Today I watched the video of the Pope who made his own confession before hearing the confessions of others. HERE
That juxtaposition brought forcefully into my mind both the prayers I usually say before and after making my own confession, and those which I usually say before and after hearing the confessions of others, either immediately or shortly after.
So, because it is Lent, and because it is Friday, and because I know that many priests have confessions scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, here are the texts of the prayers for before and after hearing confessions.
They are taken from a small, old prayer book for priests from 1935. How I wish Baronius or someone else would make beautiful new editions of these old prayer books for priests!
I have used these prayers during my whole priesthood now, and they say it all. You could do a lot worse, Fathers, than to adopt them as your own. They provide a realistic view of the gravity of the office and work of the confessor, as well as hold up some ideals… and a mirror in which we can scrutinize ourselves as confessors. They are both sobering and consoling.
In the following, I added some typographical characters and I put in the accents to help your pronunciation, if you decide to do them in Latin. Over time, they become old friends and, frankly, they are richer in content then the translations, below. Also, I have a recording of the prayers in Latin, at the end.
ORATIO SACERDOTIS ANTEQUAM CONFESSIONES EXCIPIAT
Da mihi, Dómine, sédium tuárum assistrícem sapiéntiam, ut sciam iudicáre pópulum tuum in iustítia, et páuperes tuos in iudício. Fac me ita tractáre claves regni cælórum, ut nulli apériam, cui claudéndum sit, nulli claudam, cui aperiéndum. Sit inténtio mea pura, zelus meus sincérus, cáritas mea pátiens, labor meus fructuósus. Sit in me lénitas non remíssa, aspéritas non sevéra; páuperem ne despíciam, díviti ne adúler. Fac me ad alliciéndos peccatóres suávem, ad interrogándos prudéntem, ad instruéndos perítum. Tríbue, quæso, ad retrahéndos a malo sollértiam, ad con?rmándos in bono sedulitátem, ad promovéndos ad melióra indústriam: in respónsis maturitátem, in consíliis rectitúdinem, in obscúris lumen, in impléxis sagacitátem, in árduis victóriam: inutílibus collóquiis ne detínear, pravis ne contáminer; álios salvem, me ipsum non perdam. Amen.
PRIEST’S PRAYER BEFORE HEARING CONFESSIONS
Grant to me, O Lord, that wisdom seated beside Thy throne, that I may know how to judge Thy people with justice, and Thy poor ones with discernment. Make me so to use the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, that I may open them to no one upon whom they should be closed, nor close them upon any to whom they should be opened. May my intention be pure, my zeal sincere, my charity patient, my labor fruitful. Let there be in me a gentleness which is not negligent, a severity which is not harsh; let me not look down on the poor; let me not fawn upon rich. Make me pleasant for attracting sinners, prudent in questioning them, resourceful in directing them. Grant, I beseech Thee, ingenuity for drawing them back from sin, earnestness in con?rming them in good, diligence in urging them to better things: grant me good judgment in responses, rectitude in advice, light in obscure matters, wisdom in complications, victory in adversities: Let me not be detained in useless conversations, let me not be stained by perversities; let me save others, and let me not lose myself. Amen.
ORATIONES SACERDOTIS POSTQUAM CONFESSIONES EXCEPERIT
Dómine Iesu Christe, dulcis amátor et sancti?cátor animárum, purí?ca, óbsecro, per infusiónem Sancti Spíritus cor meum ab omni a?ectióne et cogitatióne vitiósa, et quidquid a me in meo múnere sive per neglegéntiam, sive per ignorántiam peccátum est, tua in?níta pietáte et misericórdia supplére dignéris. Comméndo in tuis amabilíssimis vulnéribus omnes ánimas, quas ad pæniténtiam traxísti, et tuo pretiosíssimo Sánguine sancti?cásti, ut eas a peccátis ómnibus custódias et in tuo timóre et amóre consérves, in virtútibus in dies magis promóveas, atque ad vitam perdúcas ætérnam: Qui cum Patre et Spíritu Sancto vivis et regnas in s?cula sæculórum. Amen.
Dómine Iesu Christe, ?li Dei vivi, súscipe hoc obséquii mei ministérium in amóre illo superdigníssimo, quo beátam Maríam Magdalénam omnésque ad te confugiéntes peccatóres absolvísti, et quidquid in sacraménti huius administratione neglegénter minúsque digne perféci, tu per te supplére et satisfácere dignéris. Omnes et síngulos, qui mihi modo conféssi sunt, comméndo dulcíssimo Cordi tuo rogans, ut eósdem custódias et a recidíva præsérves atque post huius vitæ misériam mecum ad gáudia perdúcas ætérna. Amen.
PRIEST’S PRAYERS AFTER HEARING CONFESSIONS
Lord Jesus Christ, sweet lover and sancti?er of souls, I pray Thee, through the infusion of the Holy Spirit, purify my heart from every corrupt feeling or thought and, through Thy in?nite compassion and mercy, deign to make good any transgression whatsoever made by me in my service due to my negligence or my ignorance. I commend to Thy most lovable wounds all the souls whom Thou hast drawn to repentance, and whom Thou hast sancti?ed by Thy Precious Blood, so that Thou mayest guard them from every sin and keep them in Thy love and in Thy fear, promote in them each day more virtues, and lead them to eternal life. You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, accept this ministry of my obedience with that surpassing love with which Thou didst absolve St. Mary Magdalene and all sinners ?ying to Thee for refuge, and whatever in the administration of this Sacrament I performed negligently and less than worthily, deign to supply and satisfy. I commend to Thy most sweet Heart each and every person who has just now confessed to me, asking that Thou mayest guard them and keep them from backsliding and, after the misery of this life, that thou mayest lead them with me to the joys everlasting. Amen.
I used good ol’ “Thou” and retained something of the flowery style of yesteryear because, after all, there’s really nothing wrong with that at all.
I have turned on the combox moderation. I will accept comments from priests or bishops, which I receive in the combox or in email, and I will even anonymize them on request. I will more than likely not – not – post any comment made by a lay person or a permanent deacon. I am not really talking to you. Go ahead and call it clericalism: you are merely being permitted to listen in because, given that this is a blog, I can’t stop you. Read HERE if you want my defense. I might… might… post something of a transitional deacon or a seminarian (still laity)… might. Make it really good. Impress me.
Finally, lay people, please pray for your priests. Pray that they with soften and hear confessions if they don’t or won’t. Pray that they will be good and faithful confessors who will use good judgment, will not not use false charity, will not fudge in order to be liked, will always do his best with the help of God’s grace.