Penitent's opening prayer in confession

I’m pretty sure that I was taught, in my Catholic grade school in Topeka, Kansas, to begin my Confession with the words: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”

For the past twenty years, though, all I seem to hear in dramas and people’s comments about Confession are the words: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” The difference only being “Bless” rather than “Forgive”.

Oddly-enough, just this past week, on two modern television dramas both of which included a Confession, I heard the word I was taught, and that is the first time for, as I indicated, twenty years, that I have heard it so-used.

It makes me wonder if there is a part of the U.S. that learned one word “Forgive” while another learned “Bless”, perhaps because of using different translations from the Latin. Or perhaps it is some religious orders of sisters who taught one word in preference to the other.

I just did my first Confession last Saturday and I was taught to use Forgive

Sisters of Mercy, Baltimore, early 1960’s, taught me to say, “Bless me, Father.”


Hmmmmm…this is the first time I’ve heard “Forgive me Father…”.

Sometimes I even skip that part entirely. The priest begins with the sign of the cross and I say it with him, and then jump directly to, “it’s been xx weeks since my last confession.”

Still, a Catholic grade school in Topeka KS could never be wrong.

The Opening is “Bless Me Father”… I always crack up because I hear “forgive me father” on television.

Do a “how to go to confession” search and you’ll see they all say the “bless me”. I didn’t find one “forgive me”. I just looked at 6 different books that I have many written by priests including some that were written in the 60’s and prior and they all say “bless me”.

I also did a Google, and in about 10 minutes had these examples discussing how to begin a Confession and recommending or allowing “Forgive me Father, … .” I’d say the two different words (forgive or bless) in the usual beginning must have been widely-taught to children in past years. I learned my formula in about 1947, I think.

To begin, the penitent kneels and, by custom, says: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned”, and may add, “It has been [time] since my last confession.”

3.The priest may say a few words and you simply start off by saying, "Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It’s been (amount of time) since my last confession.

Make the sign of the cross and say, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned it has been [blank] days since my last confession. I accuse myself of the following sins."

The penitent will then say “bless me Father/forgive me Father for I have sinned. It was X weeks/months/years since my last confession. Here are my sins…”

you can start any way you want, but start, don’t keep Father waiting.

He is going to bless you in any case.

we teach the children the formula and practice because it lessens their anxiety and makes them more comfortable to have memorized what to say and do

Bless me, Father for I have sinned, this is my first confession. My sins are . . . for these and for all the sins of my past life I am very sorry. (they don’t seem to get “heartily”)

it is important to end in some way so Father doesn’t wonder if you are done. then let him take over.

I learned it from the Dominicans in 1955 so obviously it is unbroken Church tradition for thousands of years, would they lie to me?

How odd. I searched “how to go to confession” and didn’t get one hit for “Forgive me”. I just pulled out my Father In Laws 1920 Missal. It says “Bless Me”. My missal from the 60’s says “Bless Me”.

I have always said “Bless me, Father” - I think what keeps me away from saying “Forgive me” is that I know that it is not the priest in whom I am seeking forgiveness - it is from Christ.

I think in saying “Forgive me, Father” we may be blurring the lines of who is actually performing the sacrament - it is Christ who forgives us.

The Rite of Penance doesn’t give any specific opening words for the penitent so you can say whatever you want. I usually start with 'Hi," and perhaps how long it’s been.
If you look at the rite, the priest begins with a greeting and then an optional scripture reading (which I never experienced).

I always say “bless me father…” at the beginning and at the end I as the LORD for forgiveness and the priest for his absolution and penance. I don’t think there is really a right or wrong answer to this, but I am sure that benedict girl will have a definitive answer.

When I start with “Forgive me, Father…” I’m speaking primarily to the First Person of the Most Holy Trinity, and only secondarily to the priest. I’m sure that to the priest, it sounds like I’m speaking to him, but since he is there as God’s representative, I’m not sure it makes much difference.

I’ve been under the impression that most Catholics start with “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned”, but (to me) that sounds too much like asking to be rewarded for having sinned.

From the liturgical book, Rite of Penance:
16. The priest should welcome penitents with fraternal charity and, if need be, address them with friendly words. The penitent then makes the sign of the cross, saying In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The priest may also make the sign of the cross with the penitent. Next the priest briefly urges the penitent to have confidence in God. …”.

“41. When the penitent comes to confess his sins, the priest welcomes him warmly and greets him with kindness.
42. Then the penitent makes the sign of the cross which the priest may make also.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The priest invites the penitent to have trust in God, in these or similar words:
May God, who has enlightened every heart,
help you to know your sins
and trust in his mercy.

The penitent answers: Amen.
Other forms of reception of the penitent may be chosen from nos. 67-71.”

In 67-71 it has other words for the priest to say. No. 67 has Ezekiel 33:11. No 68 has Luke 5:32. No 71 has 1 John 2:1-2. For No. 69 it has:
“May the grace of the Holy Spirit fill your heart with light, that you may confess your sins with loving trust and come to know that God is merciful.”
For No. 70 it has:
“May the Lord be in your heart
and help you to confess your sins with true sorrow.”

The Rites Volume One, Liturgical Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-8146-6015-0, pages 534, 545 and 564.

Just checked my 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal and it says, under “Method of Confessing” on page 69, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Its been _____ weeks (days, etc.) since my last Confession. I accuse myself of the following sins”.

I was taught to say “Bless”, and I’m 47 years old. :shrug:

I, too, was taught “Bless me…” by Sisters of Mercy in the 1950s.

(Not to change the subject, but sort of along the same lines, the Act of Contrition I was taught ended with “…to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”)

I love your name :thumbsup:

And, yes, I was taught something along those same lines

The reason most people say “bless” (or were taught to) was because prior to 1970 in many local rituals and customs, the rite called for the priest to bless the penitent before a confession using words such as "May the Lord be on your heart and on your lips that you may worthily and fittingly confess your sins, in the name of the Father +, etc. (or similar).

As was posted above, this is replaced in the modern rite with “May God, who has enlightened…” or several other variants including one similar to the one above. None however, have a blessing (i.e. “in the name of the Father…” accompanied by a sign of the cross - the priest is instructed to do this earlier with the penitent).

Mind you, I’ve never heard a priest apart from Opus Dei or Legionaries of Christ do the rite as it is laid down in the book with “May God who has enlightened…”. My experience has been that the only standard part has been the conclusion with the Prayer of Absolution.

I was taught sign of the cross and then “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been XXX since my last confession” decades ago. A couple weeks ago the priest at my parish, as part of his homily, presented a review on how to go to confession and said to start with sign of cross the “Bless me Father…”.

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