I have a brief question about forgiveness and the sacrament of reconciliation. I’ve just noticed (I know, takes a while for things to get into my thick skull) that there is a general confession at Mass, and then the priest pronounces an absolution. Why then do we need to confess privately?
The absolution only covers venial sins, to successfully partake of that absolution, the soul must be alive in a state of Grace.
Any damage to that soul by venial sin is repaired, both via this absolution, and the worthy reception of Holy Communion.
But it does NOT restore a dead soul into a state of Grace. That is accomplished via the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Just to add on to what Brendan said, I think there’s a big difference between being at Mass with everyone and saying in general, “we’ve sinned” and in being one-on-one with a priest and saying specifically, “I did X, Y, and Z.” Even if all we’re confessing are venial sins, there’s something different about looking at specific actions versus a general sense of sin.
The formula at Mass isn’t an absolution per-se. When you go to Confession it is still wise to confess venial sins, too. Only in Confession do you receive the absolution. You must hear the words Ego te absolvo (I absolve you…) in order to have received the absolution. If you run out of the Confessional before this, or if the priest, for a serious reason, refuses to give you absolution, then too bad, your sins are not forgiven.
Thank you all, most helpful. Forgive an ignorant protestant asking silly questions.
It was a good question! Thanks for giving us a chance to explain.
You are very welcome! Don’t worry it wasn’t a silly question. The complexity and the sheer size of what it means to believe can be very daunting. There are many aspects, and it will take you an eternity to learn it all. And even that is not enough.
Brendan’s answer was correct, Eruvande. If it helps settle your mind, you can read it from our Priest/Apologist, here.
The absolution given in the penitential right of the Mass can absolve venial sins. Venial sins **do not require sacramental absolution. Actually, just an act of contrition is sufficient.
**Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
Here is a bit more, including GIRM 51
"Then the priest invites those present to take part in the Act of Penitence, which, after a brief pause for silence, the entire community carries out through a formula of general confession. The rite concludes with the priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance.
We struggle with “daily sins” …well ~ * daily.* Those venial sins that happen daily.
One need not (not good to wait) -wait Confession to seek forgiveness (though let us go often!). Though it is very recommended that one goes to confession frequently (see the Catechism and all good that this brings).
It is important to repent quickly.
Venial sins are forgiven in many ways -acts of perfect or even imperfect contrition, prayer, reading Sacred Scripture, the Mass, Holy Communion, the prayerful use holy water, other sacramentals, little short prayers during the day, acts of love etc
I will add a related section of the Catechism:
From the Catechism:
1436 Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. “It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.”
1437 Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father - every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins.
Let us pray the Our Father as St. Augustine spoke of being prayed for such daily venial sins …“forgive us our trespasses…”
Indeed in the early Church such was often prayed three times a day. A wonderful practice that my family follows.
CCC The first communities prayed the Lord’s Prayer three times a day, in place of the “Eighteen Benedictions” customary in Jewish piety. scborromeo.org/ccc/p4s2a1.htm
That being said:
Frequent confession of venial sins is an age old and* very good practice*. Different persons can decide differently as to how frequent. It could be say weekly, or monthly or every other week …
It is a wonderful and great Sacrament.
1458 Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful