Catholics’ experience of the sacrament of penance will be slightly different beginning this Lent because of approved changes to the English translation of the Roman rite.
By the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday, April 16, 2023), Catholics in the U.S. celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation will have noticed some changes in the words used by the priest. Those changes are not related to any alteration of the rite itself – whose parts and flow remain the same – but merely to an updated translation. This new Order of Penance represents but one more step in the gradual process whereby all liturgical books, beginning with the 2011 Roman Missal, are retranslated to more formally reflect the underlying Latin of the Roman Rite. While penitents are most likely to notice slight changes in the prayer of absolution, the sacramental form concluding that prayer remains exactly the same: “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
If the priest’s parts are updated, will that also affect what individual penitents say?
It could, mainly because the scripted options for the Act of Contrition have also been retranslated, and students in Catholic schools and faith formation will henceforth learn those updated prayers – read more about this below. But the rite has always provided for penitents to express their contrition according to a formula provided in the liturgical book or in similar words. Accordingly, those who express their contrition according to the old translation or even communicate the same in their own words are still celebrating the sacrament properly.
The new edition of the Order of Penance does not become mandatory until Divine Mercy Sunday. Nonetheless, priests have the option to use the updated translation as early as Ash Wednesday (February 22, 2023). Consequently, there will be a period of time during which Catholics may hear the old or new translation during reconciliation. Whichever translation is employed, the riches of God’s grace and mercy remain the same for those who seek them out. Let us, then, use this renewed text as an opportunity to renew our own approach to Christ’s offer of healing and forgiveness in this Sacrament.
Read more from the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship (see p.13-14)
Confession: The Act of Contrition and words of absolution to get new translations starting this Lent (America magazine)
Bishop Walkowiak’s ‘Act of Contrition’ Initiative
Bishop Walkowiak is urging parents to take every opportunity to have their children participate in the sacrament of reconciliation during four regular time periods within the school or catechetical year—at the beginning of the year, during Advent, during Lent, and at the end of the school/catechetical year.
In support of this effort, he has asked all Catholic schools, religious education, and youth ministry programs, beginning on Ash Wednesday and following each day thereafter, to conclude the day or program with a school-wide period of examination followed by the recitation of the Act of Contrition.
Read the bishop’s letter to parents (English | Español)
Learn more about the initiative at Catholicschools4u.org.
Act of Contrition options
Examinations of Conscience for different ages-stages
News and updates:
Vatican confirms new translation of prayer of absolution (Aleteia)
The prayer of absolution will change for US Catholics in 2023. Here’s how (Catholic News Agency)