How to Explain Reconciliation to Teens

Reconciliation is the term used for the rite of forgiveness in the Catholic church. In this rite, a person has a private discussion with an ordained priest. Most Catholic children make their first reconciliation in second grade, when they take their first Communion. Some children, however, don’t use the sacrament regularly so might be unfamiliar with the rite as a teen. In addition, some teens join the Catholic Church through the rite of Christian initiation. Either way, it is important to explain both the action and the sacrament of reconciliation to teens.

Talk to the teen about how we all fall short. We all make bad choices. We all sin. Write the word “sin” on a small chalkboard.

Explain that through the sacrament of reconciliation, God forgives our sins 1. Erase the word from the chalkboard. Show the teen that just as she can no longer read the word, so our sins are erased.

Read the first chapter of First Letter of John, verse 9. In this passage, St. John reminds us that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. Point out that the priest doesn’t forgive the sins; he is merely speaking the words of Jesus.

Take the teen to visit the reconciliation room. Show the young person where the priest will sit. Explain that everyone who enters the reconciliation room has the choice of sitting in a chair opposite the priest for a face-to-face discussion or kneeling behind a screen where he has more anonymity.

Talk to the teen about the steps for a good reconciliation 1. First the teen should examine his conscience, to think about any way he hasn’t lived up to his best intentions. Second, he must share those sins that he is truly sorry for with the priest and receive penance. Penance is the action taken that shows we are sorry. Usually, the priest suggests something that will help the penitent grow in faith such as prayer or charitable works. Finally, the penitent must do the penance to complete the sacrament.


Remind the teen that the priest is completely unable to talk about anything a penitent says outside of confession. This is called the "seal of the sacrament." So anything the teen says is kept in the strictest confidence.

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