“We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15:32)

“Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.  Whose sins you retain are retained.”  (John 20:22-23)

After His Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room and conferred on them the power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.  Whose sins you retain are retained.”  (John 20:22-23)

The Sacrament of Confession (also called Penance or the Sacrament of Reconciliation) is God’s gift to His people to assure us of the forgiveness of our sins committed after Baptism.

A thorough Examination of Conscience should always precede the reception of the Sacrament of Confession.  All adequate Examinations unfold the Ten Commandments with questions that probe into the Commandment to help guide you to determine if you have committed a sin that violates the Commandment.  Click here or here for an Examination of Conscience that is particularly complete and exhaustive.

Please take advantage of our regularly scheduled Confession times.  If you have been away from the Sacrament for many years or have other questions related to Confession, you are always welcome to contact a priest directly through the parish office.

The Rite of Confession:

  • The priest first greets the penitent.
  • The penitent makes the Sign of the Cross and says, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been __days/months/years since my last confession and my sins are…” and tells the priest your sins. All mortal sins must be confessed in kind and number of times the sin was committed.  If unsure or uneasy, the penitent can let the priest know and ask for his help.
  • When all remembered sins have been confessed, the penitent concludes with, “For these and all my sins I am truly sorry.”
  • The priest may offer some advice and then will assign a penance.
  • The priest will then ask the penitent to pray an Act of Contrition:
    • “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life.  Amen.”

      or simply, “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

  • After the penitent completes the Act of Contrition, the priest gives the penitent absolution.  He says a prayer that ends, “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” As the priest says these words, the penitent makes the Sign of the Cross.
  • The priest will then say a dismissal, such as: “The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.”
  • The penitent responds, “Thanks be to God.”  The penitent then leaves the confessional and does his/her assigned penance as soon as possible.

Some Considerations on the Sacrament of Confession:

  • The sins confessed to the priest are confessed to Jesus, with the priest merely standing in for Him (thus, the priest acts in personae Christi). Do not be afraid to confess any sins you may have committed; likewise, do not hide or try to disguise any sins.  The priest is here to help you and to forgive you.  Nothing you say will shock him, so do not be afraid, no matter how ashamed you might be.
  • The joy of Confession is allowing God the Father to find us.  As with the Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15), God the Father will run to greet us and welcome us home as His sons and daughters.  He eagerly awaits our return and freely offers His pardon and peace.
  • This healing Sacrament strengthens us and removes all the sins that have prevented us from seeking God with our whole heart.
  • In confession we also receive grace to combat those sins we confess and break our habits of vice more easily. This is why frequent reception of the Sacrament of Confession is such a wonderful aid in our quest to be “perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
  • Catholics who have reached the use of reason (usually around the age of 6½ or 7) are required by the second precept of the Church to receive the Sacrament of Confession at least once a year.  Children who have reached the use of reason must receive the Sacrament before making their First Holy Communion.  Please see the CCD page for more information to enroll your child.
  • We confess our sins to the priest who is before us in the person of Christ.  The Church teaches that all mortal sins must be told in Confession in kind and number of occurrences.  Those persons conscious of unconfessed mortal sin must receive the Sacrament of Confession before receiving  Holy Communion.  For a sin to be mortal, it must meet three conditions:
    • Grave matter: Does it involve breaking one of the 10 Commandments, or failing to uphold one or more of the Precepts of the Church?
    • Full knowledge: Did you know or should you have known that the act was sinful?
    • Deliberate consent: Was your consent to this act sufficiently deliberate so as to be a choice? Were conditions present that influenced your ability to choose?
  • Confession of venial sins or smaller, everyday faults, is also strongly recommended.  Confessing venial sins helps us fight  weaknesses that can lead us to sin more and aids our spiritual progress.
  • If you are uncertain about the seriousness of an action you have committed or neglected to commit, tell the priest about your uncertainty; he can guide you.
  • The Prayer of Absolution is the beautiful moment of forgiveness.  The priest, in the person of Christ and through the Church, imparts this forgiveness saying, “I absolve you from your sin.”
  • The penance given by the priest is to help make amends for the sins committed and is expressed by charitable works and/or prayers like the Hail Mary or Our Father.


St. Lawrence Catholic Church
6222 Franconia Road
Alexandria, VA, 22310
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(703) 971-4378
(703) 971-0331
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