Part 1 Introduction

Chapter r12 Introduction to Course
12:310 Forgiveness and Reconciliation in the Church

My Background For Teaching This Course

Rational For Taking This Course

Notes on the Reading Assignments


General Information Regarding the Assignments & How to Post on MOODLE

Further Information on the Individual Assignments

Part 1: Interpersonal Forgiveness  Assignments 123456789

Part 2:  Divine Forgiveness  Assignments 1011121314151617 

Part 3:  The Church Celebrates Forgiveness  Assignments 1819 202122232425262728

This page contains general introductory materials and explanations of the assignments for the online course 12:310 Forgiveness and Reconciliation in the Church, taught at Saint Meinrad School of Theology, January-May, 2011.  If this is your first course with me, you might also want to read Chapter d11 General Introduction to Fr. Tom's Courses and Teaching Method  If this is your first online course, it may be helpful to read Chapter d12 General Introduction to My Online Courses  and  Chapter d13 Tips for Online Learning 

My Background For Teaching This Course

1.  As a member of the Order of Friars Minor, I am immersed in the thought and spirit of the little poor man of Assisi, Saint Francis, who devoted his whole life to conversion, doing penance, and preaching reconciliation -- a vision which culminates in his great "Canticle of Brother Sun."  I was schooled in the Franciscan theological perspective on sin and reconciliation of teachers such as Saint Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus.  I try to  participate in the great Franciscan tradition of compassionate confessors.

2.  Following my Ordination in 1966 I had the opportunity to study under Rev. Bernard Häring.  During my doctoral studies at the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie de Paris, I studied under Msgr. Pierre Jounel, Pierre-Marie Gy, O.P. and Cyril Vogel.  [Häring reshaped moral theology; Jounel is one of the principle authors of the Ordo Penitentiae; Gy was president of the ISL and has published widely on the reconciliation; Vogel is the author of the key historical texts.]   Two key lectures have been published in La Maison-Dieu 117 (1972): Pierre-Marie Gy, "Les bases de la pénitence moderne," pp. 63-85; and Pierre Jounel, "La liturgie de la réconciliation," pp. 7-37.

3.  I have published in the area of reconciliation and forgiveness.  A partial list of these publications can be found at Chapter r17 General Bibliography on Reconciliation   The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions invited me to write a study text for parishes on sacrament of reconciliation (similar in format to Larry Johnson's study text for the Order of Mass).  Catholic Update has asked me to write two widely distributed Updates on the sacrament and I have completed three catechetical videos on Reconciliation.   In 2003 I am participated in the catechetical series on Moral Development sponsored by the University of Dayton and have contributed articles on grace and sin.  I survey the history of the sacrament and its practice today in "Sacrament of Reconciliation: Celebrating the Mercy of God," Catholic Update, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, June 2009.

4.  From 1976 to 1983 I taught the courses on Reconciliation and directed the practical training on "how to hear confessions" and was pastor at Saint Leonard College, Dayton, OH.  I taught the core course and the practicum on the Sacrament of Reconciliation at Saint Meinrad School of Theology 1984-2004.  I have given numerous workshops to priests and catechists, and preached parish missions on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

5.  I was a member of the "Atonement and Reconciliation" seminar of the North American Academy of Liturgy 1997-2000 and actively participated in the annual meetings. 

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Rational For Taking This Course

Life's Three Great Questions

Back in the days when I taught high school -- many, many years ago -- I warned students about the final exam -- the very final exam that they would have to pass at the end of their lives. The results of this exam determine not just whether they passed to the next grade, or could go to college; this exam determined where they went for all eternity. And I explained to the high-schoolers that this was such an important test that God gave them the questions ahead of time so that they could prepare and get ready -- Actually they are to use their whole life to get ready for this final exam

The exam has three questions: 1) Who is God? 2) Who am I? 3) What am I going to do about it (that is, questions 1 and 2)?

Even though this began as a gimmick to interest the students in the course material -- sophomores are more interested in "identity" and "career" issues than in the literary forms of the Old Testament -- over the years I have found that the three questions have proved helpful to myself and to many other Catholics with whom I live and work. Who is God? Who am I? What am I going to do about it?

The key to answering these three Final Exam questions correctly is the insight that they must be answered in order -- the first questions first, then number two and then number three. Usually, the most pressing issue is question number three "What am I going to do..." What am I going to do in this circumstance, in that circumstance. Many times during our lives -- indeed many times each day -- we have to make decisions. Should I buy this? Should I wear that? What should I say to this person? How best to use my time and my money and my talent?

Sometimes we ask little children: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" And as the children grow older, they ask the question themselves. What is it that I really want to do with my life? While this is a very important question, I have come to the firm conviction that we cannot answer that question unless we first answer the questions: "Who am I?" and "Who is God?"

Who is God? God is a God of unlimited forgiveness and mercy. Who are we? We are created in the image of God? Sacraments are signs which give us a glimpse of who God is.

It is this conviction that motivates our study of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

 1. Pope John Paul II, in his "Message for Word Peace Day, January 1, 2002" stated that Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religious leaders must take the lead in "teaching forgiveness." This course is a response to the Pope's invitation to "teach forgiveness." What does it mean to forgive? How can we bring ourselves (and others) to forgive? How can the liturgy, especially our sacramental celebrations, help those to whom and with whom we minister come to forgive? As the Pope states: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness."

2. The course will explore the concept of justice, and especially Divine Justice. Does divine Justice demand retribution? John Baldovin, speaking of the parable of the Prodigal Son, writes: "God does not require retribution of the wayward son, but rather conversion. ... What seems unjust by human standards pales before the abundance of divine goodness, a compassion that relativizes all human attempts to be just." [Baldovin, in Johnson's Between Memory and Hope, p 430.)

3. In the days following the terrible events of September 11, 2001, should the primary effort of the United States be directed toward vengeance and retaliation?  Is it possible for Christian ministry to aid a nation to move toward forgiveness? How? What role can Reconciliation rituals play in this ministry?

4. As a Franciscan I continually strive to imitate and implement the values of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis and Assisi have become synonymous with peace and reconciliation. By teaching this course I hope that we may each become "a channel of God's peace."

5. The Lord's Prayer is a summary of the Gospel.  This reminds us that the forgiveness of trespassers central to the message of Jesus.

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Notes on the Reading Assignments

Assigned Reading

Enright, Robert D. and North, Joanna (Editors). Exploring Forgiveness. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1994. ISBN 0-299-15774-1 -- This is a basic text used in college courses on Forgiveness Studies.

Wiesenthal, Simon.  The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness.  Revised and Expanded Edition, New York:  Schocken Books, 1998.  ISBN 0-8052-1060-1.  Paper.  $13.00. --  Many have found this a good "discussion starter" for the topic of interpersonal forgiveness. 

Martos, Joseph.  Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to the Sacraments in the Catholic Church.  Revised and updated edition. Liguori MO: Liguori/Triumph. 2001. $21.95. ISBN 0-76480718-8 -- You can read any "history of the sacrament" -- I have suggested this book because it is used in many of the courses at Saint Meinrad and you probably have purchased it already and will not be an addition expense. 

The Rite of Penance (any edition, e.g. as in) The Rites of the Catholic Church, Volume I,  pp 517-629,  Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8146-6015-0.) -- For many years ritual editions of this text were not available (probably because they were not profitable for publishers because priests were not buying them). Recently (2010) the USCCB itself has published a ritual edition of the Rite of Penance (USCCB Product Code: 7-095. ISBN: 978-1-60137-095-2 Hardback, Pages: 300, $24.95.) This Rite of Penance is revised in accord with the second edition of the Lectionary for Mass and the emendations required by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

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Additional Resources

Richstatter, Thomas.  The Sacraments.  Twelve (25 minute) talks on 4 CDs.  Available from Now You Know Media, 2008.  $29.95.

Fr. Frank Desiderio, C.S.P.,  "Letting Go: Five Steps to Forgiveness"  (12  25-Minute Topics on 5 CD Set, available from

Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1994. ISBN 1-55586-513-5. "Part Two: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery, Section One, Chapter One: The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church," nn 1066-1134; Chapter Two: The Sacramental Celebration of the Paschal Mystery," nn 1135-1209. "The Sacraments of Healing," nn 1420-1532. (= CCC)

Code of Canon Law, "Book IV: The Office of Sanctifying in the Church," canons 834-839; "Part I: The Sacraments," canons 840-848; "Title IV: The Sacrament of Penance," canons 960-997.

Dallen, James. The Reconciling Community: The Rite of Penance. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1986. Paper. 446 pp. $19.95, ISBN 0-8146-6076-2.

Kennedy, Robert J. (Editor).   Reconciling Embrace:  Foundations for the Future of Sacramental Reconciliation.  Chicago:  Liturgy Training Publications, 1998.  ISBN 1-56854-114-7.  $12.00.

Additional bibliography on the Sacrament of Reconciliation at Chapter r17 Bibliography  and a more general bibliography can be found at Chapter d17 Bibliography

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General Information Regarding the Assignments / postings on MOODLE

Adult Learners  When teaching grade school children, the teacher is often concerned that the students acquire correct information, that they know things: e.g. the multiplication tables, the correct spelling of a word, the capital cities of the 50 states, etc.  Most of us are familiar with this kind of learning, and have experienced it in our youth, but sometimes we carry this experience into adulthood. I want to emphasize at the very outset that this course is not that type of course.

The topic we are considering -- the process of interpersonal forgiveness, the nature of divine forgiveness, the Church as the sacrament of divine forgiveness and our ministry to enable forgiveness and reconciliation -- are very complex. In many cases there are no definite answers, no right and wrong answers. For example look at the diverse responses in The Sunflower to the simple question "What would you have done?" Consequently, when I read your postings on MOODLE I am not judging so much whether your statements are "right or wrong" or whether they "agree with what I think", rather I am trying to see whether or not you are thinking through the issues.

This is, of course, a very subjective judgment. For this I apologize at the outset. However, "what I think" about your posting is not near as important as "what you're thinking." The postings and assignments (for the most part) are for you, not for me. They are to help you think through the issues we are considering. Do not be afraid to take a creative approach to the issue or to respond in a way that is different from the other postings.  Respond to the assignments in a way that is interesting and helpful for you to think through the issues.

My Teaching Method   In the back of my mind (or rather, in my subconscious, under the iceberg) are the following: 1) first of all, I believe that often we are not really sure of what we are thinking until we express it, write it down, and "put it out there" for others to read. (This is the principal reason for the assignments.) 2) Second, I am convinced of the truth of the great educator William James' statement: "All learning is self activity." (This is why simply reading and thinking is not enough. This is why I encourage you to write, to read the other postings, to think about them, to comment on them in a way that helps the author think more deeply about the response.) 3) A teacher for whom I have great respect -- the president of the liturgy school in France, and my thesis moderator -- Pere P-M. Gy, O.P., frequently said in class: "Knowing the right questions is often more important than knowing the right answers." (When reading your postings I am more concerned about the questions you're asking rather than the answers you are giving.)

Community of Learners   This course, while totally "online" in format, is not a correspondence course -- a dialogue between teacher and student. To look upon the course in this way would greatly diminish the benefits we can each derive from it. We are adults embarking on a journey together. We come to this journey with different experiences, talents, viewpoints. Our journey can be greatly enriched as we share these insights and viewpoints. Each of us in various ways have experienced hurt, injustice, forgiveness, reconciliation and have given various responses to these situations. Hopefully during this course we can build, even online in cyberspace, a community of trust and support as we explore these difficult issues together. To this end I encourage you to read the postings of your classmates, and my postings, and to comment on them.

Length of Postings    As a general rule the postings are to be brief and to the point. Usually one or two paragraphs, or about one half of a single-spaced page. In most cases do not exceed what would be the equivalent of one single-spaced page, otherwise the postings will be too long for your classmates to read in a reasonable amount of time.

Skype / Office Hours / Group Discussion     I have found that at least some visual, face-to-face, contact is very beneficial for the course process. To this end, each of the participants in the course is to have Skype installed on their computer. If your computer does not have a built in camera, they are easily obtainable from most any department store.  This will enable us to have face-to-face office hours and to arrange some time each week when we can all be online together for a group discussion.  As the course begins, we will decide together what would be the most convenient time for Skype office hours and group discussions.  Whenever you see the green check mark in front of my name on Skype, fee free to contact me -- to ask a question, to make a comment, or just to chat.      My Skype name is trichstatter.

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Further Information on the Individual Assignments

Part One:  Interpersonal Forgiveness

Assignment 1 -- Autobiography

Assignment 1 -- Friday January 28  Post on MOODLE a brief autobiography that will help us know something about who you are, your current ministry (if any), your progress toward the degree, and something of what you want to learn from this course. 

As we set out on this journey of theological discovery together, it is helpful to know our "traveling companions." -- "Who we are is how and where we've traveled." (Murray Bodo, The Place We Call Home: Spiritual Pilgrimage as a Path to God, Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2004, p. 70.)  We each come to this coure having traveled different journeys.  The different journeys make us different individuals.  This diversity is not a problem but a gift.  God loves diversity.  As we discover and share this diversity, our journey through reconciliation is enriched. 

Part of this journey we can describe easily -- the "facts".  But the larger part of our faith journey -- often the most important part -- rests in our subconscious, invisible (even to ourselves) "under the iceberg."   If you are not familiar with the metaphor of the iceberg (which I will use frequently during the course, read Iceberg Metaphor). 

I it very important to have some "vision" of this "invisible" part of ourselves if we are to be good ministers.  "Good theology is poetry. The poet spends a lot of time examining the subconscious." (Karen Armstrong on "Speaking of Faith") That is why the good theologian must continually try to "look under the iceberg."

It would be helpful to know if you have already taken courses in sacramental theology, liturgy, church history, moral theology, psychology, and sacred scripture.  And if so, I encourage you to use this background to help us in this course. 

It is very helpful if you would post a picture of yourself on MOODLE. 

For help on how to post to MOODLE click here.  For help in how to respond to a post on MOODLE click here

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Assignment 2 -- Marietta Jaeger

Assignment 2Monday January 31  Post a brief essay:  What is your reaction to Marietta Jaeger's story of forgiveness [Enright 9-14]?  For general information on this type of posting click here.  For some reflections/comments on Jaeger's story click here

Assignment 3 -- Reframing

Assignment 3 --  Friday February 4  Post an example of "reframing"  [Enright pp 16, 23, 28, 42,53 71, 151]   For Joanna North's treatment of reframing and a contemporary example, click here

Note: Reframing is only one element in the very complex process of forgiveness.

In the postings I wanted to see if you could give an example of taking the "picture" from one picture frame and putting it in another picture frame and how this affected the way you see the picture.

Real-life examples and experiences can be very vivid examples of reframing, and they are certainly more emotionally engaging and interesting than more "abstract" or "made up" examples of reframing. --- But my primary focus in the assignment was to help you be sure that you understand the "reframing metaphor" and the role it plays in the forgiving process.

There are many interesting and important topics raised in the postings for this assignment --- but do not loose sight of the primary focus: understanding the reframing metaphor.

In ministry we are often called upon to help people reframe.

And again: Do not be too quick to bring God into the picture -- especially without considering the consequences of this.

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Assignment 4Monday February 7  Unforgivable

Discuss: "Some offenses are unforgivable".  See my notes on North Chapter 8.  Forgivers and the Unforgivable

As we begin to "bring God" into our discussion I suggest (strongly) that you read (or review, if you have previously taken courses with me) the Iceberg Metaphor and the Cruise Ship Metaphor.  As I have quoted before:  "Who we are is how and where we have traveled."  (Murray Bodo, The Place We Call Home:  Spiritual Pilgrimage as a Path to God, Paraclete Press, p. 70)   It is evident from the autobiographies we posted (assignment #1) that we have met in this course having traveled very different journeys.   This comes as no surprise.  These different journeys have shaped us and we bring with us various images of Church, grace, and sin.  Indeed, we come with different visions of "God"!  Many students (naively) believe that when they say the words "Jesus" "Church" "God" these words mean exactly the same thing for others as they do for the speaker.  When they find this is not the case, this can lead to confusion and anger.  The Iceberg Metaphor and the Cruise Ship Metaphor might be useful to prevent this confusion and anger. 

Also, I would ask those of you who have already taken courses in Sacred Scripture to offer helpful comments to those students who have not yet had this opportunity.  Similarly, those who have taken graduate courses in Moral Theology and Social Ethics should integrate this information into their postings  -- at the same time, realizing that some in the course are operating without the benefit of these advanced studies. 



Assignment 5 - Friday February 11  Human/divine

Having read Keith Yandell's article "The Metaphysics and Morality of Forgiveness" (page 35 ff) how would you describe the difference between the way humans forgive and the way God forgives.


Assignment 6 - Monday February 14  Reconciliation

Discuss the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.  See also:  Naming the Sacrament    And to understand the history of naming the current official ritual see my notes on the history of the sacrament in Chapter r29 The Second Vatican Council, March 1973

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Assignment 7 - Friday February 18  Hell

Having read the article "Forgiveness and Crime" by Walter Dickey (Enright page 106ff) and recalling North's enumeration of the purposes of a prison sentence (page 15) why do you think that God created HellPurgatory? What purpose do they serve for God and/or for us?

Assignment 8 - Monday February  21 -- 10, 11, or 12

In a brief essay, comment on something you read in Chapter 10, 11, or 12.   -- More than simply a summary of the chapter, post something that you learned, or post your reaction to the chapter, or post something you would like to add to the chapter from your own reading and/or experience.  Just about 1 page in length (so it is not too long for the others to read).  Audience:  your classmates.

Assignment 9 - Friday February 25 Science and Sacrament  

What can the study of interpersonal forgiveness can "say" to the way the Church celebrates the Sacrament of Reconciliation? For further information on this assignment, click here.   Exploring Forgiveness.   Can we develop a catechetical way of explaining the process of human forgiveness?  What does this process say about God's forgiveness?  How can we apply this knowledge to the way the Church celebrates these realities?   The "penance" given in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and interpersonal forgiveness.

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Part Two:  Divine Forgiveness

Assignment 10 - Monday February 28  O.T.

Post an essay on divine forgiveness in the Old Testament. Quote three passages which support your thesis. (Give a summary of the passage and indicate the biblical reference, e.g. Genesis 1:3-9). For further information on this assignment, click here.

Assignment 11 - Friday March 4  N.T.

Post an essay on Jesus of Nazareth as the Sacrament of Divine Mercy. Quote three verses from the Gospels which support your thesis. For further information on this assignment, click here.  For those of you who have not taken a recent course on contemporary sacramental theology, you might want to check out my summary in chapter d31 Sacrament, especially the "Metaphor of the Seven Shoe Boxes" and the "Metaphor of the Pebble Dropped into a Quiet Pond"  This understanding of "sacrament" is treated at length in my book on the sacraments, the audio CD's from Now You Know Media, and especially in my most recent book:  The Mass: A Guided Tour (Chapter 1, Christmas). 

Assignment 12Monday March 7  Catechism

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about divine forgiveness? What passages support your thesis.

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Assignment 13 - Friday March 11  Sunflower

What is your reaction to the way the prisoner responded to the dying soldier in The Sunflower?

Assignment 14 - Monday March 14 Responses

Selected three of the responses from among those given in The Sunflower and state why you found these three to be particularly insightful or informative.

Assignment 15 - Friday March 18  Jesus

Jesus is the sacrament of divine mercy. In Jesus we see God's mercy revealed. The responses in The Sunflower are listed alphabetically and the authors have various religious backgrounds. Do you find that the Catholic/Christian responses are different from the others? Do you think that Jesus tells us something of divine mercy that we would not know or understand without knowing Jesus? 

Assignment 16Monday March 21  What?

What would you have done (and why) if you were the prisoner in the story confronted by dying soldier?

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Assignment 17 - Friday March 25  Experience

What has been your experience of forgiveness and reconciliation mediated by the Church's liturgy?  Note:  this is not to be a long, personal, overly disclosing account.  In a brief paragraph, simply state in general if you prefer Rite 1 or 2? Which of the 16 "forms" I list in  Forms of the Sacrament in Current Use  do you ordinarily use?   Do you talk with the priest about spiritual direction or just go to confession?  Do not duplicate Assignment # 19.  (This assignment is not graded.)  

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Part Three:  The Church Celebrates Forgiveness

Assignment 18Monday March 28 History

Using the 10 divisions of the historical grid, make one statement describing the way the Roman Catholic Church celebrated the Sacrament of Penance during each of the 10 historical periods.  The completed assignment should be able to be printed on one side of one page.  For an explanation of the reasons for the 10 periods of the grid, click here.  Further information is given on my website,

Assignment 19 - Friday April 1  Practice

Using the categories given on my website, describe the current practice of the sacrament of reconciliation in your parish or religious community. Evaluate this practice in the light of current legislation and teaching. 

For further information on this assignment, see:  Overview of the Rite of Penance, its history and theology.  History of the Current Ritual   The Grammatical Forms of the Prayer of Absolution   Current Absolution Prayers   Forms of the Sacrament in Current Use

Assignment 20Monday April 4 Confession

List the pros and cons of scholastic sacramental (devotional) confession, both religiously and psychologically.  Is this the best place for spiritual direction?  What kind of advice can be given anonymously?  etc.  Already in the discussion postings several limitations and difficulties have been mentioned.   How has the priest to laity ratio numbers affected the sacrament? Let your posting take any direction you find helpful to your theological reflection on the sacrament.

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Assignment 21 - Friday April 8  Grace

What actually happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?   If all of our sins have been forgiven by the Paschal Victory of Jesus, why confession?  If the Eucharist forgives sins, why Reconciliation?  etc.  Present your reflections on this topic.  Why would you encourage someone to celebrate the sacrament?   

Assignment 22Monday April 11 First Reconciliation

If you were a catechist preparing a group of children for their first celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, what would be the principal elements of your catechesis?  What Rite would you use and why?   At what age should this be done?   Why have children do something their parents do not do?  etc.  

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Assignment 23Friday April 15  Setting

In this and the next 3 postings, compose a script for a communal celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation.

Throughout the course we have investigated contemporary forgiveness studies to examine how we pass from vengeance to forgiveness and eventually to reconciliation.   In this final, creative, summarizing exercise for the course, we will try to find ways in which the Church's liturgy can help people come to forgiveness and reconciliation.

This original ritual must meet the following  three criteria.  ONE:  The ritual employs and exemplifies the psychological and theological principles studied during the course.  TWO:  It is to be written for a specific (real or imaginary) congregation and directed to a specific instance (or area) of our contemporary society in which forgiveness and reconciliation are needed.  THREE:   It is to be actually usable in a parish context, i.e. it must conform to the directives of the student's Church.  For Roman Catholics, this means that the liturgy must conform to the norms given in Chapter 2 of the Ordo Penitentiae,  "Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution."   

Your script is to contain four separate parts: 1) (Assignment #23)  An Introduction directed to the participants in the course (not the participants in the liturgical service).  This introduction will describe the situation, the date, the liturgical season, the congregation, your vision of the celebration, and the thinking behind your choices.  2) (Assignment #24)  A Ministers' Script which would be used by the minister(s).  This script is to contain the full text of the rite:  the introductions, the rubrics and directions, the texts of the hymns, readings, prayers.  3) (Assignment #25)  A Service Booklet -- which would be given to the congregation for their use during the celebration. This booklet contains all the prayers and hymns and directions needed by the congregation.  (Note that this script for the congregation can be a wonderful opportunity for catechesis.)  Each of these four parts will be evaluated and graded.  4)  (Assignment #26)  The homily which will be given during the celebration.

Assignment # 23 -- In this posting describe the context (the place, but previous experience of the participants, the liturgical day, etc.) in which your script will be performed.  This celebration is to be prepared for a specific congregation for a specific date.  Indicate the specific congregation and the occasion for which you are writing this script.   [e.g. St. Paul Parish, Tell City IN, 7:00 p.m., April 5, 2012, Passion Sunday]  Describe the group celebrating, the liturgical or seasonal occasion.  Describe the themes you have chosen for this celebration, and explain why you chose the particular hymns, readings, symbolic actions.  In general, give your vision of the celebration, and the thinking behind your choices.

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Assignment 24Monday April 25  Script

1.  Prepare a complete script of the celebration which would be used by the presiding minister, the musicians, the readers, the sacristan, etc. Indicate the hymns, the readings, the prayers, the order of service, etc.

2.  The ritual you compose is to be actually usable in a parish context, i.e. it must conform to the directives of the student's Church.  For Roman Catholics, this means that the liturgy must conform to the norms given in Chapter 2 of the Ordo Penitentiae,  "Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution."    While there are many possible ways to celebrate the Rite of Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution, this assignment is to prepare a Communal Sacramental Celebration as in the Chapter II of the Rite as studied in this course.  A Penance Service followed by individual confessions is not acceptable for the purposes of this assignment.  Using the 16 categories given on my website, your rite is to be a #7 not a #6. 

3.  Your script should provide for the "Dynamic of Sin and Repentance" studied in class.

4.  If you use prayers or anything else from another source other than your own creativity, give the reference.  Note the school policy on plagiarism.   In addition, I would like to keep open the possibility of publishing several of the scripts which pastors and parish planners might find useful in their pastoral ministry.  This makes the issue of citing references and sources doubly important. 

5.  Also note that to receive copyright permission from the USCCB for the NAB or from ICEL for the Rite, the texts and prayers must have the identical spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and line structure and format as in the original.  When using a prayer or rubric from the ritual indicate its source in your script.   When quoting the Rite, quote by number, not by page.

For example:

The presiding priest then invites the people to come forward, saying:
"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."  (
Rite, #69)

6.  Your celebration is to have the four-fold ritual structure:  1) Gathering, 2) Storytelling, 3) Reconciling, and 4) Commissioning.

7.  It is helpful (but not necessary) to give the text of the hymns and readings in full -- but if you do not give them in full, give enough information (e.g. the reference and a summary) so that the reader of your script would know the content of the reading or hymn without looking up the reference.   Give the complete text of the homily.

8.  Indicate the ritual actions, symbols, gestures etc. that will be used in the celebration. Your celebration is to be more than words only. It is to include some ritual action -- sacraments have matter and form -- they are worded sign.   --  Are the symbols clear e.g. "throwing a stone" -- a stone can be thrown at a prostitute, a stone can be our heart of stone, a stone can be a living stone building up the living Christ, etc.   Do the symbols flow from the readings?  Do the symbols relate to baptism (Penance = Second Baptism).   Are the metaphors appropriate (e.g. "White as snow" where white = good, graced; black = dirty, sinful.) "Bright as new..."

9.  Preparing a liturgy is much like putting on a play. Attention must be given to lighting, props, settings, scripts, flow of the action, movement of the people, etc.  --  Are visiting clergy introduced so that people know who will be standing where for confessions?  What does the congregation do during the procession for praise and imposition of hands?  How long would the celebration take? Is the length of time need for the various ritual elements similar to the time need for similar elements at Eucharist?  Is there some good reason for them to stay till the end of the rite?

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Assignment 25 - Friday April 29  Handout

Post the "service aid" or "handout" which you will provide the participants attending this celebration so that they can understand what is happening and enter fruitfully into the liturgical prayer. This "handout" is to contain all the information, prayers and hymns needed for the congregation's active and fruitful participation in the celebration.  It  is to contain those rubrics, directions, and explanations which you think this congregation would find useful and/or necessary to participate fruitfully in the rite.  These explanations, directions and rubrics are not merely directive, they can be a wonderful opportunity for catechesis.  In your participation handout, try to use a descriptive vocabulary that is immediately accessible to the congregation. There are times when technical terms are necessary; however there are times when such words are simply confusing and do not communicate the meaning that you intend.

Assignment 26Monday May 2 Homily

Post the homily which the priest will give at this celebration.

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Assignment 27 - Friday May 6  Feedback

Read the scripts posted by your classmates. In a brief essay state what you have learned from this exercise of composing a script for the sacrament.

Many of us learned that "a sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." The Constitution on the Liturgy, #59 states that a sacrament 1) gives grace, 2) builds up the Church, 3) is an act of worship. Does your script do all three or just the first?

The Constitution on the Liturgy, #59 states that sacraments instruct. Your script is not only occasional and practical, it should also be catechetical. For example, what does would this congregation find helpful to know about the changes in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Why are we having a communal celebration? What sins are to be confessed? If they wish to approach the priest individually, what do they say? Etc. -- The rubrics tell not only what is to be done, but why something is to be done. -- The rubrics and prayers are to be age appropriate -- What does the sacrament say about who God is; about who we are?

Sacrament of Reconciliation or Reconciliation Service? Who receives the sacrament? Who celebrates the sacrament? Only those who confess individually? What parallels can be drawn with Eucharist? Who celebrates the Eucharist, only those present who receive Holy Communion? Do the other priest confessors "concelebrate" the sacrament?

If the Eucharist is the model for all sacramental celebrations, we can learn something about the proportion of prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the proportion of prayers of petition and intercession. At the Eucharist the major portion of the Eucharistic prayer is prayer of praise. This same thing should be true of the sacrament of reconciliation. Look at your script. Are most of the prayers petitions for forgiveness? Or are most of the prayers praise of a God who is all forgiving and all compassionate?

At the Eucharist the General Intercessions flow from the word of God. At the sacrament of reconciliation the examination of conscience should flow from the word of God. In your script, is it the readings that shape the examination? Or is the examination of conscience merely a sin list?

How do we celebrate reconciliation? What do people need to hear? More about sin? Or more about God? (Do you think you could write a script without using the word "sin"?) What does your script say about God? What does it say about sin?

THE INTRODUCTION (OR SITUATION) PAGE: For the purposes of this "exercise" I wanted you to think of an actual concrete situation rather than just a "Generic Rite II." The introduction page is not only to fill in the background for me as I read the script , but also to give you the occasion to state your overall vision of what you want to happen during the service. While grace, of course, is a free gift of God, we begin planning with an overall vision (or theme). An artist begins with an inspiration, a vision, and idea, a melody. Sometimes this vision becomes clearer in the execution of it. Those papers were best where the vision of the author was evident -- where I could see the connection between the readings the homily, the hymns, and the overall dynamic of sin and forgiveness.

GATHERING RITES: How does the rite begin? What does the Presider say we have gathered to do? "We have come here this evening in order to confess our sins?" or "... to hear of God's love?" Begin with grace rather than sin. We are gathering to celebrate the fact that God loves us, not the fact that we have sinned. Love always precedes the sin both chronologically and thematically.

I think that the best way to speak of grace and sin is in terms of a relationship rather than in terms of law. St. Paul says love has power, the law is powerless.

Be aware of the liturgical season and its context. For example, if Lent is "longing for baptism" time, it may be best to refrain from using Easter symbols such as water, renewal of baptism, readings of the resurrections, etc. For example, even though we may want to rejoice and sing alleluia after our sins have been forgiven, when the sacrament is celebrated during the season of Lent it would be best not use that word so that its joy and newness and freshness would be "saved" for the Easter Vigil.

[Even if the four part structure of gathering, story telling, reconciling, commissioning does not appear in the participation pamphlet for the congregation, I still think it is a good idea if you while organizing the material think in these terms. -- And it reminds you: THINK EUCHARIST.]

STORY TELLING: What image of Christ and Church inform this celebration? Is the one who prepared this celebration thinking eucharist or confession? Where do people learn of their sins, from their reflection on the word of God or from the examination of conscience? Does the homily flow from the readings. Is more time spent describing God's love for us or is more time spent enumerating areas of sinfulness which will then need to be confessed? Is the examination of conscience related to the reading and the homily? Does the presider including himself among the sinners?

In the context of Reconciliation, inclusive language takes on a new meaning. Not only "he" "she" but "priest" "sinners." Are the priest, the parish, and the Church, included among sinners? Do the prayers reflect an awareness of social sin and the need for repentance even for the sins that we are not aware of? Many of the scripts seemed to presume that sin is always individual. These celebrations should also take into account that many of our sins while personal are collective and social.

When reading the examination of conscience do you think that it would actually influence what you intend to say when it is your time to speak to the priest? In reading the examination of conscience did you become aware of areas of sinfulness that you were not aware of before? Did reading the examination of conscience cause you to form sentiments of sorrow or contrition? Are the instructions and rubrics in the form of invitations? Are they condescending? Are they sufficiently specific? [Many people have not experienced the sacrament in this form and are still confused about what to do. Some people need more direction and security than what you might need yourself.] Many older people expect a specific penance or some mention of a penance. Would the rite satisfy these people? How is absolution is spoken of? Is it "given" or is it "celebrated?"

Several papers included an "examination of conscience". What do you wish to accomplish by this list? Reflecting on your own experience, have they ever actually worked for you? In the former paradigm "confession," an examination of conscience was something one could read from a book ahead of time in preparing one's list of sins for confession. In the sacrament of Reconciliation the "examination of conscience" is the Homily. It is during the Homily that the word of God is applied to our lives and we are given the occasion to reflect on how much God loves us and the way in which we have responded to that love. The difference between these two loves is "the sense of sin."

RECONCILING: Does the whole liturgical service evidence artistic unity? Are the readings, music, gestures, prayers etc. about the same themes or are they simply nice items joined together? Are the prayers liturgical prayers? Does the Body of Christ address God in the Spirit? Does the rite use material things? Liturgy is the prayer of the whole person. Does the rite involve the human body and senses other then hearing? Does the service flow towards a central point or moment? What is this moment? How is it celebrated?

In the language you employ in your homily and prayers, be attentive to the "degree of the rupture" in the relationship with God. Sometimes I felt that your language was too strong and would not be meaningful for most people who do not feel that degree of separation from God. [Recall our discussion on the frequency of serious sin.]

COMMISSIONING RITES: Are the commissioning rites worth staying for? Would you miss anything if you left after the proclamation of the absolution prayer? Is there a turning to the world? Is some help given so that we may "forgive those who trespass against us"? Is there some reference that what we have done here together will make a difference when we leave?

SUMMARY: Is the rite usable? Is it theologically correct? Is it liturgically correct? Is it original, artistic, and creative? Are the rubrics clear and helpful? Have the instructions for this assignment been followed? Does the rite follow the Roman Ritual? Is there a description of the situation? Is there a ministers' text? Is there a congregation page? Is the congregation's page appropriately catechetical? Do you think someone celebrating this Rite would feel gifted and want to come back?

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Assignment 28 - Monday May 9 Concluding essay

Post an essay which expresses some aspect of your thoughts at the end of this course. It may be a general "I have learned that..." or you may select some specific aspect of the course or one of the topics we have treated. This is to be a longer posting which will count for 10% of the grade. For further information on this assignment, click here.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 01/21/12.  Your comments on this site are welcome at