The Sacrament of Reconciliation
General Absolution at Every Mass
At Sts. Peter and Paul Ecumenical Catholic Church+USA, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is administered by the Celebrant of the Mass in the form of General Absolution as part of the Penitential Rite of the Mass.
We have been asked: At your Church does the absolution given by the priest at the beginning of Mass have the same meaning and effect as the absolution given by a priest in the Roman Catholic Tradition after he “hears” someone’s confession?
Yes, the absolution which the priest gives as part of the Penitential Rite of Masses in Ecumenical Catholic Church+USA and the absolution given by a priest in the Roman Catholic confessional is the same sacrament. Absolution given at our Masses is called General Absolution (because it is offered to everyone at the same time) and absolution given in the confessional is called Individual Absolution. Both are valid administrations of the Sacrament of Penance within the Catholic Faith Tradition. The Roman Catholic Church also uses both of these forms of the administration of Reconciliation; however, General Absolution is seldom used and when it is used, the penitents still have to make an individual confession of the sins forgiven within a certain period of time. That Roman Catholic disciplinary rule requiring follow-up confession of sins directly to a priest is not required in our Church.
Both forms of administering the Sacrament of Penance have the same spiritual effect as long as the penitent (in both forms) has the proper spiritual dispositions for receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Dispositions for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Six things are required for the valid reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and each is provided for in the Penitential Rite of every Mass at an Ecumenical Catholic Church+USA:
1. Recognition of our sins. Our Mass begins by the priest saying, “Let us place ourselves in the presence of Almighty God. Calling to mind our sins against God and neighbor, let us ask God our Father for forgiveness.” (Then, we pause to reflect on our sinfulness: how have we offended God or neighbor?)
2. Sorrow for our sins. We pray the Confiteor:
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed; through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul and all the saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
3. Firm purpose of amendment. Determination to change our life and avoid sinning against God and neighbor. True sorrow for a sin includes a firm intention not to do it again.
4. Ask God for forgiveness.
We pray the Kyrie:
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
or, the Orthodox Trisagion Hymn:
Have mercy on us
5. Receive Sacramental Absolution from a priest. The priest administers the Sacrament of Penance saying:
May the Almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution and remission of our sins. By his authority, I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
6. Make reparation for our sins. Our proper disposition and the priest’s absolution guarantees God’s forgiveness of our sins. However, some sins require that we repair the damage done. For instance, if we steal something, we must make restitution of the stolen item or its value; if we ruin someone’s reputation, we must correct what we said, etc.
At Mass, we begin reparation for our sins by following the priest’s directive to “extend a sign of peace and God’s blessing to our neighbor.” And we make that expression to the other members of the congregation and carry that attitude into our activities during the week.
Finally, at Mass, we pray for our world and our human family in all of its needs; we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ which provides the grace and motivation to love God and our neighbor; and finally, we receive the blessing and charge of our priest to go out into our world and love God and neighbor.
In summary, during the Penitential Rite of each Mass:
• we recall our sinfulness;
• make a firm purpose of avoiding sinfulness in the future;
• ask Almighty God for forgiveness;
• receive the priest’s Sacramental Absolution; and
• do reparation for our failings by expressing love of neighbor and praying for peace and justice among all of humankind.
Now, having received Almighty God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we can receive the Holy Eucharist worthily with a pure heart and soul reconciled with God.
Finally, to be complete, our priests also are available for individual confession of sins upon request. Individual confession certainly has its owe spiritual benefits, particularly spiritual consultation and advice from the priest, that is not present in General Confession. Of course, the priest is bound by the Seal of Confession which means that everything discussed in that setting is held as an absolute and forever secret.