Conscience, guilt and forgiveness are part of our human experience. The first sacrament of forgiveness is Baptism which washes away all sins of past life but, even after Baptism, we are imperfect and fail in many ways.
Reconciliation is the sacrament where forgiveness of sins is given to those who repent and do penance for their sins. It involves the confession of sins to the priest. The priest then gives a penance (usually some prayers or a scriptural reading) and absolution – a declaration of God’s forgiveness. Sometimes we support this Sacrament with a service of Reconciliation where we celebrate God’s love for us.
Jesus gave priests the authority to minister this sacrament and forgive sins when he said to his disciples: As the Father has sent me, even so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. – John 20:21-23
Preparation for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion occurs with children aged 7 (school year 3) and above. Registration begins during the previous summer with a closing date in early September. One form registers the child for both programmes. We have catechists in all three churches so that the children are prepared and celebrate in the church in which they are familiar. The sessions for the parents are single events covering the entire parish in one meeting. Parents are required to attend these sessions, because the life of faith at home is essential to the preparation of the child.
The Reconciliation programme takes place in the autumn term and concludes with services of Reconciliation in Advent and again in Lent.
The First Holy Communion preparation starts in January and lasts through to the First Communion Masses in June.
The way to ‘greatness’ in the real sense of that word is found through the taking up of the Cross, in service of others and in a real openness to the simplicity that is found in child-like trust.
Bishop Richard Moth