For an outline of the Rite, click here
For a commentary on the Rite, click here.
The Normative Nature of Rite II
Liturgical Formation in Seminaries
About how many times do you go to confession during the course of a year? Before entering the seminary or the monastery, about how many times did you go to confession during the course of a year? Reflecting on your best experience of the Sacrament, how would you rate it on a scale of 1 to 5? Reflecting on your worst experience of the Sacrament, how would you rate it on a scale of 1 to 5? How often do you use the Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution? If were pastor of a parish, how many times during the course of a year do you think the active Catholics in your parish should celebrate the sacrament?
Review the Course Objectives for this course. What is the relation between these objectives and the material to be covered in this present chapter?
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Rite of Penance. Introduction, especially numbers 22-30; and Chapter II, numbers 48-59.
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. The Instruction on Liturgical Formation in Seminaries, 1979, (published in the United states by the NCCB on January 5, 1984.)
NCCB. Program of Priestly Formation.
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The Rite of Penance, presented to the Church by the Congregation for Divine Worship, December 2, 1973, contains three "rites", three "forms" of the sacrament: chapter one, "Rite for Reconciliation of Individual Penitents"; chapter two, "Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution"; and chapter three, "Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with General Confession and Absolution."
There are important reasons why we are studying chapter two before chapter one.
1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #27: "Whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, it is to be stressed that this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, as far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and, so to speak, private."
2. Rite of Penance, Article 22: "Communal celebration shows more clearly the ecclesial nature of penance. The faithful listen together to the word of God, which as it proclaims his mercy invites them to conversion; at the same time they examine the conformity of their lives with that word of God and help each other through common prayer. After confessing and being absolved individually, all join in praising God together for his wonderful deeds on behalf of the people he has gained for himself through the blood of his Son.
3. The Holy Father Pope Paul VI, after promulgating the Rite of Penance, said to a general audience on April 3, 1974 that he hoped this second rite, the "Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution", would "become the normal way of celebration, since it involves a more complete preparation and a more structured service."
4. The communal form of the sacrament is the focus of our study because this course is a liturgical commentary on the ritual. It is intended to aid liturgical planners and who are usually concerned with the communal form of the sacrament.
5. The current restrictions on form three of the sacrament, the "Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with General Confession and Absolution", are such that many American Catholics have not experienced this form of the sacrament. The revisions in the first chapter of the Rite of Penance, the "Rite for Reconciliation of Individual Penitents", can most easily be understood in the light of chapter two, the communal celebration.
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1. "Access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to be a very personal and individual act, while its liturgical character is always to be retained. Generally, it is to be distinct from spiritual direction. The frequency of confession is to be decided by each person with his own confessor, following the traditions of the spiritual masters and the laws of the Church." [Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, The Instruction on Liturgical Formation in Seminaries, 1979, published in the United states by the NCCB on January 5, 1984, page 20. See also articles 35, 36, and 53; and the Appendix, Article V. See also the NCCB The Program of Priestly Formation, and Liturgical Formation in Seminaries, pp 105-106.]
How to you reconcile the phrase "very personal and individual act" in the first sentence with the end of that same sentence: "its liturgical character is always to be retained."
Reconcile the statement above with article 27 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: "Whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, it is to be stressed that this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, as far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and, so to speak, private."
Reconcile the statement above with article 22 of the Rite of Penance: "Communal celebration shows more clearly the ecclesial nature of penance. The faithful listen together to the word of God, which as it proclaims his mercy invites them to conversion; at the same time they examine the conformity of their lives with that word of God and help each other through common prayer. After confessing and being absolved individually, all join in praising God together for his wonderful deeds on behalf of the people he has gained for himself through the blood of his Son."
What does the traditional seminary practice of concluding each session of spiritual direction with sacramental absolution and penance say about the prohibition of the non-ordained to be spiritual directors in seminaries?
Review the Christmas Tree metaphor I use to illustrate the "structure and elements" of a liturgical rite.
The ritual gives many choices to the local community and the ones planning the celebration. It is impossible to say "what it will look like" exactly, just as I could not describe exactly what Sunday Mass in your parish might look like. However, the general shape of "The Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution" will look like this:
The community will gather at the appointed time; there will probably be a minister of hospitality at the door of the church to say hello and to give you a participation aid listing the hymns, the prayers you will say aloud, and any directions you may need to participate actively in the sacrament.
The Rite of Penance could be divided, outlined, and studied in a variety of ways. A ritual celebration is a living, organic event; an outline is something that is imposed upon it from without.
I have divided the rite into four parts (based on the four parts of the Mass). (1) We gather and form Church, the Body of Christ; the first thing we do when we have gathered is (2) listen to the Word of God. As we hear the proclamation of God's love for us, we are confronted with our own response to that love. It is our common experience that we have fallen short: we have not loved enough. But this is not the end of the rite: our response to the Word of God – our word of sorrow and contrition – meets God's word of forgiveness (3) and explodes into the gifts of peace and reconciliation; and we (4) go forth as ambassadors of reconciliation. Based on this understanding of the inner dynamic of the ritual, I outline the Rite as follows:
The Rite of Penance: Chapter Two, The Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution
Part 1: Gathering
1 GATHERING RITES
1c OPENING PRAYER
Part 2: Story Telling
2 STORY TELLING: PROCLAIMING GOD'S INITIATIVE
2a SCRIPTURE READING
2c OUR RESPONSE TO THE WORD OF GOD
2d EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
2e CONTRITION: GENERAL CONFESSION OF SINS
2f INDIVIDUAL CONFESSION
2g ACTS OF SATISFACTION / PENANCE
Part 3: Reconciling
3 RECONCILING: CELEBRATING GOD'S ACTION
3a WORDS OF THE PRIEST
3b IMPOSITION OF HANDS
3c ABSOLUTION: PROCLAMATION OF GOD'S MERCY
3d PROCLAMATION OF PRAISE /THANKSGIVING
3e CONCLUDING PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Part 4: Commissioning
4a BLESSING AND DISMISSAL
1) Gathering. The parish gathers and forms the primary symbol of the sacrament: a worshiping community. A typical gathering rite might consist of a hymn, a liturgical greeting, (a call to worship), and a prayer by the priest leading the sacramental celebration.
2) Story Telling. We proclaim and celebrate the Word of God during which we hear of God's love for us, God's mercy and forgiveness. This part of the rite will probably remind you of Sunday Mass with readings from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, a Gospel, and a homily. We respond to the Word of God. Having heard how much God loves us, we examine how we have love God and our neighbor in return. There will be a period of silence, an examination of conscience in the light of the scriptures, an act of contrition, a procession to the confessors for individual confession and absolution.
3) Reconciling (Exomologesis). We celebrate God's Response to our praise: Reconciliation. We have responded to the Word of God, now we celebrate God's response to our word of penance. This part of the celebration might typically include a proclamation of praise and thanksgiving for God's mercy, the Lord's Prayer, the kiss of peace, a song of thanksgiving, and a concluding prayer.
4) Commissioning. The sacrament concludes by turning toward the world, toward social justice, toward carrying out what we have celebrated here. This part of the rite might include a blessing, and dismissal.
Answer question one without reading question two. Question One: In five simple, declarative sentences, state five general, liturgical principles which you consider to be basic and fundamental requisites for a good liturgical celebration. Question Two: Take each of your five general liturgical principles which you have listed in Question One and show how they apply to the sacrament of Penance.
How does the theology of reconciliation given in the introduction of the current ritual compare with that given in the moral manuals?
The current ritual presents three rites for the Sacrament of Penance. What values are emphasized and what values are neglected in each rite?
Every rite possesses structure and elements. Name the structure and elements of rite two of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Say from memory the formula for Absolution. What are the principle elements of this formula? Why was the previous formula changed?
You are assigned to a parish which has never celebrated rite two or rite three of the current ritual for Penance. You are preparing one page bulletin insert to be given to all the members of the parish explaining why you are going to have a communal celebration of Penance. What would be the principle points you would want to make in this bulletin insert?
Give a definition of sacrament which will include what you have learned about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. ["Outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace" to definitions which incorporate a) historical facts (historical thinking) and b) process vocabulary. Ritual moment in a process. Anamnesis, etc. See my tape number 10: Sacrament. How many? Appreciation for the number seven. Not just 1-6,7, not just "enough" but "all we need" "totality": "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and praise!" (Rev 5:12)
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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. 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 03/20/15 . Your comments on this site are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.