In both daily and Sunday Masses, worshippers are called upon to make a confession of sin. This is called the Confiteor. In the Roman Missal it occurs in the introductory rites. In the Ordinariate service, following the Eastern tradition, it is said by the priest and servers before the service with a Confession of Sin for the congregation following the homily.
The Confiteor is an act of self-purification before approaching the Altar of the Lord. The tradition goes back to Moses who required ritual purification before serving in the Tabernacle or the Temple. It is echoed in the New Testament, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts.” James 4:8
The Confiteor is begun by a call to confession and a moment of silence for self-examination. It is sometimes difficult for worshippers to shed all the stress of getting to church on time to pause and reflect on their lives and mentally bring their sins to God. A silent utterance of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have Mercy on me a sinner.” May be helpful to foster an attitude of repentance.
First, we confess six categories of sins.
- Thoughts of ill will against God, our neighbors, or against ourselves.
- Failure to be thoughtful of the commandments of God or the needs of others.
- Unkind words spoken against others. Passing malicious rumors. Speaking injurious lies.
- Failing to speak words of praise to God. Failing to speak well of others in need of encouragement.
- Overtly committing sins against God or our neighbor.
- Failing to act in such a way that glorifies God. Failing to perform deeds of service to our neighbors in need.
We compress all this into a simple statement. “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”
We then take full responsibility for our sins. Mea culpa. Through my fault. Our sins are not the fault of our parent’s shortcomings, misguided teachers, or sinful priests & bishops. Our sins are through our own fault alone.
Finally, we profess our confidence in God’s forgiveness. “My Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life.” This is not an absolution as in sacramental confession, but a proclamation of trust. For the Scripture promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9