A: The Sacrament of Reconciliation has had several names given to it throughout history: Penance, Confession, and Reconciliation. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of God’s forgiveness, has three elements to it: Confession, Absolution, and Penance.
Confession refers to verbalizing one’s sins to the priest. However, confessing one’s sins is not enough, one must also be sorry for their sins and intend not to sin again, this is called contrition. After the penitent confesses their sins they make an act of contrition (an expression of sorrow for their sins).
Absolution is the prayer of forgiveness which the priest prays over the penitent in order to absolve them of their sins.
Penance is the prayer(s) or task given by the priest to the penitent in order to help them amend their life and not sin again. Penance is NOT a punishment or a way of making up for our sins. Jesus paid for our sins on the Cross and we could never make up for our sins anyways. Forgiveness is entirely a free gift from God. Penance is meant to be a remedy for sin helping us to grow in holiness.