Sacraments are…

outward signs established by Christ to give grace. Or, as I heard it put today, they are visible signs of inward grace, given by Christ.

Words, being key in all of the Sacraments, are also outward, material signs of inward, formal acts. It would make for an interesting study to see how the words involved in the Sacraments have changed in the past century or three. How do wedding vows hold up nowadays compared to vows two hundred years ago–and vice versa? For a less daunting task, consider the following three forms of the Act of Contrition (not technically a Sacrament, I know, but a vital part of experiencing the grace of reconciliation):

A) My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy.
Amen.

B) O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you,
and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments,
but most of all because they offend You, my God,
who are all-good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace,
to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.
Amen.

C) O MY GOD,  I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.
Amen.

What is lost by modernizing and “streamlining” the words related to sacraments (as in the first version)? What is gained by denuding the richness of the last version? Alternatively, what is lost by sticking with the third version? What are your thoughts on these prayers? Are you partial to one form over another? Why?

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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12 Responses to Sacraments are…

  1. Tony Jokin says:

    I prefer (C) and have always used C. Maybe it’s just me but by the time we get to (A), it seems obvious that the entire punishment due for our sins is completely left out. That just lends itself to the error of denying the existence of hell and the real possibility of landing oneself there. The word “sin” is left out too which makes it even harder for the person reading the prayer to remember the Scriptural and Traditional teachings associated with the word “sin”. For all the insistence that doctrine has not changed since Vatican II, the Church is doing a lot to make it look as if the Church has changed……

  2. Stoney says:

    I always use (C) but never understood why it says I heartily resolve to confess my sins, when you’ve just confessed your sins.

  3. That raises an entire other problem. The language does indeed suggest that the act of contrition was designed to be said in penance even before making confession. Over time, it got wedged into the last moments of confession itself, presumably in accordance with the reign of “efficiency” and “productivity” which has left nothing unscathed. It’s similar with the pre-Cana system. My understanding is that “back in the day,” pre-marital counseling was a sustained catechesis, a veritable ecclesial courtship. That too, however, has been scrunched into a few glorified power lunches (“Abortion, bad; contraception, bad; adultery, bad; monogamy, good–got it?”).

    That’s what I’m getting at in this post. At some point, the “spoonful of sugar” ceases making the medicine go down, and actually displaces the medicine itself.

  4. Also, about the pre-confession penitence. I think morals have gotten so lax in much of the Church that priests are happy just to have the faithful SHOW UP for confession, even if only minutes before Mass starts. When’s the last time you heard a sermon, or any catechetical opportunity, about a pre-confession, much less DAILY, examen of conscience?

  5. c matt says:

    One improvement that B does provide is “to avoid the near occassion of sin”. “Amend my life” is good, but if C had added, or even replaced that portion with “avoid the near occassion of sin” I would have found that to be an improvement. It is a little more specific/focused than “amend my life” which seems to be covered by other things anyway, and is darn good advice and direction. JMO.

  6. drprice2 says:

    The one we’ve memorized (Mr. and Mrs. Price and all the Pricelets) is 3, with a “near occasion” reference:

            O my God, I am heartily sorry for
            having offended you, and I detest
            all my sins, because I dread the loss of
            heaven and the pains of hell, 
            but most of all because
            they offend You, my God, who are
            all-good and deserving of all my love.
            I firmly resolve, with the help of
            Your grace, to sin no more and to
            avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.
    
  7. Stoney says:

    I didn’t know that, now it makes sense. Thanks! I try to recite Psalm 51 before going into the box, one of the seven penitential Psalms.

  8. Stoney says:

    Almost never, even at my Dominican parish. When asked why my geographical parish didn’t offer Confession before every Mass, our former bishop stated: “We’ll offer it when the people ask for it”. Talk about bass- ackwards.

  9. Stoney says:

    Good one.

  10. Tony Jokin says:

    A good example of the reform of the reform! 😉

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