Q. In religious orders made up solely of one sex, in our example, of men, is it still appropriate to include “and sisters,” when saying “and you my brothers and sisters” while praying the Confiteor in Compline or Mass Celebrations? Are male communities who omit saying “and sisters” in the Confiteor being disobedient in any way, or violating the rubics, or somehow denying the Universality of the liturgical act? If they are allowed to adapt the Confiteor to their community setting, can you please point me where I can find documentation of this?
A. There is a discussion right now in the community about this, because we use to only say, “and you my brothers” when only men were present, and included “and sisters” when women were assembled as well. We also pray the Confiteor to begin Compline, and the same scenario exists there as well.
B. Recently, a cleric told us that we need to include “sisters” when praying the Confiteor, (which we took to mean in both the mass and Compline), because we are praying in union with the Universal Church, and we are asking our brothers and sisters who may not be assembled or physically preset in body in the very building we are in, to pray for us to the Lord our God. I understand the argument to be: that excluding “sisters” when none are assembled takes away from the universality of the prayer and is therefore theologically incorrect. The cleric is basing his position on CCC #1071, that every liturgical act is always an act of the universal Church and is not restricted in its focus to those physically present.
Some of us however note that the Instructions in the Roman Breviary itself state that for night prayer, when one is praying alone a brief examination of conscience is to be employed, while only in a communal celebration of the office is the option of including the Confiteor offered as stated for the entry for Night Prayer in the General Instruction Liturgy of the Hours, Chapter II Section VI, #86, (ewtn.com/library/curia/cdwgilh.htm#Ch II-VI) which states:
It is a laudable practice to have next an examination of conscience; in a celebration in common this takes place in silence or as part of a penitential rite based on the formularies in the Roman Missal.
This would seem to suggest that when praying physically alone, it would make no sense to prayer the Confiteor, since there are no brothers or sisters assembled; while praying in community setting, a Confiteor would be allowed since there are brothers and/or sisters present. Which begs the question, if one is not to pray the Confiteor if praying the office alone since no brothers or sisters are physically present, then should we adapt, based on the formularies (nothing is mentioned as being exactly replicated) in the Roman Missal, our praying of the Confiteor to appeal to the prayers of only our brothers if no women are assembled?
In most religious houses I have visited, this is exactly the case, that only brothers are included in the Confiteor when only brothers are physically assembled there. A good example documenting how Benedictine, Dominican and Carmelites adapt the Confiteor for use in their respective Religious houses can be read here: catholicheritage.blogspot.com/2012/04/confiteor-wording.html
However, this argument is met with the rebuttal that it is only customary to omit the Confiteor when praying alone, that it would still be correct and even theologically encouraged to pray the Confiteor when alone, therefore the question of whether brothers and/or sisters are physically present is moot, since the prayer is directed through the Universal Church and does not rely on those assembled.
What adds to the confusion is that at the end of Compline, after we have asked for the prayers of our brothers who are assembled “and sisters” who are not, we end by asking for “God’s help to remain with us always, and with our brothers who are away.” So in one part, through the Confiteor, we are asking for prayers of those of the Church Militant who are not assembled with us, and yet feel the need to acknowledge the physical absence of certain other members of that Church Militant by praying for our brothers “who are away.” This would appear to present some incongruity in our liturgical prayer.