Quick question on form of Sacrament of Reconciliation

So I was just brought into Full Communion this Sunday (Praise God :D). A couple days before I went to my first confession. I had made an appointment with the Priest and at first we started talking in his office for awhile. Then he asked if I was ready. After saying yes he asked what I knew about the Sacrament. I told him I knew the beginning (aka "Bless me Father for I have sinned…) and at the end to say an act of contrition. But then he told me that technically you’re not supposed to say “bless me Father for I have sinned” anymore. Then he pulled out a booklet that went through the Sacrament to be used in confessionals and supposedly this part of the Sacrament was changed in 1973. I don’t know the source and I can’t find it on the internet (perhaps I am typing in the wrong search criteria). All I can find right now is that you DO say this phrase. So I am confused thats all. Is it just a tradition that stuck around after a change and no Priests stopped the parishioners? Or was it changed and then changed back?

Anyways its just a quick question. But I know I am glad I can finally say Tiber Swim Team of '09 :slight_smile:

Your confessor was referring to the revised Rite of Penance, which was approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1975.

The Rite of Reconciliation for Individual Penitents, one form of the rite and the form you were celebrating, opens with the following:

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. Penitents who are unknown to the priest are advised to inform him of their state in life, the time of their last confession, their difficulties in leading the Christian life, and anything else that may help the confessor in the exercise of his ministry (16).


No mention is made of the line “Bless me, Father…” which is not included in the revised rite.

I hope that helps. :slight_smile:

Thank you that is exactly it :slight_smile:

But this Rite is the opposite of being set in concrete from the penitent’s point of view - it’s not like the rubrics of Mass or anything. The only requirement is that the priest use the correct formula for absolution - the rest is negotiable.

A penitent can confess using whatever words they wish as long as they specifically confess all the mortal sins that they can recall since the last confession. :shrug:

I am familiar with no such sentiment with regard to the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation. For some reason, people seem to think that because the sacrament takes place behind the closed doors of the confessional, it’s acceptable to throw the carefully outlined rite to the wind when that is hardly the case.

On page 336 of the Handbook of Prayers, where the Rite of Confession is detailed, the first sentence is (in red) “After the customary greetings, the penitent crosses himself.” Then it goes on with the rest of the Rite.

So, it appears that there is nothing whatever wrong with saying “Bless me, father, for I have sinned.” In fact, it is expected that this would be said, since that is the customary greeting. It would be necessary, when using the confessional, for the penitent to say something to alert the priest that someone is there.

With regard to the rite of Confession, this rite is, and always has been very vague in terms of the exact words to begin the confession of sins.

In the Extraordinary Form, according to the 1962 Roman Ritual:
15. The penitent says the “Confiteor,” either in Latin or in the vernacular, or at least the following words: “I confess to almighty God and to you, father.” Next he confesses his sins in detail…

Likewise, in the Ordinary Form of the 1973 Rite:

44 Where it is the custom, the penitent says a general formula for confession (for example, I confess to almighty God) before he confesses his sins.
(no link as I typed that from the printed ritual, and the part in parentheses is in the original)

We can clearly see from both forms that there neither is, nor has there been any set formula for the penitent to begin confessing sins. We are all familiar with some “traditional” formulas, and these have been composed as a way to help penitents begin the actual confession part. These traditional formulas are neither required, nor were they ever suspended or forbidden.

The key phrase in the new rite is “for example” That clearly means that a penitent can use any reasonable formula to begin the confession of sins. There is no such thing as “it’s not done that way anymore.”

As long as the penitent actually does confess the sins, there is niether any right, nor any wrong way of beginning the confession (ie, the actual listing of sins). And please keep in mind folks, that this applies to the Extraordinary Form as well as the Ordinary Form.

Some typical examples:

I confess to Almighty God, and to you Father…

Bless me Father for I have sinned (it has been XX since my last confession and these are my sins)…

Bless me Father, I accuse myself of the following…

Bless me Father, for I have sinned, I am XX years old and married/single etc. It has been XX since my last confession, I received absolution and have performed my penance, I confess the following sins…

Of course, we see a lot of “mix and match” among the phrases used above as well.

Sometimes a penitent even begins with the words “It’s been a long time, and I don’t know if I can remember what to say…”

I went to confession 3 months or so ago and made an appointment with the priest since I had been away from the church for many years. The priest and I met in his office and talked a bit then he went thru the proper procedure which was sign of the cross then “Bless me Father for I have sinned…” - same as I remember 20 years ago.

pedagogically, it is much easier to teach children and adults preparing for confession using an approved formula, than to tell them “greet the priest”. The first reception of this sacrament is already surrounded by a halo of anxiety for many people, and one source of that anxiety is uncertainty on what to say and when to say it. Practicing what to say does a lot to diminish nervousness. So does memorizing the formula, rather than trying to ad lib when you are already trying to recall your sins, deal with the contrition and feelings they arouse, and listen to the priest.

My advice to anyone with responsiblity for preparing candidates is to simply ask the priest who will be hearing their confession what he expects. Some priests expect the penitent to initiate the encounter by making the sign of the cross and saying something, others prefer to begin with their own greeting, but I am willing to bet there is not a priest anywhere who does not understand a penitent who begins “Bless me Father, for I have sinned, this is my first confession. My sins are . . . (tell sins in number and kind) . . . for these and all the sins of my past life I am heartily sorry.”

the catechist obviously explains to the candidates and their parents and sponsors that this is a suggested formula, that they can use any words they with that express their intent to confess, but that this is offered to help them prepare.

Exactly. Memorized “formulas” for the “general confession” (in this context, meaning a broad statement of “I’m sorry for the sins I’m about to mention”) are very helpful indeed, and especially for young people. Obviously, Catholics have learned all sorts of different forms of this “introduction” or “preface” to the part where the penitent lists the sins. There is no one way of doing this. The catechist should ask the pastor what form(s) he prefers the children to be taught. But Catholics do need to understand that just because different people have learned different ways, that does not mean that one way is right and another is wrong. There are some general principles to be followed, by all means.

Catholics also need to understand that there is no such things as “pre-Vatican II” or “post-Vatican II” formulas for this. There are common misunderstandings out there which say that either there was “one way” before the revised rite, or that some formulas have been changed or suppressed in the new rite.

The statement “that’s not how it’s done anymore” simply isn’t true. If anything, the new rite allows for much more latitude for the penitent to choose either a traditional formula, or to use his own words.

On the other extreme, those who think that the new rite is lax in the rubrics do not understand that the old rite never required a specific introduction either. The rite of 1962 (currently, the Extraordinary Form) does say that the penitent begins with the Confiteor, but also says that an abreviated form of that may be used. It is much less strict than many will try to claim.

While I recognize that people do use different words, and that priests also accept them for pastoral reasons, the “Bless me Father” is different from the “I confess to God”. The sequence, as one might find indicated in older catechisms, manuals and (if they exist, in which case they are usually more clear) diocesan Rituals was:

-Bless me, Father, or some variant
-Priest makes the sign of the cross over the penitent, and gives the blessing for the grace of a good confession – usually with words such as “Dominus sit in corde tuo,” etc. [prescribed in certain areas]
-“I confess to almighty God” or similar [or nothing] followed by enumeration of sins [and other things such as last confession].

Some manuals instruct the penitent to move directly from “Bless me” to “I confess” assuming that the priest will overlay his action on the penitent’s (somewhat like absolution while Act of Contrition is recited)

The revised Order corresponds to this general outline:

Sign of the Cross by both
"Invitation of trust in God" or prayer for the penitent
“I confess to almighty God” followed by the confession

Although everything before the confession is optional since the priest can always elect to use the “shorter rite” for pastoral reasons. The reason I think some priests might correct those using a “Bless me, Father” formula would be:
(1) Technically, the closest thing that approximates to a blessing is the "“Invitation of trust in God”. There is no option for the penitent to use these words at the beginning.
(2) If used instead of “I confess” or something similar, the “Bless me” part doesn’t make full sense because the priest is not giving a blessing for a good confession at that point. It would be more logical to begin with “Since my last confession…” or “I have sinned since my lat confession, which was …”

I stand by the last part of my advice. The wise catechist will find out what the priest who will be hearing the first confessions expects, then the situation faced by OP will be avoided. In any case, the penitent should follow the priest’s direction if it varies from what he has been taught.

I’m an old fashioned pre Vatican II Catholic. I still say, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been ? weeks/months since my last confession. I then tell the things I have done that have offended God. I end with, " I’m sorry for these and all the sins of my past life…and sometimes add “especially for - and mention a sin that’s been a particular thorn.” I then say the “old” Act of Contrition”. No priest has ever corrected me or told me to change my format.

I guess nobody ever called me up and told me things had changed.:confused:

Things haven’t changed–that’s the point I’ve been trying to make. The 1973 Rite of Penance says:

44 Where it is the custom, the penitent says a general formula for confession (for example, I confess to almighty God) before he confesses his sins.

That means that the words you posted would certainly constitute a “general formula for confession” especially since the rite itself says “for example…”

A penitent can preface the actual listing of sins in any number of ways (so long as it’s a reasonable introduction). There are no right or wrong words because the Rite itself leaves this part of the rite very flexible.

I think this is why so many people don’t go to confession- because they are afraid of doing something wrong and don’t know what to say-
is it the same as when they were kids??, what is the new form???, etc.

During lent I went to Bread of Life Church in Erie, PA . Fr. Larry Richards gave a wonderful talk about confession and I ( and about 1,000 other folks) went after being away from it too many years. He has “The Questions” and if you ask for the questions he goes through the list and you simply say “no” or “yes” if that is a sin you wish to confess. I told my teen age kids about it and they now WANT to go to confession because they will be able to truly confess without getting tangled up in what to say.

I’m sure its not for everyone, but if it leads a sinner back to the Lord I think it is a blessing.

Here’s the link to the “Questions” thereasonforourhope.org/pdfs/14.pdf

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