ASK FATHER: Venial sins and the Novus Ordo

From a reader…


I was raised in the Novus Ordo, and now attend the TLM as often as I can (and it is the greatest gift!).

I was taught growing up that venial sins are blotted out at Mass.  But it wasn’t until I got to know the TLM that I actually saw where venial sins are blotted out (the +Indulgentiam). [Not only!]

So, this got me thinking – since the “innovators” who created the Novus Ordo eliminated the +Indulgentiam prayer, are venial sins still blotted out at the Novus Ordo?

Here’s another subtle point of difference between the Vetus and the Novus: in the former, you don’t have to wonder while in the later there the situation is foggier.

In the NO penitential rite there are options.  One of those options also includes an absolution (not of mortal sins, of course).

Mind you, there are various ways by which we can obtain forgiveness of venial sins.  An Act of Contrition forgives venial sins, as does use of sacramentals such as Holy Water, the recitation of the Rosary, good reception of Holy Communion, etc..  These are ways by which we obtain forgiveness of venial sins.

During the older, traditional form of Holy Mass in the Roman Rite, there have been identified nine moments when forgiveness of venial sins is offered to one who participates with full, conscious and active, actual participation:

During the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, Father gives an absolution, which in truth has many intentions, including forgiveness of venial sins.

The priest says the Aufer a nobis as he ascends the altar steps: “Take away from us our iniquities, O Lord, we beseech You, that we may enter with pure minds into the Holy of Holies. Through Christ our Lord.” and he says the Oramus te, Domine.  In the Canon Father prays the Nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis.  At Communion time there are several prayers, including the Libera nos.  Just before Communion we say the Domine, non sum dignus.  After Communion the priest has ablution prayers which ask for forgiveness.  For example, “May Your Body, Lord, which I have eaten, and Your Blood which I have drunk, cleave to my very soul, and grant that no trace of sin be found in me, whom these pure and holy mysteries have renewed. You, Who live and reign, world without end. Amen.”

We can obtain forgiveness of venial sins in many ways.  The Angelic Doctor is good on this.  HERE  However, mortal sins must be confessed in both kind and number.

Let’s all be clear about something.  Venial sins are SINS.  Venial sins are lesser offences against God and His laws.  However, they are still offences.  Venial sins offend God.   They offend God, Mary and the saints and angels.  They endanger our souls because they can lead to worse sins or the deadening of our minds and hearts about the true nature of sin’s horror.  Moreover, as one goes more deeply into the spiritual life and successfully roots out serious faults, then the smaller sins take on more importance.  St Teresa of Avila says that the first great obstacle she had to overcome in advancement of her spiritual life was carelessness about sin.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

CCC 1458 “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful”

So, for everyone out there reading this who has not gone to confession for a while, for whatever reason…

… examine your consciences and…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. And that’s not to mention the use of sacramentals as well; for example, the practice of signing yourself with Holy Water with sincere devotion has the power to cleanse one of venial sins.
    The same would also apply to the Asperges/Vidi Aquam, correct? Although the sprinkling with Holy Water (or with Hyssop ?) is technically a ceremony outside of Mass (like the sermon), there’s another one for your list.

    ALSO: do those nine include the optional second confiteor that takes place right before the distribution of Holy Communion? I don’t know why the second confiteor is optional – I’m assuming it is optional because not everybody does it – it is so amazing and fitting to have the confession and +Indulgentiam literally seconds before you receive the Eucharist. It’s got to be the most literally powerful way to be better disposed for Communion.

  2. ajf1984 says:

    Reading this post, I was struck with a sudden image: when, in the course of history, our Reverend Host shall be taken to the Father’s House, I envision a long, long line of souls that have preceded him waiting to thank him for his constant reminder to “Go to Confession”! Indeed, this reminder has often spurred me to go sooner than I had otherwise planned, and who but God knows how many souls have been snatched from the Evil One through Father Z’s good advice! I just felt the need to thank you, Father, once again for this ministry you provide. Ad multos annos!

    [That got to me. My Jesus, have mercy.]

  3. Fr. Fintan says:

    When celebrating the Novis Ordo ad Orientem, I am confused how to turn toward the people, e.g. turn to the right, return; turn to the right, return completing the circle. Can you help me? Is there a rubrical guide available?

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