Communal Penance Services or Reconciliation Services are held during Advent and Lent at parishes. Sometimes parishes combine services for this sacrament. All are always welcome regardless of what parish a person is registered at and even if they aren’t a registered parishioner at any parish yet.
Advent and Lent are wonderful times to celebrate the reconciling love and the healing graces our Lord offers us. Like all religious experiences, it takes preparation.
Reconciliation is what God does. Receiving it and celebrating it is what we do. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a most natural way to celebrate His forgiveness and love. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the opportunity to grow closer to God.
One Form of the Sacrament
Communal Penance Services or Reconciliation Services are a form of sacramental confession. It mixes public prayer and individual confession 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.