I went to confession yesterday, and when I was done with the Act of Contrition, the priest did not say the complete prayer of absolution but simply said the very end, “I absolve you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.” Now I don’t know if I need to go to confession again because of this. I don’t know if he silently said the beginning part of the prayer while I was praying the Act of Contrition, or if he just skipped it to save time. (He was moving very fast and the several people before me were in and out of the confessional in no time at all. I was wondering how they were going so fast.) So what do you think? Repeat the confession, or assume that it was valid and/or that he silently said the rest of the prayer when I couldn’t hear him?
He said the essential form. It is valid.
I have also experienced this, with several priests, and what they actually do is begin the absolution in a low voice while you’re making the Act of Contrition. I asked one priest about this and he said that it’s OK to say what he called the “prelude” of the Absolution (i.e. the start of it) during the Act of Contrition. He also said it was very common in Ireland, where it was customary to do this to save time while the penitent gave a “long and blood-curdling” (his words!) Act of Contrition. I also have a vague memory of being told many years ago that the absolution had to be simultaneous with the penitent’s sorrow for sin, and perhaps this practice is a literal way of making sure this is the case.
Today I went to confession, and after I finished the priest told me to “go to your pew and make a good Act of Contrition” as a penance, and he didn’t give me a chance to say my Act of Contrition in front of him before he began the Absolution. So I left the confessional, knelt down and said the Act of Contrition, and since I felt, somehow, that the penance was incomplete, I prayed a decade of the Rosary, the Fatima Prayer and the Glory Be.
Was that confession valid? Should I go up to receive Communion tomorrow? I’m not sure if I should, if it wasn’t valid. Even though I was given no real penance and the priest told me to say the Act of Contrition when I went to sit down, was it still a valid confession? :shrug:
Rest assured, your confession was perfectly valid.
The only requirements for a valid confession are your contrition (the thing itself, not a prayer), your honest confession of your sins (not deliberately leaving out any mortal sins or lying in the confessional or anything) and the words ‘I absolve you of your sins …’ from the priest.
A formal act of contrition is not required to be said, at least not in the confessional, and a penance is not a requirement for validity of the confession or absolution. And even if it were, there’s nothing against making the Act of Contrition itself your penance.
Oh, that’s great. I was worried that I might not be able to receive the Lord at Mass. Isn’t the priest supposed to hear your Act of Contrition though? That is what I was taught when I converted from Protestantism. And the penance absolves temporal punishment, right (i.e., Purgatory)? Even if it is quite minute in contrast to the (mortal) sin?
No, the priest doesn’t have to hear your Act of Contrition. Just God I’ve had it happen several times, usually when there’s a long line for the confessional, that I’ve been told to say my Act of Contrition outside the confessional.
Yes, a penance will remove some of the temporal punishment due to your sin. But a voluntary penance (such as the Rosary you chose to say) will do so equally effectively as one imposed in Confession.
Put it this way - if I stole $10 from you, and after confession decided to pay you back the $10, plus an extra $5 to really show my sorrow, that would repair the damage done to you. It wouldn’t really matter whether I did it because the priest told me to do it as my penance or whether I decided on my own to do it.
Same with our penances vis-a-vis other sorts of temporal damage done by our sins.
Penance does not per se “absolve” temporal punishment, but rather mitigates the damage done by the confessed sins. All sin, even venial sin, damages your relationship with God. Absolution repairs this damage. Penance strengthens your relationship with, giving you a first step towards developing habits that help you avoid sinning in the future.
If you read and reflect on what the text of the Act of Contrition says, its actually a very powerful prayer of penance!
One might compare sin to a broken leg. Confession resets the bone, but one needs penance as rehab to strengthen the weakened spot.
The priest needs to hear your contrition, that you are sorry for your sins, not necessarily a particular prayer. Generally, the priest will know that you are sorry for your sins by the very fact that you are confessing them.