Skip to comments.BREAST-BEATING DURING THE CONFITEOR (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 12/15/2011 2:21:59 PM PST by NYer
ROME, DEC. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: In the new translation of Mass according to the English-language Roman Missal, I find myself wondering about a certain lack of specificity in the Confiteor. The missal indicates that those reciting the prayer are to strike their breast at the point where they say, "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." I am old enough to remember the threefold striking of the breast in pre-Conciliar days, but wonder if this practice has been maintained elsewhere in the Church by the other language groups that use the Roman Missal. Is there a generalized practice? Or is the perceived lack of specificity in the new missal merely an indication that one strike of the breast is expected? -- A.L., Gallitzin, Pennsylvania
A: The perceived lack of specificity is in the original Latin rubric which says, "[P]ercutientes sibi pectus," whereas the extraordinary form specifies that the breast should be struck three times.
There is, however, a slight but noticeable change in translating this rubric. The former translation, with only one admission of fault, said that the faithful should "strike their breast," thus specifying a single strike. The current translation says, "[A]nd striking their breast, they say:" before the triple admission of fault.
This use of the gerund indicates a continuous action, and so I would say that even if a number is not specified in the rubric, the use of a dynamic expression implies that the number corresponds to the times one admits to personal faults. I think that this is also what would come naturally to most people in any case.
This would be confirmed by the practice in Spanish- and Italian-language countries, which have always maintained the triple form in the "I Confess." The Spanish missal translates the rubric as "golpeándose el pecho, dicen:" which could mean either once or several times. In these countries it is also common practice for priest and faithful to strike the breast three times.
Although the Second Vatican Council requested the removal of "useless repetitions," it must be said that not all repetition is useless. Some forms of communication necessarily use what is technically called redundancy, that is, reinforcing the signal carrying a message more than would be strictly necessary in order to overcome outside interference and stress its importance.
The triple repetition of words and gestures in the Confiteor could be considered such a case. With the former translation it was fairly easy to omit the gesture of striking the breast or pay scant attention to its meaning. The triple repetition underlines its importance and helps us to concentrate on the inner meaning of what we say and do.
It must be admitted, though, that the above argumentation is not watertight, and a single strike could also be a valid interpretation of the rubric.
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Follow-up: The Ave Maria at Funerals
In the Nov. 29 piece on the Ave Maria I said that it "has not been used as an official liturgical text in the Mass." I referred, above all, to the complete text of the Ave Maria.
One reader pointed out, however: "While not used completely, the first portion of the prayer ('Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui') is appointed in the Graduale Romanum as the Offertory for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and as the first option for the Offertory in the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With that in mind, would it not then be perfectly legitimate to use a version of Ave Maria as an Offertory on those occasions?"
Regarding funeral liturgies in general, a Chicago reader asked: "My cousin recently passed away and the family turned to me to help arrangements for the Mass. I did some research in his home city to find a church that offers more traditional liturgy and found one that regularly offers a Novus Ordo in Latin with a sacred-music choir. I called the parish, requesting a simple requiem Mass for my cousin, with Gregorian chant and perhaps some sacred polyphony, and was flatly refused. I was told that the parish could offer a 'regular' funeral Mass with a hymn like 'Amazing Grace' or 'On Eagles' Wings,' but that it would not be possible to offer a requiem Mass. As someone who chants in a schola, I know that the chants for the traditional requiem Mass are not complex (Kyrie, Sanctus, Angus Dei, In Paradisum); I was not asking for Mozart's Requiem with a full orchestra. My question is, do the faithful have a canonical right to a requiem Mass with Gregorian chant (assuming that there is a competent and available cantor, which in this case there was)? Or must we be subjected to the banal sentimentality of hymns like 'On Eagles' Wings' or a Protestant hymn like 'Amazing Grace' at the funerals of our loved ones due to the will of the pastor?"
I would be loath to interpret the pastor's reasons for refusing the requiem Mass; he might have had other good motivations in this particular case.
In general, however, I would say that while it is not possible to speak of an absolute "right" of the faithful to a particular form of Mass, one can say that the faithful do have a right to the Mass as proposed by the Catholic Church. Since the texts of the requiem Mass are all officially approved and found in the liturgical books, there is, in general terms, no good reason to refuse to allow their use in any funeral celebration if there is someone who can execute them.
Even if the Mass itself is celebrated in the vernacular, the common parts and the proper texts can all be sung in Latin. Also, since these texts often correspond to the official antiphons, they would have preference over any other hymns or songs.
It must be admitted that there is a poignancy and pathos in imploring God that the angels lead the deceased in paradisum (into paradise) to be welcomed on arrival by the martyrs and introduced into the heavenly Jerusalem that is not quite captured by songs such as "On Eagles' Wings."
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Mea culpa ping!
I was curious about this as well so thanks for posting this.
The new liturgical missals advises simply enough ‘striking the breast’. Our priest strikes his breast 3 times like I did reciting the confiteor 50 years ago. So I just defaulted to 3 strikes ...just as God intended.
Catholics pray with their bodies all the time.
The Sign of the Cross
Genuflection upon entering the church or pew
Stamdomg up for the processional and Introductory Rites.
Being seated for the First Reading, Responsorial Psalm and the Second Reading (on Sundays)
Standing up for the Gospel
Sitting down for the homily or sermon
Stamdomg i[ for the Creed
bowing during the Creed when it is mentioned that Christ became incarnate (made man)
Standing for the intercessions
Sitting down for the collection, preparation of the altar and Presentation of the Gifts.
Standing up for the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Eicharistic Preface and Sanctus,
Kneeling down during the epiclesis and consecration
Standing up after the final “Amen” of the Liturgy of the Eucharist
REamining standing (but no holding hands) for the Lord’s Prayer
Shaking hands for the Sign of Peace
Walking to Communion
Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue after a bow or genuflection — or kneeling at an altar rail if you have one —
Kneeling for prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion
Standing for the Concluding prayer and the Recessional.
*Prabably sitting in there for the announcements in some
So WHAT is so TERRIBLE about praying with striking one’s breast during the Confiteor?
If I forgot anything, please add it! LOL!
A couple of typos in there, but I typed it so fast.
In this Catholic’s humble opinion, manifestations of individual piety are according to Jesus’ teachings best kept to a mininum. Our Savior taught the faithful to pray in secret and the Lord Who saw them in secret would reward them. And we know how He compared the Pharisee to the publican when they prayed in the Temple.
JFWIW, when I pray the Confiteor, witness the Consecration & Elevation, say the Agnus Dei or the Domine non sum dignus, I strike & bow discreetly. Those who approach the celebrant and bow deeply and/or perform a double genuflection before receiving the Eucharist, “I tell you, they have already received their reward”.
OK, now call me old fuddy-duddy.
But if we say “Mea culpa” or strike our breast — even non-Catholics understand what that means.
And you aren’t an old fuddy-duddy.
You aren’t an old fuddy duddy. To be honest, as you do, I try to bow and strike my chest discreetly. I genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament. I do not do these things for me. I wish nothing but to show my love, respect and admiration for Our Lord. I do understand though, and for any folks of that sort, I completely agree.
Salvation, I tap three times, too, during the Confiteor.
As a student of the Sisters of Mercy, I nearly always incline my head when saying or hearing the name of Jesus.
It is imperceptible to anyone but me.
As for striking my breast, I grew up doing it three times so that is what just came naturally for me.
After the consecration, while the altar boy is ringing the bells, I whisper “My Lord and my God” three times. No one can hear me.
My Lord and My God, Jesus, King of Mercy, have mercy on me a sinner.
I see that I forgot another three.
Three crosses as the priest announces the Gospel.
God be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart.
Oops! Yes, I forgot those also.
So far, at my parish this new part has not been used. Instead is has been the sung version of the “Lord Have Mercy” version. But I guess that new confiteor will be used during Lent.
I have always struck my breast 3 times during the Confiteor. I also strike it 3 times during the Angus Dei.
I do much the same.
Among the most enlightening words in the Liturgy.