RP 23-24: Introductory Rites and Scripture

mary-the-penitent.jpgOkay, friends. Let’s talk about what Roman Catholic priests can do now that we’ve got the ordained women and the Chanukah Ham out of our system.


23. When the faithful have gathered, a suitable hymn may be sung. Then the priest greets them and, if necessary, he or another minister gives a brief introduction to the celebration and explains the order of service. Next he invites all to pray and after a period of silence completes the opening prayer.

So here’s the rundown: opening hymn optional. (I don’t think that antiphons are assigned for this liturgy.) Explanation optional. But an opening prayer must be led.


24. The sacrament of penance should begin with a hearing of God’s word, because through his word God calls his people to repentance and leads them to a true conversion of heart.

One or more readings may be chosen. If more than one are read, a psalm, another suitable song, or a period of silence should be inserted between them, so that the word of God may be more deeply understood and heartfelt assent may be given to it. If there is only one reading, it is preferable that it be from a gospel.

Readings are technically optional, for the rite says they “should” be proclaimed. The rite gives an interesting definition of the purpose of the responsorial psalm: for the understanding of the Word of God (though sometimes the psalms can be more curious than the prose portions of Scripture) and for the assent of the assembly.

Notice also the priority: first psalm, then “suitable song,” then silence. Curious that the gospel acclamation is not explicitly mentioned, though I suppose it would be “suitable.”

Readings should be chosen that will:

a. let God’s voice be heard, calling his people back to conversion and ever closer conformity with Christ;

b. call to mind the mystery of our reconciliation through the death and resurrection of Christ and through the gift of the Holy Spirit;

c. bring to bear on people’s lives God’s judgment of good and evil as a light for the examination of conscience.

These are good guidelines. Later sections of the rite do provide suggestions for Scripture readings. Again we read that the Scripture should inform the examination of conscience. Any commentary out there on this?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to RP 23-24: Introductory Rites and Scripture

  1. FrMichael says:

    All too often these are only done haphazardly, since people are anxious to get to the “real part” of the night, the individual confessions.

  2. Todd says:

    Which underscores my point about the liturgical poverty of form I, and the preconciliar experience of penance. I suspect we won’t see a renewal of this sacrament without the assistance of the Word of God.

  3. John Heavrin says:

    “the preconciliar experience of penance.”

    It was thriving and widely used. It was high in the consciousness of Catholics individually and collectively, and the necessary connection between it and reception of Holy Communion, and therefore between it and the Holy Mass, was clear and strong. Now all that is gone. Amazing. Would that we could restore such “poverty” in place of the drowsy and dangerous “prosperity” we now enjoy.

  4. FrMichael says:


    Rather than blaming pre-V2 practice for current difficulties, I would say that formulating a Liturgy of the Word for the communal service has to meet a difficult challenge: the profoundly emotional nature of individual confessions.

    People psychologically are going to be focused on their own individual confession. It would take an extremely engaging selection and proclamation of Scripture and an engaging homily to try to snap people out of their individual reveries about their own upcoming confession. Very difficult: I dread preaching at these services more than at any other liturgy.

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