It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles. He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother. "
It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.
It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.
It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure of confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledge and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.
It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace."
Jesus' call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, "sackcloth and ashes," fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion... The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him. "Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored!" God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced:
Let us fix our eyes on Christ's blood and understand how precious it is to his Father,
for, poured out for our salvation, it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance.
Taken from Article 4 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)
Tips for making a Good Confession...
Prepare - Prayerfully recall your sins. Some will be specific actions. Some represent a more general pattern of behavior.
Go to the priest - Come to the Lenten Reconciliation Service or call for an appointment. You may kneel anonymously behind the 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.
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. You may discuss the sins you confess 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 speak simply from your heart.
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."
Change! - Go forth and with God's help begin to lvie a new life of freedom from the slavery of sin!
Author: Paul Turner; text copyright 1997 Resource Publications, Inc.