- Forgiveness in the Catholic church takes on several forms. The Mass, while mainly a celebration, is also a time to reflect upon your sins, recognize that you are unworthy. You can ask God for forgiveness. In the beginning of the Mass, the congregation recites the Confiteor: "I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God." Prior to Vatican II, a different version of the Confiteor was used. In this version, which was in Latin, the phrase "mea culpa" was repeated as the Catholic struck the breast with his fist. Translated from the Latin, mea culpa means "my fault." Today, although, the mea culpa has fallen out of popular use, you can still observe some Catholics, particularly older members of the parish, striking the breast and muttering this phrase. Prior to the consecration, the Penitential Rite is recited: "Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed." This prayer is asking for forgiveness but also is a statement of unworthiness. It means that you recognize that you are a sinner and unworthy of partaking in communion, even as you know that you receive God's love anyway.
- Confession or Penance is first undertaken prior to the First Holy Communion at about age 7. Catholic doctrine states that 7 is the age of reason, meaning that by this time, the child is able to tell right from wrong. The purpose of Confession is to admit your sins to the priest, who intercedes on the sinner's behalf to grant God's forgiveness. At the close of Confession, the priest assigns a penance. This usually consists of prayers or whole rosaries. It is assumed that you are forgiven through the completion of the penance. It is a common misconception that you should go to confession every week or at the very least, once per year. This once per year notion is also known as "Easter Duty." In fact, Confession is only needed for mortal sins. Mortal sins are very serious transgressions such as murder. Venial sins, that are less serious are believed to be forgiven through the prayers and actions in Sunday Mass.
- Forgiveness can also be experienced through other sacraments. The Anointing of the Sick, also known as Last Rites or Extreme Unction, is performed on Catholics who are very ill and possibly dying. In addition to blessing the sick individual, the priest may hear confessions and absolve sins as part of the Anointing of the Sick. It is important to note that in recent years, the notions and practice of forgiveness in Catholicism has evolved to be somewhat less formal than before Vatican II. Once, forgiveness was thought to be granted primarily through sacraments and through the intercession of the priest or the saints on your behalf. It is now commonly accepted that a sinner who is sorry for his transgressions may simply pray and ask God directly for forgiveness for it to be granted. There is also much less emphasis on punishment and suffering for your sins than in years past.
THE REAL PRESENCE
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,