The Penitential Rite explained - Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst



The Penitential Rite explained - Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst
SandPiper – July 2009
Page 15
The Penitential
Rite explained
ach Sunday our liturgy begins us on
a path that it would
like us to follow.
The Introductory Rite
begins with us marking ourselves with the Sign of the
Cross – the sign of our faith.
“By this shall all know that
you are my disciples” John
So having gotten onto the
right foot, we then move to the
Penitential Rite – that part of
the liturgy where we acknowledge our bungles in trying
to do the right thing, and ask
forgiveness of God and each
“Then the priest invites
those present to take part in the
entire Act of Penance, which,
after a brief pause for silence,
the entire community carries out through a formula of
general confession.” General
Instruction of the Roman
Missal #51
The Structure
The Penitential Rite begins
with a general invitation to the
people to call to mind those
times we have missed the
For example:
Celebrant: My brothers
and sisters,
To prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let
us call to mind our sins.
After this pause for silence
we can either use –
Option A:
The Confiteor (I confess
to almighty God…), which
includes two actions as well.
The striking of the breast
at the words “My own fault”
and the bow of the head at
the mention of the name of
Mary. There is also an optional
Sign of the Cross at the words
“You, here present”.
Option B:
Celebrant: Lord, we have
sinned against you: Lord have
All: Lord have mercy.
Celebrant: Lord, show us
your mercy and love.
All: And grant us your
Celebrant: May almighty
God have mercy on us, forgive
us our sins, and bring us to
everlasting life.
All: Amen.
Option C (which is our
most commonly used):
The Kyrie – the set of
three statements of faith
addressed to Christ, in praise
of Christ’s mercy, which are
responded to with – Lord
have mercy/Christ have mercy
The advantage of the third
option is that the focus is
clearly on Jesus Christ and
his salvation rather than our
One of the most common
mistakes people make when
they attempt to re-write the
opening tropes of the Kyrie is
that they replace the statements
of faith (which express why
we believe the Lord will have
mercy on us such as "You
were sent to heal the contrite",
"Lord Jesus, you are mighty
God and Prince of peace", or
"Lord Jesus, you intercede
for us with your Father", with
statements of fault that suggests we are all lower than a
snake’s belly and only with
the Lord’s mercy shall we ever
breath again, such as "For the
times we have failed to care
for the earth, for the times we
have not been friends with others", "we are sinners and not
It is the Lord’s mercy that
we ask for, but we do it with a
confidence that there is mercy
available to everyone with the
Originally the Kyrie was
not seen as a penitential prayer
but as a prayer of praise.
Placing it with the
Confiteor changed its nature
and direction.
Up until about the Fifth
Century the Kyrie was the
response to the Prayers of the
Faithful, but when the liturgy
dropped the Prayers of the
Faithful the Kyrie was moved
to the opening part of the
Since the restoration of the
Prayers the Kyrie is probably a
little redundant, so the change
of nature helps us make sense
of it.
Continuing on…
“The rite concludes with
the priest’s absolution, which,
however, lacks the efficacy of
the Sacrament of Penance.”
GIRM #51
It is said that the Eucharist
includes our reconciliation,
and as the above section of
the General Instruction states,
there is a communal absolution offered at the Eucharist,
but is not the same as what we
receive at the Sacrament of
However, the nature of
the Penitential Rite is one of
requesting forgiveness, and
with all the options there is an
expectation that forgiveness
will be granted, for a sincere
The Kyrie: The statements of faith most commonly used in the Penitential Rite.
“On Sundays, especially
in the Season of Easter, in
place of the customary Act of
Penitence, from time to time
the Blessing and Sprinkling of
Water to recall Baptism may
take place”. GIRM #51
Also the Directory of
Masses with Children allows
for the omission of the
Penitential Rite altogether.
But I think the Sprinkling Rite
is more suited to uses with
Children. When using the
Sprinkling Rite it is important
to include a prayer asking God
to bless the water, keeping
the community faithful to the
Spirit received at Baptism,
before it is sprinkled. It is
important for the prayer to
include a clear connection of
this blessed water with the
water of Baptism. Salt can also
the blessed and added to the
water before sprinkling.
The prayer over the salt
asks God to drive out evil and
preserve the Spirit forever in
the hearts of those touched by
the water. Traditionally the
Sign of the Cross is made by
the people as the water touches
them to recall the Cross
marked on them at Baptism.
It is good
The Penitential Rite sets us
up as a community to celebrate
It suggests that we work
together in the good times and
in the more challenging times.
We are a group who
together move to the Kingdom
of God, as we are, but with the
mercy and benefit of our God,
through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we can see the
Penitential Rite as the dragging
of our sinful and worthless
selves to the compassion of
God. But if the original context
– a prayer of praise – is noted,
it can be a much more positive
We often sing our Kyrie,
and this lifts our voices in
praise, with the association
that the Kyrie can lift our
spirits in praise also – Kyrie
From the archives
Parish life was quite different in
the past, writes Mal Nolan, as he
explores the Diocese's 1948 synod
ON November 17, 1948, the
Sandhurst Diocesan Synod was
held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral.
It proved to be a historic event,
since no more synods have been
held since!
The synod was presided over
by the Bishop of Sandhurst, John
McCarthy, who was then ninety
years of age.
The recently appointed co-adjutor bishop, Bernard Stewart, was
also present.
Most of the 58 diocesan (secular)
priests and eleven regular (order)
priests of the diocese also attended.
The synod provides a glimpse of
church life at the time, which was
dominated by rules and regulations.
The proceedings of the synod
were expressed in the form of some
70 statutes or rules, relating to the
clergy, the laity, the sacraments and
parish administration.
Priests were required to make
a profession of faith, including the
rejection of modernism (a heresy
that was prominent about fifty years
Many of the rules relate to disciplinary matters, for example, priests
could not be absent overnight from
the parish without permission; altar
wine had to be kept under lock and
key; attendance at non-Catholic
marriages was not permitted as was
contracting a marriage with a nonCatholic; children had to be sent to
catholic schools; a Mass offering
was five shillings or ten shillings in
the case of weddings and funerals.
There was one rather odd rule
requiring the baptismal font to be kept
locked when not in use.
At this time, there were twenty
nine parishes in the diocese.
St Kilian’s covered the entire
Bendigo region except Eaglehawk.
Twelve of the parishes were
listed as having “irremovable” parish
priests, that is, priests who could not
be transferred to another parish.
The climate of church life at the
time was summed up by the vicar
general, Monsignor Peter Mahony
in a long address to the synod, that
emphasised the need for obedience to
the statutes, and concluded with the
words “it is the duty of the Bishop to
govern, the duty of priests and people
to obey”.
Acknowledgement: Details
taken from Synodus Diocecesana
Sandhurstensis Tertia (1948), a
25-page booklet mainly in Latin but
with the statutes in English.
Included in the publication is a list
of clergy in the diocese, listed according to seniority of ordination.
Article and photo provided by The Sandhurst Diocesan Archives Committee. If you have something you’d like to submit, please email [email protected]
Bishop John
over the
Synod in

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