RP 4: Penance in the Church’s Life and Liturgy


Section 4 continues the theme of the people of God accomplishing continual conversion:

4. The people of God accomplish and perfect this continual repentance in many different ways. They share in the sufferings of Christ [See 1 Pt 4:13.] by enduring their own difficulties, carry out works of mercy and charity, [See I Pt 4:8.] and adopt ever more fully the outlook of the Gospel message. Thus the people of God become in the world a sign of conversion to God.

The role of confession and repentance in the liturgy:

All this the Church expresses in its life and celebrates in its liturgy when the faithful confess that they are sinners and ask pardon of God and of their brothers and sisters. This happens in penitential services, in the proclamation of the word of God, in prayer, and in the penitential parts of the eucharistic celebration. [See Council of Trent, sess. 14, De sacramento Paenitentiae: Denz-Schon 1638, 1740, 1743. SCR, Instr. Euchisticum Mysterium, 25 May 1967, no. 35; GIRM*, nos. 29, 30, 56 a, b, g.]

Note that the proclamation of the Word is listed as one expression of the Church’s penitence. This was a surprise for me to read and probably worth a good amount of further reflection. Do you suppose it goes beyond the proclamation of passages illustrative of penitence? Does an encounter with the proclaimed Word at liturgy itself have a restorative effect? If so, why is it at times a neglected part of the Penance liturgies themselves?

In the sacrament of penance the faithful “obtain from God’s mercy pardon for having offended him and at the same time reconciliation with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion.” [LG 11.]

Lumen Gentium weighs in on the importance of the sacrament of penance. A reminder not to go looking for liturgical and sacramental substance in liturgical documents alone.


* references for the old GIRM

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to RP 4: Penance in the Church’s Life and Liturgy

  1. Darwin says:

    Perhaps only loosely related to this post, but I’ve found a peg on which to hang my thoughts, and just being back from confession tonight it’s on the brain.

    All this the Church expresses in its life and celebrates in its liturgy when the faithful confess that they are sinners and ask pardon of God and of their brothers and sisters.

    Though we actually have two very good confessors for our pastor and assistant pastor, one of my minor pet peeves is the habit they have every so often of going on a, “Of course, you’re already a very good man. Your being here shows that,” riff.

    I suppose the fear is that when someone who’s fairly active in the parish and tries to make it slightly regularly to confession comes in again and confesses that same sins as last time, perhaps he’s got a problem with scrupulosity. I’m sure some guys do, but for me, frankly, I’m sure I could use a few more minutes of beating myself up over my faults every month or two. I’m perfectly capable of thing well of myself, and too well of myself, most of the time, and if once in a while I manage to make a good confession I’d like to be allowed to wallow in my guilt for ten or fifteen minutes before I go back to trying not to think of myself as better than others.

    Goodness knows, we Catholics have been known to be too severe on ourselves, but at I think there’s a wisdom to having both a time to be told “you’re really a very good person” and “you’re a sinner and could use to be sorry a bit more often” in our liturgical cycle.

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