PCS 241-243: Penitential Options

In the Liturgy of Penance (241-243) one of two options is provided. The priest may lead the sick person in either the sacrament of penance or a penitential rite:

241. If the sick person so wishes, the sacrament of penance is celebrated; in case of necessity, the confession may be generic.

We’ve encountered this “generic” confession earlier in the pastoral care rites. We’re probably talking about the confiteor or some similar formula.

The priest extends his hands over the penitent’s head (or at least extends his right hand) and says:

God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and reconciliation of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, +
and of the Holy Spirit.

242. If there is no celebration of the sacrament of penance, the penitential rite takes place as usual. The priest invites the sick person and all present to join in the penitential rite using these or similar words:

And the brief invitations given next are followed by a reference to PCS 118, form A or C, as we discussed earlier.

243. At the conclusion of the sacrament of penance or the penitential rite, the priest may give the apostolic pardon for the dying, as described in (PCS) 201.


I find the placement of the penitential rite after the celebration of the word/instruction to be a little curious. In essence, it means the framers of this rite have conceded the Word is not essential to the continuous three-sacrament rite.

A bit more on the generic confession. The Church is clearly not concerned about scrupulosity with the “death-bed confession.” That said, many Catholics will want to confess in an ordinary way. It will take some judgment on the part of the priest to steer the penitent one way or the other as circumstances suggest.

Aren’t you glad for those pastoral care books with the multiple ribbon bookmarks? It is really important for a pastoral care minister to be prepared with these rites that refer to other sections for the detailed rituals and ritual texts.

As a practical aside, I’ve also found it helpful to pull about ten or so slips from the smallest post-it note pad, and stick it to the inside back cover of the PCS handbook. When I need to scratch a note or apply an extra bookmark, I can use that mini-pad rather easily. Sometimes it’s that extra page marker, and sometimes a memory-challenged person like me can use the reminder of the names of spouse, the children, or other important people.

Other thoughts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Care of the Sick, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s