QUAERITUR: “penitus” in the Good Friday rubric about celebration of sacraments

From a priest reader:

Dear Fr Z,

For some time I have been wondering about the word "penitus" in the rubric on Good Friday:  "Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta, praeter Paenitentiae et Infirmorum Unctionis, penitus non celebrat."  (2002 Missale Romanum)

I know the adjective "penitus, a, um" meaning "interior", but this seems to be an adverb meaning something like "not at all".  I can’t find it in Lewis & Short.  Do you know anything about this word?

Many thanks in anticipation,

Do I know about penitus?  Indeed I do. 

Penitus as an adverb can have various meanings.  I suspect that in our rubrical context it does not mean "furnished with or having a tail".  As an adjective, penitus also is, as Father said above, "inward, inner, interior".  But under that same L&S entry, way down there, we find also, "through and through, to the bottom of a thing, i. e., thoroughly, completely, wholly,  entirely, utterly".  Blaise, in his dictionary of Christian Latin, compares penitus to omnino.

Thus, that rubric is to be read this way:

On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick.  

You could also say:

On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, rigorously does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick.  

And I have written on this very rubric.

Some priests, liturgical experts and even diocesan liturgy offices claim the rubrics of the Missal or “Sacramentary” forbid the sacrament of Penance.  However, this claim is absolutely incorrect. 

The previous editions of the Missale Romanum (1970 and 1975 of the Novus Ordo) said of Good Friday and Holy Saturday: “Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta penitus non celebrat… On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments”.  

However, since this is in the Missal (the book for MASS), sacramenta refers only to Holy Mass and not the other sacraments.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments clarified this in its official publication Notitiae (#137 (Dec 1977) p. 602). 

In the 2002 edition of the Missale Romanum at paragraph 1 for Good Friday all doubt is removed. 

The above cited text has been changed to say (the change with my emphasis): “Hac et sequenti die, Ecclesia, ex antiquissima traditione, sacramenta, praeter Paenitentiae et Infirmorum Unctionis, penitus non celebrat… On this and the following day, the Church, from a most ancient tradition, does not at all celebrate the sacraments, except for (the sacraments of) Penance and Anointing of the Sick”.  

Priests can and should hear confessions during on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday.   Who can forget the image of the late Pope hearing confession in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday?

Here is a bonus tip, speaking of confessions.  Some liturgists simply freak out at this idea.  It is both permitted and recommended in some circumstances for confessions to be heard during Holy Mass on other days of the year!  Want proof?  Try the CDWDS document Redemptionis Sacramentum 76 and also the Congregation’s Response to a Dubium in Notitiae 37 (2001) pp. 259-260. 

Here at WDTPRS we have had debates about the confession issue before.

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6 Responses to QUAERITUR: “penitus” in the Good Friday rubric about celebration of sacraments

  1. tihald says:

    I’m a parishioner at St. John Cantius in Chicago, about which I cannot say enough good, and they regularly hear confessions during Mass. It makes it very convenient to go to Confession and it’s expected to be very regular for parishioners. One of the first times I made a confession at St. John Cantius I was feeling rather proud of myself because it had only been six weeks since the last one. My confessor told me that was good, but that I really should be coming every 2 or 3 weeks. That’s one thing I love about SJC they’re serious about the Faith and expect you to be as well. Expectations bring results. I thank Our Lord for Fr. Phillips and all the good men of the Canons Regular.

  2. Cristero says:

    At St. Margaret Mary in Oakland, CA, I found it a blessing to be able to go to Good Friday, and to confess my sins during the Traditional form of Good Friday.

  3. Peter says:

    Father, is there a good source available where one might find older issues of Notitiae? I frequently find myself wishing to reference them in discussions but am left with just cut-n-paste and no ability to prove from whence it came.

  4. Peter: A seminary or Catholic university library. It would be great it, someday, they could be put on CD-ROM as they do with L’Osservatore Romano each year.

  5. Peter says:

    Thank you, Father. I’ll check with our local Catholic colleges and see if they can help.

  6. ssoldie says:

    I remember back in 1952,53,54 etc, that confession were heard during Mass in Long Beach Calif, I worked late on some Sat nights and could not make it to Confession (confession’s were from 7:00-8:00.)I thought that was wonderful, also fasting before recieving our Lord was from 12:00a.m. till recieving on Sunday. (now that is fasting) for, HE who, for 3 days suffered and then died fo me.