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Scott P. Richert

Sunday School: On the Sacrament of Penance

By May 3, 2009

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As we continue our trip through the sacraments with the Baltimore Catechism as our guide, our next stop is one of the most neglected of sacraments today: the Sacrament of Penance or, as it is more commonly known, Confession or Reconciliation.

One of the effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation, we saw last week, is to increase sanctifying grace in our souls. The Sacrament of Penance, practiced regularly, helps us to retain that sanctifying grace by strengthening us to avoid sin, and it restores that sanctifying grace if we lose it through the commission of a mortal sin.

The restoration of sanctifying grace is a result of the absolution of our sins, which is performed by a priest, who, as at the Mass, acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). Christ granted this power to His Apostles, and it continues on in the priesthood today through apostolic succession.

Absolution of our sins, however, requires effort on our part as well. Not only must we confess our sins to a priest, but we must prepare for that confession by examining our consciences, exciting sorrow for our sins, and firmly resolving never to commit another sin, no matter how small. And our confession is not complete until we have received a penance from the priest and performed it.

The Sacrament of Penance is an indispensable part of the Christian life and one of the greatest aids to spiritual growth. Its widespread revival would go a long way toward revitalizing the Catholic Church in these spiritually troubled times.

Lesson Seventeenth from the Confirmation Catechism has 8 questions. Note that the lesson begins with Question 187, continuing with the numbering from Lesson Sixteenth.

The parallel lesson this week in the First Communion Catechism is Lesson Fourteenth. It includes 3 questions drawn from Lesson Seventeenth of the Confirmation Catechism.

Check out this week's lesson, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or ask them in the Catholicism Forum!

Previous Lessons in Sunday School:
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