Lord, Have Mercy

The Penitential Act

What Not to Miss

  • Before we can go any further in the Mass, which is a holy act of worship of a holy God that requires holy participants, we need to confess our sins and ask for God's forgiveness.
  • The liturgy gives us a period of silence so we can examine our consciences and bring to mind our sins.
  • We confess communally because each individual's sins effect the whole Church. Likewise, the entire Church, from your neighbor in the pew to the saints in heaven, can intercede for us and thereby participate in God's act of forgiveness.
  • Striking our breast is a visible and tangible sign of our repentance. It is similar in nature to fasting or the imposition of ashes.
  • God is merciful and will forgive our sins when we confess them!
  • The Kyrie, eleison is an ancient prayer and the only remaining example of the Greek language in the Roman liturgy. It can be prayed in Greek or in the vernacular (in our case, English).

Next Time You Go to Mass...

  • Make a habit of examining your conscience regularly, perhaps at night before going to bed. This will make you more conscious of your sins when it comes time for the Penitential Act at Mass.
  • Reflect on how you have sinned through your thoughts, speech, actions, and inaction.
  • In your heart, do what the formula of general confession says: admit your sins to God and pray for your brothers and sisters through the words and gestures of the Penitential Act.
  • If you are conscious of having committed a mortal sin, refrain from receiving Holy Communion until you have received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). It's for your own good!

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.