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Reflection questions and activities for 'A short history of reconciliation'

Clare Deignan  |  03 March 2016

Read the article 'A short history of reconciliation' and answer the following questions. Then share your answers in pairs, small groups or in a classroom discussion.

1. What does ‘public penitent’ mean? What do you think it would have been like to be a ‘public penitent’? Do you think this practice was merciful? Why or why not?

2. How did the way monks in monasteries practised the sacrament of reconciliation lead to the sacrament we know today? What is similar in the way the monks practised it to the way we currently do?

3. How has the priest's role in the sacrament of reconciliation changed throughout church history?

4. Today in the sacrament of reconciliation we meet with God through a priest. In what situations, do priest still have to judge sins? (Review the article, if you need help.)

5. What role does mercy play in the sacrament of reconciliation? Why is it important that the ‘priest wear God’s compassionate face’ rather than that of a harsh judge?


1. Timeline: Break up into pairs or groups of three and research online the history of reconciliation in the Catholic Church. Then create a more detailed timeline to go with the article ‘A short history of reconciliation’. You should add any interesting facts you found during your research to your timeline. You can decorate your timeline with words, sketches or pictures from online or magazines. When you are finished, share your timeline with your class. 

2. Creative writing: Imagine you are a public penitent during the early church. What would it be like to have your whole community know the serious sin(s) you’ve committed? How would you feel not being able to participate in the Eucharist? Write a one-page short fictional story about your experience.

Then, write a one-page story about being a Catholic attending the sacrament of reconciliation today. What is it like to meet with a priest in private: either face-to-face or in the confessional? What is it like to share your sins with only the priest and know he won’t tell anyone else? In your story, how does the priest respond? What is your penance? How do you feel after you receive the sacrament?

Students can share their short stories with the class.

For younger students

Act it out: Break students up into groups of three or four. Assign each group a different time period on the timeline from the article ‘A short history of reconciliation’. Students can then create a skit to act out how the Sacrament of Reconciliation was practised during this time period. Students can refer back to the article if they need help. 

When each group has practised enough, they can perform their skit for the class following the sequence of the timeline.

Check out more classroom videos, activities and worksheets on the Sacrament of Reconciliation at Saint Mary’s Press here



Topic tags: prayer, liturgyandthesacraments, thecatholictradition, scriptureandjesus, church-thepeopleofgod

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