Mea Culpa

Just a thought


There are only two changes to the I CONFESS (CONFITEOR) in the new translation. Instead of saying “ I have sinned through my own fault” we now say “I have greatly sinned”. This is a more accurate translation of the Latin “peccavi nimis”; it also underlines our awareness of our sinfulness.

More significantly the phrase “through my own fault” is returned to its proper place half way through the prayer and it is given in its threefold Latin version: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grevious fault (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa)”.

Is this too much emphasis on sin? We will remember that before the first Eucharist the Lord washed the feet of his disciples. We have a need to con-fess our weaknesses and our sin; a first step on the road to holiness is ac-knowledging our need of God. Christian prayer does well to begin with the realism of our human condition. The early Church spoke about “Apologies” at the beginning of the Eucharist: a prayer containing a confession of sin and a petition for pardon.

Some older parishioners may remember the earlier (Tridentine) rite when we confessed not only to God but “….to Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to Blessed John the Baptist, to the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul and to you my brothers…..”. In fact in that rite we actually repeated the Confiteor just before receiving Holy Communion, a practice taken from the ritual of bringing Communion to the sick.

With the changes in the I CONFESS comes the restoration of the gesture of striking one’s breast at the “through my fault(mea culpa)”. This is a small sacramental gesture of inward repentance. It carries an echo of the penitent tax collector in Luke 18:13 who “beat his breast and said, God, be merciful to me a sinner”.

Fr Seán Wales, C.Ss.R.

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