Hey, Father! Is there a good reason for omitting the Confiteor at Mass?
Why, with already so many of the rubrics and language changes in the New Mass, would there be a good reason for omitting the Confiteor from being said at the Sacrifice of the Mass? (Editor’s note: The Confiteor is the prayer that begins with, “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words…”
– Maxine in Collinsville/Maryville
In the Order of Mass, Mother Church provides three possible options for the Penitential Act (nos. 4-6). The Order of Mass does not indicate if one of the three options is to be preferred over another. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal also does not indicate if one of the options is to be preferred. Rather, it simply says, “the Priest calls upon the whole community to take part in the Penitential Act, which, after a brief pause for silence, it does by means of a general confession. The rite concludes with the Priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance” (no. 51).
Of these three options, the third form is likely the one with which most Catholics are familiar. The priest invites the congregation to call to mind their sins, after which the priest or the deacon says three invocations directed to Christ Jesus. After each of the invocations, the congregation responds with either “Lord, have mercy” or with “Christ have mercy” (no. 7). This third option does not involve the praying of the Confiteor (the beginning of which, in English, is, “I confess to Almighty God…”).
The second option provided for the Penitential Act is, for whatever reason, rarely utilized. The priest invites the congregation to call to mind their sins, after which he says, “Have mercy on us, Lord,” to which the people reply, “For we have sinned against you.” The Priest then says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy,” to which the people say, “And grant us your salvation.” Then follows the non-sacramental absolution and “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” This second option also does not involve the Confiteor.
In the first option for the Penitential Act, the priest invites the congregation to remember their sins, after which all pray the Confiteor together. Then follows the non-sacramental absolution and “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”
Because the liturgical books do not provide a hierarch for these three options, the celebrant of the Mass is free to choose whichever option he prefers. It may be that a priest might choose the first option on more solemn occasions and use one of the other options other days. Regardless of which option a priest uses, we should remember that what the Church allows, the Church allows.
Fr. Daren Zehnle is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.