Symbolon Sundays: Penance


Thanks for coming out for Symbolon on Sunday! This session was on Penance and the Anointing of the sick. What was particularly interesting was our sharing of different confession experiences, which shed more light on how to confess and what exactly to do in certain situations. Our discussion continued well after watching the episode – accompanied by the Suya and Guinea fowl (Thanks Stephanie!).

What is Penance?

  • Jesus the Son of God came to reconcile us to the Father. He forgave people’s sins and gave this power to men to exercise in his name. In John 20:19 – 23, we are told he breathed on the apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (CCC 1485)
  • Nowhere did Jesus express more beautifully what happens in the sacrament of Penance than in the parable of the Prodigal Son: We go astray, we are lost and can no longer cope. Yet our Father waits for us with great, indeed, infinite longing; he forgives us when we come back; he takes us in again, forgives our sins. Jesus himself forgave the sins of many individuals; it was more important to him than working miracles. He regarded this as the great sign of the dawning of the kingdom of God, in which all wounds are healed and all tears are wiped away. Jesus forgave sins in the power of the Holy Spirit, and he handed that power on to his apostles. We fall into the arms of our heavenly Father when we go to a priest and confess. (YOUCAT question 227)
  • Only God can forgive sin, but he does so through the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (CCC 1441 – 1442). The power has been handed down the Apostles successors throughout the centuries to the bishops and priests in the Church today (CCC 1444, 1445, 1461).
  • Penance is often misunderstood. It has nothing to do with low self-esteem or scrupulosity. Penance is not brooding over what a bad person I am. Penance frees and encourages us to make a new start. (YOUCAT questions 229-230)

So why confess our sins?

  • The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible. (CCC 1455).
  • The sacrament does 3 things:
    • It reconciles us with God
    • Gives us “peace and serenity of conscience.”
    • Gives us greater spiritual strength to help us overcome sin in the future (CCC 1496).
  • As we prepare for confession we should examine our consciences (CCC 1453). One way to do this is by using the 10 commandments as a starting point.

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  • The spiritual effects of the Sacrament of Penance include:
    • Reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace
    • Reconciliation with the Church
    • Peace and serenity of conscience
    • Spiritual consolation
    • Increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle (CCC 1496)
  • Can I make a confession even if I have not committed any serious sins?
    • Confession is a great gift of healing that brings about closer union with the Lord, even if, strictly speaking, you do not have to go to confession.
    • In Taizé, at Catholic conferences, at World Youth Day celebrations – everywhere, you see young people being reconciled with God. Christians who take seriously their decision to follow Jesus seek the joy that comes from aradical new beginning with God. Even the saints went to confession regularly, if possible. They needed it in order to grow in humility and charity, so as to allow themselves to be touched by God’s healing light even in the inmost recesses of their souls. (YOUCAT questions 234-235)
  • The second sacrament of healing is the Anointing of the Sick.
    • This sacrament is given by a priest to a baptised person who is seriously sick or in danger of death because of illness or old age. The sacrament unites the sick person to Christ’s suffering, gives strength, courage and peace to endure their suffering in a Christian way and brings forgiveness of sins if the person is not able to receive the sacrament of Confession. The sacrament also can bring restoration of health, if it is conducive to the person’s salvation, and it prepares them for passing to eternal life (CCC 1532).


Key Questions we asked a priest:

  • Are priests allowed to say things they heard at a confession during a homily as examples to offer moral teachings? No, priests are not allowed to break the seal of confession. They can only speak of situations or counselling sessions if the message holds strong moral benefit to the congregation. See more here.
  • What happens in scenario where an adult sexually abusing a minor in their care does a confession, does the priest absolve them of their sins? Can the priest break the seal of confession if someone is in danger?
    • The absolution is not necessarily given as the priest would have to work  with the adult to ensure that steps are taken for the adult to not abuse the minor and only when the priest feels enough action has been taken to protect the minor would absolution be granted.
    • If a minor was the one confessing the situation, then the church has certain authority to act to protect the minor even if the minor refuses action to be taken, however, if the penitent is not a minor, they can refuse the church’s intervention.
    • No, priests are not allowed to break the seal of confession.

Other useful information:

  • Confession locations and times in Lagos
    • Our Lady of Perpetual Help, VI – Saturday after morning mass or by appointment.
    • Church of the Assumption, Falomo – After every mass and 5pm on Saturdays except the 1st Saturday of the month.
    • Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki – Saturdays at 5 pm
    • For men:
      • SouthCreek, Plot 48, Jolayemi Street, Opp. Pinefield School, Off Christ Avenue, Off Admiralty Way. Lekki Phase 1. Theres usually always a priest there so you can go anytime.
      • Helmbridge (Opus Dei Centre for men) No. 23 Census close, off Babs Animashaun street, Surulere, Lagos.
    • For Ladies:
      • The Lagoon Secondary School, Ladipo Omotesho Cole Street,
        Off Adewunmi Adebimbe Drive,Lekki – Epe Expressway. Saturdays from 11 am. 
  • Useful links:
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