Lay Confiteor


Hello everyone,

I am leading the Liturgy of the Hours for an upcoming retreat of my young adult group. We will be using booklets from eBreviary, a great site that some of you probably know about. For Night Prayer, after the Confiteor, the booklet indicates that the “presiding minister” prays, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” Since I am just a layman, am I authorized to use those words, or should I omit that part?

Also, this situation raises a second question, and may be dependent on its answer. In the Penitential Rite at Mass, when the priest uses those words, is he granting absolution or merely praying that we may be forgiven? I think it is that latter, but I would love to have that cleared up. Thanks in advance.

  1. yes, do not omit.

  2. the latter.

May your prayer, united with the prayers of the Church, bring grace and peace.





In liturgical rubrics if a prayer is restricted to a deacon priest or Bishop then that is clearly stated. An example of this is the final blessings given at morning and evening prayer and at no other hour where a priest or deacon will close with “the Lord be with you. … (and with your spirit) May almighty Good bless you. …”

When no priest or deacon is present the closer is"The Lord bless us and keep us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life"

This distinction is explicitly and unambiguously at our in the texts.
The same applies on the texts for other liturgies and rites.



May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.



ROME, 28 JUNE 2005 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: What is the efficacy of the penitential rite in the Mass as far as the forgiveness of sins are concerned? One prominent priest in our area advanced the reason for the reduction in Catholics going to confession is because of the penitential rite. — J.W., Buffalo, New York

A: This subject is clearly addressed in No. 51 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

“Then the priest invites those present to take part in the Act of Penitence, which, after a brief pause for silence, the entire community carries out through a formula of general confession. The rite concludes with the priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance.”

Thus it is clear that the absolution formula that concludes the act of penance is not sacramental absolution and in no way dispenses from the obligation of confessing grave sins before receiving Communion.

Only recently have some people purported the theory that this rite absolves sins and could substitute confession. It is certainly possible that such a defective catechesis regarding the sacramental nature of this rite could contribute to a falling away from the sacrament of reconciliation.

However, I do not believe that the fault can be laid at the door of the rite itself. Some form of general admission of sin and unworthiness has formed part of the Mass since earliest times. It has always been seen as a positive element of confession, petition of forgiveness, and interior purification before entering into the celebration of the sacred mysteries.

The non-absolutory nature of the penitential rite does not mean that venial sins are not forgiven during this rite; they are also forgiven by receiving Communion and by the other intercessory prayers of Mass.



Thanks for the answers. Regarding the dismissal, the text in the booklets is “May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life,” just as you two stated (also stated in line 54 of the link hazcompat posted). This preference for the lay option probably indicates that everything else is written as if no clergy would be present.


Also, the dismissal is an invocation, not a blessing.

Liturgical Gestures

Sign of the Cross
normal way unless indicated

  1. Invitatory. At the words: Lord, open my lips. Made with right thumb on the lips.

  2. Opening Antiphon (unless preceded by the Invitatory). At the words: God, come to my assistance.

  3. Gospel Canticles (Morning and Evening Prayer). Made on first verse of the Canticle (Blessed be the Lord …, or, My soul magnifies the Lord …).

  4. Dismissal. Either when the blessing is given by a priest or deacon, or, when lead by a lay person, at the words: May the Lord bless us…


The liturgical bow for the Names of the Persons of the Trinity (an incline of the upper body of about 30 degrees) is given throughout the Liturgy of the Hours when called for (Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit …).

The bow of the head at the name of Jesus.



Something to keep in mind:

In the EF, during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, where the Priest and Server are praying, when the Priest makes his Confiteor, the Server (a layman) responds with the Misereatur (May Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, etc…). The Server would then pray his Confiteor as a representative of the people in the pews, and then the Priest would then turn to the Server and pray a Misereatur, but then only the Priest would pray the Indulgentiam absolutionem prayer where there is a sign of the Cross since it is a minor absolution of venial sins. That prayer is specific to the Priest, but the Misereatur is not.

The Indulgentiam was suppressed from the Mass in the Of, so no SotC is appropriate in the OF Penitential Rite. People still do it out of habit, probably thinking they are being traditional, but in point of fact, the prayer that has that SotC has been removed. This SotC is probably what creates the confusion the OP has.

So, no worries leading this prayer. You aren’t absolving anything, and there should never be a SotC associated with the Misereatur.


I’m guessing SotC stands for striking of the chest. Interesting that you say that, because I see the instruction in pew missals in my parish.


I agree with a lay minister saying at Night Prayer “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” My reasoning is as follows.

In the Liturgy of the Hours which is used in Australia the rubric for Night Prayer has:

“Here an examination of conscience is commended. In a common celebration this may be inserted in a penitential act using the formulas given in the Missal.”

(From Divine Office Volume 1, published by E.J. Dwyer, Sydney, 1974, ISBN 085574233X, page [573].)

A lay minister can preside at the Rite of Distributing Holy Communion Outside of Mass (from the liturgical book, “Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass”). There it has, in n. 28

“…pray for me to the Lord our God.
The minister concludes:
May almighty God have mercy on us, …”.

(From The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, page 650).

It is interesting to note that the Roman Missal uses the term “absolution” in the rubric:

“pray for me to the Lord our God.
The absolution by the Priest follows:
May almighty God have mercy on us, …”

(From Roman Missal, English translation according to the third typical edition, approved for use in the dioceses of Australia, England and Wales, and Scotland, published by Catholic Truth Society, in 2010, ISBN 9781860827303, page 550).


No, I think you’ll find it means ‘Sign of the Cross’.


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