History of the Sacrament of Penance

  • 100

    First Century to Sixth Century

    The Order of Penitents - it involved 7 steps, was allowed once only and often lasted 2 or 3 years.
    1: Private confession to the Bishop 2: Enrolment into Order of Penitents 3: Wear sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance
    4: Exclusion from the Eucharist after the Liturgy of the Word
    5: Performing long and severe penances 6: Community prayers and encouragement 7: Public acceptance back into community on Holy Thursday.
    Most people preferred to wait to near death before participating.
  • Period: 100 to

    History of the Sacrament of Penance

    Please pay attention to the years noted and disregard the month and day dates as these are simply to indicate the year that the timespan begins for each event.
  • Jan 1, 601

    Seventh Century to Twelfth Century

    People came to monasteries for help, seeking some external signs of forgiveness.
    This led to monks hearing private confessions and giving helpful advice. This is how the sacrament of penance originated.
    A book called the penitential was produced which provided suitable penances for particular sins.
  • Jan 1, 1101

    Twelfth Century to Vatican II

    During this period the modern Rite of Penance emerged.
    * The sacrament was named confession - the telling of one's sins became more important than the desire to change.
    * Penance was lightened - often to a brief prayer.
    * Emphasis was placed on sorrow for one's sins, contrition, and the priest acted as judge.
    * For many it was an experience associated with fear.
    * It was totally private, not a community event.
  • Vatican II

    By the 1960's there was widespread dissatisfaction with the sacrament and the number of people participating declined significantly
    "The rites of the penance are to be revised so that they more clearly express both the nature and effect of the sacrament."
  • Now

    Emphasis is now placed on the theme of reconciliation, community and healing.
    The priest is called to be a guide now rather than a judge.
    God is seen to be reaching out to forgive us and our response to this unconditional love is emphasised.
  • Seventh Century to Twelfth Century

    By the 9th Century penance was associated with penalties for sins committed.
    Absolution was now given immediately after the confession and the penance was carried out.