Non-Catholics, and even many Catholics, often ask whether they can confess their sins directly to God and whether God can forgive them without going through a priest. On the most basic level, of course, the answer is yes, and Catholics should make frequent acts of contrition, which are prayers in which we tell God that we are sorry for our sins and ask for His forgiveness.

But the question misses the point of the Sacrament of Confession. The sacrament, by its very nature, confers graces that help us to live a Christian life, which is why the Church requires us to receive it at least once per year. Moreover, it was instituted by Christ as the proper form for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, we should not only be willing to receive the sacrament but should embrace it as a gift from a loving God.

Three things are required of a penitent in order to receive the sacrament worthily:

He must be contrite or, in other words, sorry for his sins.

He must confess those sins fully, in kind and in number.

He must be willing to do penance and make amends for his sins.

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