From a reader, edited:
Would it be acceptable, when in the confessional, to recite the Act of Contrition in Latin?
Over the past several years I have become proficient in a fair number of Latin prayers, including those of the Rosary, simply because I feel more reverent using that language for praying. However, those are personal prayers used in private with no one else hearing them. The Act of Contrition, in contrast, would of course be heard by the priest. So my concern is that it could be perceived as (or perhaps actually would be a sinful act of vanity and pride although that would certainly not be my intention.
I’m sure your first answer will be the obvious one: ask the priest before saying the prayer. I plan to do so but only if you think the question is even worth asking. If not, I will stick to the common English version….
My first response has nothing to do with the sensibilities of the priest. In my opinion, the confessor – the priest – can just sit there and listen to which ever act of contrition you desire to say, so long as you make it clear to him that you
a) are sorry for your sins
b) you intend not to sin again
c) will amend your life.
Ask yourself: Is that more easily communicated to the priest in Latin or in English?
Is is “acceptable” to say the act of contrition in Latin? Of course it is. Latin Church Catholics can use the language of the Church for the celebration of their sacraments.
But there are some considerations.
While the form spoken by the priest has a stronger impact on the validity of the absolution, your act of contrition also plays its role.
The confessional is like a tribunal, a court room, in which you are simultaneously the accused and the prosecutor. You present your case and then you beg for mercy from the just judge who also willingly and with love gives mercy and forgiveness and then heaps upon you additional graces besides. There is a formal dimension to making a confession, and the sacrament as certain elements to be preserved. Those elements include the penitent making it clear, one way or another mind you – there doesn’t have to be rigid uniformity in this – that there is sorrow for sin and firm purpose of amendment. If the priest doesn’t have that sense from you, he must not give you absolution.
Since we are in an age in which many priests don’t have a clue what you would be saying were you to say the act of contrition in Latin, you might want to use English, just so that there is no doubt left as to what you are saying.
That said, I have absolved many a penitent who spoke the act of contrition in some African language or Asian language I cannot understand. But I am used to dealing with all sorts of languages and tend not to freak out. Also, I have found that Catholics from third world countries tend to make very sound and complete confessions according to the traditional style. They do a far better job than many of Catholics from more privileged places, as a matter of fact. Therefore, even when the act of contrition is, for example, spoken in Kinyambo, I have already arrived at the conclusion that the penitent is squared away.
But I digress.
Sure.. Go ahead and use Latin if you want, but check your motives and think about the confessor when you do.
Sure. Go ahead and ask the priest if he minds. I wouldn’t… but I deal with Latin all the time.
FWIW… I use English when the confessor is an English speaker.