The Confiteor


At the beginning of almost every Mass, is the Penitential Rite. It is a general acknowledgment of our sinfulness and a request for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Through this rite, one receives forgiveness for their venial sins (one of many ways; mortal sins must be absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation). One of the three options for general confession is the Confiteor (a/k/a “I confess”).

Sometimes the Confiteor is called the “mea culpa” (Latin for “my fault”) as the penitent accepts full responsibility for their sins. To me that is a good way to think of it as it is central to the prayer. The prayer is brief, so I will go over it for my non-Catholic readers.

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, – an admission to both God and all assembled.

that I have sinned through my own fault, – I chose to sin, blame is squarely on my shoulders alone, I offer no excuse. To emphasize this sentiment, the penitent should lightly strike their breast at this point.

in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; – I acknowledge all the forms by which I have sinned.

and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God. – I ask for the intercessory prayers of others.

Absolution through the priest follows with him saying “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.

Somehow I feel like a small weight has been lifted, not unlike the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is coming clean, being honest, getting set right with God. One other thing I think about is that the other penitents have asked me to pray for them. It seems like the Hail Mary would be the perfect prayer, at the earliest opportunity.

The current Latin for the Confiteor is:

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres,
quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne:
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres,
oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.

The US English translation of the Confiteor shown above is from the current US English translation of the Mass. A new worldwide English translation (closer to the Latin form) has been approved and will probably be placed into use at Advent 2012. That new translation is:

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

The Devil

The Devil

The Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Prince of Darkness, The Evil One, The Antichrist, The Angel of the Bottomless Pit, The Father of Lies, Leviathan, Wicked One – these and many more are all names for the one who is the true enemy of Christians. I am no theologian, but it seems to me that one can not be a Christian without firmly believing in the reality of the devil. To my thinking, we often do not give him his due. He is powerful, resourceful, deceitful, opportunistic, insightful, determined, clever, ever present and persistent. He is never discouraged and never gives-up. Fear the Lord but also respect the devil, for if you do not respect him you will underestimate him.

Whatever the less discerning theologians may say, the devil, as far as Christian belief is concerned, is a puzzling but real, personal and not merely symbolical presence.

Pope Benedict XVI

We are all children of God and therefore intrinsically good, but children none-the-less. We are easily subject to the influence of evil. The devil is what makes free will a choice. He is the other side of the equation and he has an urgent mission. For him (and for us), time is always running out. His window-of-opportunity to win our soul is limited to our mortal lives. The battle is over when we die, at that point he has either succeeded in separating us from God or not.

There are many good analogies. Life is like war against the devil in which there are many battles. We must strive to win every one so the outcome of the war will be certain. Life is like playing a sport where the devil is the opposing team. We must continuously strive to block our opponent from scoring any points and to win each match against him. This war or this game has one complication – we do not know when it ends. We can not be too conservative as the need to stay far ahead is crucial.

We lose battles or give points to the devil when we choose to separate ourselves from God through sin. The devil tempts, but can not force, us to sin. We must make those decisions ourselves. Sin is addicting too, small infrequent sins can easily lead to frequent grave sins unless we are determined to fight every time. It is a mistake to excuse venial (less grave) sins as they are the gateway to mortal sins. The choice is ours and we need not be slaves to sin.

No earthly place is free of the devil. Last week I wrote about the Mass and how it was heaven on earth. It is both heaven and earth joined together, but not purely heaven. The devil is not banished here – we can be tempted and distracted by him even at Mass. He is especially displeased when the faithful participate in the Mass.

The devil is no fan of Jesus nor the Church He founded! She is the major obstacle to his success and Her destruction is paramount. The devil is relentless in pursuit of this objective. Jesus himself told us the devil will fail as “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail” against this Church. This does not unfortunately dissuade the devil from trying.

The Church has ever proved indestructible. Her persecutors have failed to destroy her; in fact, it was during times of persecution that the Church grew more and more; while the persecutors themselves, and those whom the Church would destroy, are the very ones who came to nothing.

St. Thomas Aquinas

No mortal person is free of the devil and every person is tempted by him. Jesus and Mary were, although they saw through his treachery and never succumbed to him. The rest of us have, including all the Apostles, Saints, every Pope, bishop, priest, me and you. Last week I wrote about the sex scandal where parents, teachers, coaches, clergy and others we hold in high esteem have committed dreadful sins. Until we are in heaven, none of us can escape his temptations.

Begone, Satan! The Messiah’s resolute attitude is an example and an invitation for us to follow him with courageous determination. The devil, the “prince of this world,” even today continues his deceitful action. Every man, over and above his own concupiscence and the bad example of others, is also tempted by the devil, and the more so when he is least aware of it.

Pope John Paul II

The devil is a good organizational planner! He prioritizes his focus where it is most needed. In his battle for the souls of some, he may be far ahead. He is pleased by his progress and looks forward to claiming them for his own. Conversely there are others where he is losing the battle. People who resist him with all their will, who love the Lord and each other. These are his special targets, his operational priorities.

The success of the devil in the world and our personal lives is depressing. The good news is we can win. Know your enemy, recognize his tricks. When you fail – examine your conscience, take responsibility, commit to amending your life and receive absolution.

In our battle against the devil, we Catholics have a special weapon – the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. Receive them often and their graces will strengthen you in the fight.

We are to love our enemies and it is sinful to hate. The devil is a special case. Go ahead, hate him. Tell him you do not accept him in your life. Be alert – recognize and resist his temptations. Hold firm when you are tested by the many challenges of life. Pray. This is the most important battle worth fighting and with God’s help, one you will win.

Family, sex, life

Family Sex Life

These topics, which to my mind are really one topic, are often cited by secularists, liberals, radical feminists, some Protestants and even “cafeteria” Catholics as issues with Catholic Church teachings. Some see the family as an outdated notion, or one that can be formed, dissolved and formed again to suit changing personal interests. Sex is for enjoyment as long as it is consensual and “safe.” The number of partners and sexual orientation is irrelevant. Life begins and ends when it is convenient – often no sooner than natural birth and lasts until it is decided the quality of life has reached some personal threshold.

The Catholic Church could not disagree more!

One viewpoint elevates the plans and desires of the individual. The other recognizes God’s will as paramount in respecting the sanctity and dignity of all human life. Some are disobedient to God (see What harm is a little sin?) and erroneously assume – with Satan’s subtle encouragement – that obedience would be a hardship. By following their own path into the darkness they are lost and will not find the true happiness they seek.

The Church teaches marriage as a vocation. It is not a shared housing arrangement of “friends with benefits.” It is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman to each other and if so blessed, their children. Family life provides the structure in which children can be properly nurtured and grow.

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Catholics enjoy sex! It strengthens the loving bonds of husband and wife and may bear the happy fruit of offspring. Contrast that with the many “recreational” abuses of sex that are sinful and harmful to the participants. They are disordered and often unnatural. Sometimes the harm is obvious and soon apparent, other times more subtle, accumulating over time. Some examples include premarital sex, contraception, pornography, masturbation, adultery, homosexual acts, promiscuity, immodesty and abortion.

Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.

CCC 2353

Few issues are as poignant as abortion. The Church teaches life begins with the miracle of conception through the action of the father, the mother and God. That newly created life is as existent and sacred as all human life, regardless how unplanned or inconvenient it may be. For parents to exercise a supposed “choice” to “terminate” their child is intrinsically a grave evil.

The other side of life is equally important. Euthanasia is the unnatural and purposeful ending of life. It replaces God’s will with our own to determine when and how life may end.

The good side of purgatory

Good Side Of Purgatory

Purgatory has a bad rap. Often it is considered synonymous with hell, and it is quite the opposite. Purgatory is not in Satan’s domain. Even when people understand that, they often label it as one of those “weird Catholic things.”

Let me ask you a question. Consider if, while you are reading this blog – heaven forbid – you were to have a fatal stroke. Are you ready to enter heaven right now? Put another way, what would you think of heaven if it were filled with people as they are at the moment (forgiven but carrying the weight of a lifetime of sin)?

You may be a saint and therefore good-to-go on immediately entering heaven. For me, being a saint is a goal to strive for – the Catholic Church calls on each of us to be one. I am not proud to report that I am still struggling to get there. If I die right now, I need something between where my soul is at the moment and where it must be. I do not want to lower the standard by entering heaven as I am!

The fix for this problem is purgatory. The word is related to “purge,” and its function is to cleanse us of the temporal remnants of the sins we have committed. Those who enter purgatory will enter heaven. It is cause for great relief! All this is, of course, totally foreign to my Protestant upbringing but is something that really clicked when I understood it.

I like to think of purgatory as a very special hospital. One in which 100% of the patients will have a successful outcome — guaranteed. However, like all hospitals, the treatment may be uncomfortable, and your stay will be as long as necessary. No one looks forward to a hospital stay.

In the old days the Catholic Church tried to figure out a formula for how long that stay might be. The truth is, no one knows. Nor do they know how painful it may be. However long it is, it is finite. In the scope of eternity it is but a moment.

Wait you say – stop right there. If I have been saved and am going to heaven, then are not my sins forgiven? Yes, absolutely. However the sins you committed, while forgiven, have left a scar on your soul. Sometimes this is compared to a nail driven into wood. The nail represents sin, and the wood is your soul. When the nail is removed (forgiven) it leaves the hole which represents the lasting damage. When you look back on the sins you have committed, forgiven though they are, how does that make you feel? That is what I am talking about.

Our time in purgatory may be mitigated through several avenues. One is the power of prayer. Do you believe that your prayers for someone in the hospital are heard? This is the same thing. There are also things we can do (e.g. good works) – or suffer – in life which have a curative effect on our soul. This makes complete sense to me.

Confession, getting out of deep trouble

Confession Getting Out Of Deep Trouble

Confession (formally The Sacrament of Reconciliation or Sacrament of Penance) is a sacrament of healing. Through this sacrament, the sanctifying grace of God is restored after you have rejected Him through mortal sin and destroyed the grace He has given you. (See What harm is a little sin? for my brief explanation of sins.)

Reconciliation is not punishment but more of a celebration. Not because you have sinned, but because you have examined your conscience, are sincerely sorry, wish to do better in the future and are returning to God. Like the prodigal son’s father, you are forgiven and brought back into harmony with Him. In the sacrament a Priest, acting “in persona Christi” (“in the person of Christ“) absolves you of your sins restoring your relationship with the Father.

This sacrament, like all seven sacraments, is a gift given to us from Jesus.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

On the coast of Caesarea Philippi Jesus thus gave Peter the authority to absolve sins. For more information, see also John 20:22-23, Matthew 9:2-8, and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 11:2-7. You not only know your sins are forgiven when you receive this sacrament, but are told so by someone with the authority to speak for our Lord.

Not only do lay Catholics receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but the clergy does too. You may be surprised to learn that includes the Pope. Many have done so frequently.

Next month, God willing, I will be received into the Catholic Church and receive Communion. Catholics may receive the Eucharist only if they are in a state of grace. At some point soon, I must therefore receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. I hope my pastor has a lot of patience, I have a long list! I will let you know how it goes…   (update, see: Bless me father for I have sinned)

Penitents must confess all their mortal sins in order for their confession to be valid. This is easier if your last confession was recent. My situation is, shall we say, more challenging. Fortunately all sins, including those you truly do not remember, are forgiven.

This in no way is an “out” for those sins you would rather not mention. If you purposely exclude any sin remembered and know it to be a mortal sin, your entire confession is invalid and you have not received absolution. You have purposefully lied to God through omission; reflect, pray and come back again when you can be fully honest. Also, knowing a sin to be mortal is determined by the teachings of the Church and not open to personal “viewpoints.” I will save exploring this for a future post.

Lastly, let’s look at the seal of the confessional. It is absolute, inviolable and permanent. That means that your entire confession is forever confidential. The confessor (Priest) may not disclose, hint, or act on what is said under any circumstance, regardless of the sins confessed, your death or any consequences to him. All Priests take this extremely seriously. If he were to break confidentiality, it would result in his excommunication. Priests (St. John of Nepomucene and Father Felipe Ciscar Puig) have been martyred for refusing to break the seal. Your confession is between you and God. A Priest is present to help you and to be an intermediary.