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Confiteor (I confess to almighty God)




Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres,

quia peccávi nimis

cogitatióne, verbo, ópere, et omissióne:

mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.

Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem,

omnes Angelos et Sanctos,

et vos, fratres, oráre pro me

ad Dóminum Deum nostrum

The Confiteor (so named from its first word in Latin) is a general confession of sin recited at the beginning of Mass of the Roman Rite and on some other occasions.

I confess to almighty God,

and to you, my brothers and sisters,

that I have sinned through my own fault,

in my thoughts and in my words,

in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do;

and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,

all the angels and saints,

and you, my brothers and sisters,

to pray for me to the Lord our God.

While the original Eastern liturgies begin with a confession of sin made by the celebrant, the earliest records of the Roman Rite all describe the Mass as beginning at the Introit, but the celebrant may have used a Confiteor-like confession of sinfulness as one of the private prayers he said in the sacristy before he began Mass. Only in the tenth or eleventh century is there any evidence of the preparation being made at the altar.

Outside of Mass some prayers similar to the Confiteor appear earlier. The “Canonical Rule” of Chrodegang of Metz (d. 743) recommends: “First of all prostrate yourself humbly in the sight of God … and pray Blessed Mary with the holy Apostles and Martyrs and Confessors to pray to the Lord for you.” And Egbert of York (d. 766) gives a short form that is the germ of our present prayer: “Say to him to whom you wish to confess your sins: through my fault that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed.” In answer the confessor says almost exactly the Misereatur.

The Confiteor is first found quoted as part of the introduction of the Mass in Bernold of Constance (d. 1100) in the form: “Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, istis Sanctis et omnibus Sanctis et tibi frater, quia peccavi in cogitatione, in locutione, in opere, in pollutione mentis et corporis. Ideo precor te, ora pro me.”

The Misereatur and Indulgentiam follow, the former slightly different, but the latter exactly as it was in the 1962 Missal. The 1962 form of the Confiteor is found in the fourteenth-century “Ordo Romanus XIV” with only a slight modification: “Quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, delectatione, consensu, verbo et opere”, and is found word for word in a decree of the Third Council of Ravenna (1314).

However, the form, and especially the list of saints invoked, varied considerably in the Middle Ages.

In many Missals it is shorter:

“Confiteor Deo, beatae Mariæ, omnibus sanctis et vobis”.

In the Missal of Paul III (1534-1549) it is:

“Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, B. Mariæ semper Virgini, B. Petro et omnibus Sanctis et vobis Fratres, quia peccavi, meâ culpâ: precor vos orare pro me”. The form chosen for the Tridentine Missal of Pope Pius V (1570) was the only used in the Roman Rite until 1969, with the exceptions of the Carthusian, Carmelite, and Dominican Offices, whose Missals, having been proved to have existed for more than 200 years, were still allowed. These three forms were quite short, and contained only one “meâ culpâ”; the Dominicans invoked, besides the Blessed Virgin, St. Dominic. Moreover, some other orders had the privilege of adding the name of their founder after that of St. Paul (the Franciscans for instance), and the local patron was inserted at the same place in a few local uses.

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