Communal Penance Services are held during Advent and Lent.
One Form of the Sacrament
This is a form of sacramental confession. It mixes public prayer and individual confession of sins to a priest, followed by absolution. A communal penance service always includes:
- The penitents and sorrow for sin, usually expressed in an Act of Contrition
- Confession of sins to a priest with absolution given
- An act of penance
The Structure of the Service
Usually, a communal penance service includes a Scripture reading and brief exhortation by the priest. This is followed by an examination of conscience, and then the entire community prays the Act of Contrition together. Sometimes, a single, general penance is assigned to everyone participating; at other times the assignment of a penance is done during the individual confession.
Individual Confession and Reconciliation
After the communal part of the ceremony, those present will individually confess their sins to the priest and receive absolution and a penance if it has not been assigned in the communal setting. The Act of Contrition is not repeated privately, because it has been part of the communal section of the service. The words of absolution are said by the priest individually over the penitent or a collective penance is given.