for the times we have not shown love.
Find a quiet time and place (perhaps in your child’s bedroom right before bed time).
Begin with a prayer. Ask God to help you think about your day.
We ask these questions to help us choose ways we want to grow in love.
• Do I forgive instead of trying to get even?
• Do I pick on others and fight?
• Do I love God and pray often and everywhere?
• Do I make up after a quarrel?
• Do I give up easily when the going gets hard?
• Am I selfish; do I only think of what I want?
• Do I show love in my family?
• Do I tease, act mean, or call people names?
• Do I ask lonely children to play?
• Do I try to do my best in my class work and homework?
• Do I blame other children for what I do?
• Do I treat other children fairly?
Now it’s time to talk to God about it. Thank God for the times you saw yourself showing a real love for Him and other people. Tell Him you are sorry for the times you didn’t, and ask him to forgive you. Tell Him the ways you are going to try and change. Tell God you are going to try hard to be more like Jesus from now on. Ask God to help you. Pray the Prayer of Sorrow.
Examination of Conscience III
Find a quiet time and place (perhaps in your child’s bedroom right before bed time). Begin with a prayer. Ask God to help you think about your day. In prayer remember the Ten Commandments God gave us, to help us live together in peace and love.
We ask these questions to help us choose ways we want to grow in love.
1. Do I keep God in mind and pray to God often?
2. Do I make Sunday a holy and special day?
3. Do I use the name of God with respect, not in anger or carelessly?
4. Do I obey my parents?
5. Do I show respect for my life/body and the life/body of others?
6. Do I keep promises?
7. Do I take, hide, or break things that do not belong to me?
8. Do I tell the truth? Have I told a lie or have I said things that were only partly true?
9. Have I been happy with the things I have, or have I been jealous of what others have?
10. Am I generous? Do I share what I have with others, especially people in need? Or have I been greedy?
Now it’s time to talk to God. Thank God for the times you saw yourself showing a real love for Him and other people. Tell Him you are sorry for the times you didn’t, and ask him to forgive you. Tell Him the ways you are going to try and change. Tell God you are going to try hard to be more like Jesus from now on. Ask God to help you. Pray the Prayer of Sorrow.
Procedure for Confession
Most necessary element for Confession and the reception of the sacrament: sorrow for sin.
When entering the Confessional:
Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been _________ since my last Confession. These are my sins.
(For First Penance: Bless me Father for I have sinned. This is my first confession. These are my sins.)
Tell your sins to the priest and at the end say: “That’s all Father” to let the priest know you are finished.
The priest will speak to you and give you a penance such as an Our Father or Hail Mary, which you will say outside the Confessional.
The priest then gives you absolution and you will return to your pew and say your penance along with the Prayer of Sorrow.
Prayer of Sorrow
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against You,
Whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with Your help, to do penance,
to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Rite of Penance:
Our Savior, Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, My God, have mercy.