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Advent Communal Penance Service Planning Rite

Office of Divine Worship

Archdiocese of Newark

When a number of penitents assemble at the same time to receive sacramental absolution, it is fitting that they be prepared for the sacrament by a celebration of the word of God. Those who will receive the sacrament at another time may also take part in the service.

Communal celebration shows more clearly the ecclesial nature of penance. The faithful listen together to the word of God, which proclaims his mercy and invites them to conversion; at the same time they examine the conformity of their lives with that word of God and help each other through common prayer.

If necessary, several priests should be available in suitable places to hear individual confessions and to reconcile the penitents. (Rite of Penance, #22)

Pastoral Suggestion #1: The church may be divided into two sections. The people may assemble in the front pews of the church leaving the back pews available for confessors to position themselves in various places of the area to maintain privacy. At the time when individual confessions are to be heard, the assembly is seated. Ushers may direct the people to the confessors, one pew at a time, so as to avoid congestion in the aisles. The people may be advised beforehand to: 1) go to next open confessor so as to avoid undue delay; 2) remain for the conclusion of the service. The above directions may be included in a printed program.

Introductory Rites

Gathering Hymn
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" or other Advent Song.

After the opening song the presider greets the people. The meaning of the celebration is explained in these or similar words:

My brothers and sisters, now is the time to wake from sleep, for our salvation is nearer to us than it was when we first believed. The night is ending, the day draws near. Let us, then, cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ and give no thought to sin. (Romans 13:11-12)

Opening Prayer

We look forward to celebrating the mystery of Christ's coming on the feast of Christmas. Let us pray that when he comes he may find us awake and ready to receive him.

All pray in silence for a brief period.

Lord our God,
maker of the heavens,
as we look forward to the coming of our redeemer
grant us the forgiveness of our sins.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Liturgy of the Word
The readings should be seasonal as well as reflective of the sacrament being celebrated. For example, the readings for the Mass of the day may be appropriate.

First Reading: Malachi 3: 1-7a
The Lord whom you seek will come to his temple.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85
(The responsorial psalm should be sung.)

Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Gospel Acclamation
(If the acclamation is not sung, it is not used.)

Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand.


Examination of Conscience
(The Examination of Conscience is adapted from Appendix III of the Rite of Penance.)

A. The Lord says, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart."

1. Is my heart set on God, so that I really love him above all things and am faithful to his commandments? Or am I more concerned about the things of this world?

2. God spoke to us in his Son. Is my faith in God firm and secure? Have I been careful to grow in my understanding of the faith, to hear God's word?

3. Do I pray regularly? Do I offer God my difficulties, my joys and my sorrows?

4. Have I love and reverence for God's name? Have I shown disrespect for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints?

5. Do I keep Sundays and feast days holy by taking a full part, with attention and devotion, in the liturgy, and especially in the Mass?

6. Are there false gods that I worship by giving them greater attention and deeper trust than I give to God: money, superstition, astrology?

B. The Lord says, "Love one another as I have loved you."

1. Have I a genuine love for my neighbors? Or do I use them for my own ends, or do to them what I would not want done to myself?

2. In my family life, have I shown proper respect toward my parents? Have I been careful to give a Christian upbringing to my children? Have I been faithful to my spouse?

3. Do I share my possessions with the less fortunate? Do I do my best to help the victims of oppression, misfortune and poverty?

4. Does my life reflect the mission I received at confirmation? Do I share in the apostolic and charitable works of the church and in the life of my parish?

5. Am I concerned for the good and prosperity of the human community in which I live, or do I spend my life caring only for myself? Do I share to the best of my ability in the work of promoting justice, morality, harmony and love in human relations?

C. Christ our Lord says, "Be perfect as your Father is perfect."

1. Where is my life really leading me? Is the hope of eternal life my inspiration? Have I tried to grow in the life of the Spirit through prayer, reading the word of God, receiving the sacraments? Have I imposed my own will on others, without respecting their freedom and rights?

2. What use have I made of time, of health and strength, of the gifts God has given me? Do I use them to become more perfect each day?

3. Have I been patient in accepting the sorrows and disappointments of life?

4. Have I kept my whole body pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Have I dishonored my body physically or through unworthy conversation or thoughts? Have I indulged in activities which offend Christian or human decency?

5. Have I gone against my conscience out of fear or hypocrisy?

A period of silence should always be included so that each person may personally examine his or her conscience. (Rite of Penance, Appendix II, #59)

Rite of Reconciliation

General Confession of Sins

Presider: (Please kneel)
Christ our Lord came to call sinners into his Father's kingdom. Let us now make an act of sorrow in our hearts and resolve to avoid sin in the future.

After a brief period of silence, all say together:

I confess to almighty God...

Presider: (Please stand)
Lord our God, you know all things.
You know that we want to be more generous in serving you and our neighbor.
Look on us with love and hear our prayer.

Our response is, "Hear our prayer."

Give us the strength to turn away from sin. We pray...
Help us to be sorry for our sins and to keep our resolutions. We pray...
Forgive our sins and have pity on our weakness. We pray...
Give us trust in your goodness and make us generous in serving you. We pray...
Help us to be true followers of your Son and living members of the Church. We pray...

God does not want the sinner to die, but to turn to him and live.
May God be pleased that we have confessed our sinfulness,
and may God show us mercy as we pray in the words our Savior gave us...

All say together:

Our Father...

Lord our God,
on the first day of creation
you made the light that scatters the darkness.
Let Christ, the light of lights,
hidden from all eternity,
shine at last on your people
and free us from the darkness of sin.
Fill our lives with good works
as we go out to meet your Son,
so that we may give him a fitting welcome.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Individual Confession and Absolution
Then the penitents go to the priests designated for individual confession and confess their sins. Each one receives and accepts a fitting act of satisfaction and is absolved. After hearing the confession and offering suitable counsel, the priest extends his hands over the penitent's head and gives absolution. Everything else which is customary in individual confession is omitted. (Rite of Penance, #55).

Pastoral suggestion #2: The presider may remain at the presidential chair during individual confession and absolution. As a sign of reconciliation with the community the penitents, after receiving absolution, may exchange a sign of peace with the presider at the presidential chair. (cf. Pastoral Suggestion #1)

Proclamation of Praise for God's Mercy
When the individual confessions have been completed... the presider invites all present to offer thanks and encourages them to do good works which will proclaim the grace of repentance in the life of the entire community. It is fitting for all to sing a psalm or hymn or to say a litany in acknowledgment of God's power and mercy, for example, the Canticle of Mary. (Rite of Penance, #56)

Other suitable hymns for the season such as "On Jordan's Bank" would also be appropriate.

Pastoral suggestion #3: The presider may introduce the proclamation of praise for God's mercy with these or similar words: We have experienced the love and mercy of our God. Now we must dedicate ourselves to living lives worthy of the grace we have received. Let us praise the Lord in song.

Concluding Prayer of Thanksgiving

Lord Jesus Christ,
your loving forgiveness knows no limits.
You took on our human nature
to give us an example of humility
and to make us faithful in every trial.
May we never lose the gifts you have given us,
but if we fall into sin lift us up by your gift of repentance,
for you live and reign for ever and ever.

Concluding Rite

The Lord be with you. R: And also with you.

Deacon or presider:
Bow your heads and pray for God's blessing.

May the Lord guide your hearts in the way of his love and fill you with Christ-like patience.

R: Amen.

May God give you strength to walk in newness of life and to please him in all things.

R: Amen.

May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son + and the Holy Spirit.

R: Amen.

Deacon or presider:
The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.

R: Thanks be to God.*
Rev. Thomas A Dente
Associate Director
Office of Divine Worship



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved