Thursday, August 19, 2010

Penitence within the Mass

In our postings over the last few days concerning confessions before Mass and confessions after Mass, we have not mentioned the importance of penitence within the Mass itself.  Yet there it is, the gateway to the Liturgy. 

Some Catholics, including those with liturgical duties, seem reluctant to allow the Penitential Rite at the beginning of every Mass to make its presence known and felt.  In particular, the Confiteor prayer ("I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters...") is often left out.  Granted, within the Penitential Rite, the Confiteor is not required, but why would we skip it?  Because our parishioners don't need it?  Because they only need it during Lent?  Because penitence mars the proper spirit of the Liturgy?

Preparations for the implementation of the revised Roman Missal in the coming months will provide a great opportunity to preach and teach about the Penitential Rite in general, and about the Confiteor in particular.  If many Catholics today feel awkward about "beseeching" God, it's no surprise that we're a bit awkward about pleading for His pardon.

Let's face the facts: Our God is all-Holy and all-Merciful.  We are not so holy, and we need His mercy so very much.


  1. In a culture that does not recognize sin, it's no wonder that Catholics have been infected to some extent...God likes me just as I am!

    The current attitude toward personal sin could lead to a re-working of the prayer that the priest recites following the Our Father: “Lord Jesus Christ, look not on the sins of your Church, but on my faith and basic niceness.”

  2. Hi Father. I just started following your blog.

    One observation out here on the left coast.
    During the summer, with the kids out of school, I have been blessed to be able to attend more 8 AM masses at my "non Sunday" Parish. These daily masses are well attended and the confiteor is almost always spoken. My Sunday parish, almost never unless during Lent.
    I am not sure what the connection is but it may have more to do with the personal preferences of the priest.

  3. Fr. Baer,
    Thank you for the reflection on the Sacrament of Reconciliation over the past couple of days!

    As a young priest, I am inspired by these words and find great encouragement to offer confessions more regularly -- and to preach on the sacrament more often.

    I remember when daily confessions began to be offered at Saint John Vianney -- what a central role this sacrament had in the renewal of that house! May this renewal now spread throughout the States!

    You are in my prayers as you take up the care of souls in your new parish!

    Blessings in Christ,
    Fr. Ryan E.

  4. I'm also curious as to who shapes the penitential rite for the mass - the priest or the liturgial coordinator? Or both?

    Really enjoying your blog - thank you and God bless!

    -Julie B

  5. I love my pastor, but he NEVER says the Confiteor. That bugs me.

  6. The Penitential Rite is one of the reasons I so much prefer the Traditional Latin Mass to the Novus Ordo. How much more food for meditation there is in the prolonged Pentitential Rite of the older Mass: the people and the priest interceding for one another; the dwelling on our unworthiness; and especially the priest approaching the altar in stages, remaining at the foot of the altar until he has publicly acknowledged his unworthiness and begged mercy for himself and the people. All of which underscores the awesomeness of the events that are about to take place at the altar.