Saturday, September 22, 2012

2: How to Confess Your Sins - Traditional Latin Rite

Confessionals for pilgrims at the Shrine of St. James in Compostela, Spain

To read an overview of the differences between the form of the traditional Latin sacrament of penance and the Novus Ordo form, see my previous blog 1: How to Confess Your Sins - Traditional Latin Rite See also How to Go to Confession and Manners for Penitentsfor more details, including how to prepare for confession other things you must do, and some etiquette suggestions.

If you haven't been to confession for  along time, remember this, the priest is going to be happy for you.  He may not say it, but he knows that heaven rejoices whenever a sinner turns to God and asks forgiveness.  Remember the image of Christ the Good Shepherd who went out to seek the lost sheep and returned rejoicing to the other sheep carrying the sheep over His shoulders.
Earliest image of Christ the Good Shepherd (200-300 AD), Catacomb of Domitilla
If you can't remember what to do or you get upset or flustered, tell the priest!  He'll be glad to guide you.

NOTE: Make the sign of the Cross while the priest says the blessing.
In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
In the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Penitent: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It is (X days, weeks, months, years) since my last Confession. And these are my sins.
Tell the priest the number and kind of your sins, then say: For these and all the sins of my past life, I ask pardon of God, penance, and absolution from you, Father.
NOTE: The priest may give you some spiritual advice before he gives you a penance. The penance is usually in the form of a certain number of prayers or other pious actions.
Priest: Now say a good Act of Contrition.
English: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because they offend Thee, who art all Good and worthy of all my love. And I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
NOTE: Make the Sign of the Cross when the priest says the words, "ego te absolvo ...."
Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat; et ego auctoritate ipsius te absolvo ab omni vinculo excommunicationis (suspensionis) et interdicti in quantum possum et tu indiges. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Deinde, ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require. [making the Sign of the Cross:] Thereupon, I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi, merita Beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, quidquid boni feceris vel mail sustinueris sint tibi in remissionem peccatorum, augmentum gratiae et praemium vitae aeternae.
May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints and also whatever good you do or evil you endure merit for you the remission of your sins, the increase of grace and the reward of everlasting life. Amen.
Penitent: "Thank you, Father"

1. How to Confess Your Sins -- Traditional Latin Rite (Extraordinary Form)

This information may help if you want to confess your sins to a priest who follows the Traditional Latin rite (Extraordinary Form, or EF), and you are used to confessing sins to a priest at a Novus Ordo (NO) parish. Confession of sins has always been in the local language (the vernacular). And the form of the sacrament is the same.

The terminology is different. The Sacrament of Penance in the EF is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the NO.

A common term for receiving the sacrament is "going to confession."

The major difference with an EF confession is that the initial blessing and the closing prayer will usually be in Latin.

For another thing, NO priests often omit the step of asking the penitent to say the Act of Contrition after the person finishes telling the priest his sins. But in the EF form, the Act of Contrition is always said by the penitent, either before or during absolution.

If the church has a confessional, that might be strange to you if you are used to going to confession sitting in a chair facing the priest. In a confessional like the one in the image under this blog's title, the priest sits behind a door in the middle while penitents kneel facing him on the side in a compartment that is behind either a door or a heavy curtain. A privacy screen separates the priest and the penitent so they can't see each other.

In all the churches I've attended lately that use confessionals, only one side of the confessional is used. But if two sides are used, when the priest is hearing a confession on one side, he keeps a sliding panel closed behind the privacy screen on the other side. The privacy panel ensures that if another penitent is waiting, the one that is waiting won't be able to hear the other one's confession.

Sometimes priests use a sort of mini-confessional with the priest sitting behind a screen and the penitent kneeling on a kneeler. The photo below shows an example of the kind of mini-confessional I'm talking about.

Fr. Joseph Marie Wolfe hears confessions at an EWTN family celebration in San Francisco

There may be a line for confessions. If a confessional is being used, a light is lit when the priest is present. Lights are sometimes lit to indicate whether the penitents' sides are occupied. When it is your turn, open the door or the curtain, close it behind you, and kneel down.

If you haven't been for a long time, you might consider calling the priest ahead of time and telling him you would like  an appointment for confession.

Another helpful practice is to make a General Confession from time to time. You can either write out the sins of your life and tell them to the priest or confess from memory.  Since  a general confession is going to take longer than a regular confession, this is another case where you might want to call for an appointment.

For how to confess and receive absolution, go to the next post: 2: How to Confess Your Sins - Traditional Latin Rite

Metaphorical Interpretation VS. Common Sense. And the Winner Is?

I'm reading the Valley Catholic diocesan newspaper again because it is showing up in my mail box, through a new initiative that delivers it to every registered Catholic home. I stopped subscribing to the paper a while back, because it always provokes me to want to write some sort of response to the doctrinal errors that stand out for me in its articles, and I have other more useful things to do with my time.

But I made the mistake of reading through the September 18 issue, since it was here, and so I got myself provoked again, this time by an article by Oblate author and regular "Spirituality" columnist Fr. Ron Rolheiser called "Ultimate Answer to Violence." The way he writes is, to me, just another reminder of the gap between common sense and the vaporous obfuscations[1] of non-traditional writers about Church teachings.

For example, Fr. Rolheiser puts quotes around the work "demons." Does that mean that he doesn't think demons exist? And he explains what "in essence" Jesus meant by fasting, using only sixty-two words, not referring at any point to abstaining from food. And the worst thing he does is to substitute the term "Ultimate Power" for "Father" when referring to the first Person of the Trinity. Details follow below.

Fr. Rolheiser starts with a good goal, in that he is trying to explain the paradox of how nonviolence can triumph over violence. Fr. Rolheiser writes that the answer to "How do gentleness and meekness inherit the earth? ... may strain logic somewhat, but Jesus hints at an answer to that question in his response to his disciples when they ask why they do not have the power to cast out certain demons, when Jesus can cast then out."

I don't think that Jesus "hints," and writing that Jesus hints at anything implies a kind of smugly inappropriate familiarity with the Second Person Who is the Creator of the Universe. But let's go on.

Before I quote what Fr. Rolheiser posits as Jesus's metaphorical answer, let's look at the literal words of the Gospel, Matthew 17: 14-20:

14 And when he was come to the multitude, there came to him a man falling down on his knees before him, saying: Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffereth much: for he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water.

15 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

16 Then Jesus answered, and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me.

17 And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour.

18 Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out?

19 Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. *For amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall say to this mountain Remove from hence to yonder place, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you.

20 But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

Here is Fr. Rolheiser's thought on verses 19 and 20:

"Jesus' answer is metaphorical, but deep. He replies, in essence, that "demons" are cast out, not through a superior cultic power, but through a superior moral power, namely, by the power that is created inside someone when he or she sufficiently nurtures a deep private integrity, graciousness, love, innocence, gentleness, and hold these in fidelity in the face of all temptation, including violence.

Nurturing these things inside oneself connects a person to the ultimate source of all Being, the Ultimate Power, the power that Jesus called his "Father."

There we have the sixty-two words that Fr. Rolheiser uses to define fasting.

I would suggest that we generally should take Jesus' words literally, unless they are obviously not to be taken literally. In contrast, Rolheiser seems to know that Jesus' answer is metaphorical, although he does allow that it is "deep." Rolheiser's point seems to be that "demons" whatever he thinks they are, are cast out not by literal prayer and abstaining from food as in traditional fasting but by "nurturing ... integrity, graciousness, love" and so forth.

And if you achieve that nurturing (no deprivation of one's senses is necessary, it seems), you will be connected to the "Ultimate Power." When Rolheiser writes that Jesus called that Ultimate Power "Father," is he hinting that "Father" was just a limited sexist term that Jesus used, but that we are too smart to use? I fear that might be so.

Does this kind of terminology belong in a Catholic newspaper? I think not. Catholics don't believe in an abstract impersonal Higher Power, or Force. We believe in One God in Three Persons, and God the Father is one of the Persons. We don't believe in God the Ultimate Power.

Ultimate answer to violence ... in Spirituality by Father Ron Holheiser, The Valley Catholic, September 18, 2012. p. 14.
[1] Hope the big word didn't put you off. The definition of "to obfuscate" fits the situation exactly, but it take a lot more words: "To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand."