Thanks Again

Thanks to a kind reader who sent some books from my Amazon wish list. I don’t know who you are — but God does. Prayers!

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Formula of Absolution

Please note that I have written an update to this post here. You may want to read this post first, then go to the new one for some further precision on this matter.

A friend was commenting to me at dinner recently about an experience he had with a priest who did not use the proper formula of absolution when he went to confession. The formula that he used, in fact, was invalid.

I have had a similar experience on one or two occasions (incidentally, in foreign countries, though I knew the language and knew that I had not been properly absolved). Why a priest would do this is beyond me, and it is needless to enter into speculation or hand-wringing about this.

There is absolutely no good reason that a priest should be unfamiliar with the proper sacramental formula for each of the sacraments he celebrates. In other words, there is no room for non-culpable ignorance in such questions. There could be, however, simple human reasons that enter in, such as fatigue or forgetfulness. (If a priest is too tired to “do confession right”, he should probably go rest rather than force the issue, but anyway…)

So what must the priest say to give a valid absolution in the sacrament? The basic, bare minimum is:

I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

If a priest were only to use this short, bare-minimum form, he is probably being abusive in his administration of the sacrament. Ordinarily (like, most of the time) he should be using the full long form (which, incidentally, is printed in Catechism # 1449):

God, the Father of mercies, 
through the death and resurrection of his Son 
has reconciled the world to himself 
and sent the Holy Spirit among us 
for the forgiveness of sins; 
through the ministry of the Church 
may God give you pardon and peace, 
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, since in the Latin/Roman Church it is permitted also to celebrate the sacraments using the “older” books (i.e., those that were in use in 1962), a priest could give absolution in that form alternatively:

Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus,
et dimissis peccatis tuis,
perducat te ad vitam æternam. Amen.
Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem peccatorum tuorum
tribuat tibi omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen.
Dominus noster Jesus Christus te absolvat:
et ego auctoritate ipsìus te absolvo
ab omni vinculo excommunicationis, [suspensionis], et interdicti,
in quantum possum, et tu indiges.
Deinde ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis,
in nomine Patris, et Filii, + et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

It says in the old ritual that “for a good reason” the priest could omit the first five lines above (i.e., he would just start from the words “Dominus noster Jesus Christus”). The word “suspensionis” is in brackets because it is only used when the one being absolved is a cleric.

It’s especially important to note that in the older form, the priest would often say everything up to the word “Deinde” while the penitent was reciting his/her Act of Contrition. So, in effect, the penitent would often only hear the words, “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” – that is, the essential form of the sacrament.

If a priest does not say “I absolve you from your sins” and invoke the Trinitarian formula, then it’s possible that no absolution has actually been given. Here we must be careful about jumping to conclusions, because it’s possible that he changed a word or two but the formula was still valid (i.e., if its meaning was unchanged). Thus if he said, “I forgive you your sins in the name of etc…”, that is probably valid (there is not agreement among theologians on this, though). However, if he were to say something like, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier”, this would not be valid, because it changes its meaning so greatly, involving a Trinitarian heresy.

Priests must NOT mess around with the formulas of the sacraments!

There is much more that could be said about all of this, but let’s try to wrap this up. So what do you do if – God forbid – a priest does not use a valid formula? You ask him politely if he would use the proper formula. And if he doesn’t or won’t? Then you write a letter to his Bishop or Superior stating charitably and concisely that you went to confession with him, he did not use a valid formula (you include the formula he DID use, if possible), that you asked him to use the correct one and he declined (i.e., just the facts, no airing of dirty laundry); then you go to confession again to a priest who will do it right.

There are possibilities for further recourse if, again God forbid, recourse on the local level does not produce favorable results. However, I cannot imagine that a Bishop or Religious Superior would not take such a matter seriously. Although I can’t imagine why a priest would use an invalid formula either.


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Eucharistic Prayers in Spanish

Several years ago I made recordings of the first three Eucharistic prayers in Spanish, for a brother priest (fellow native English speaker) who wanted to practice. For some English speakers who are learning Spanish, I think, it can be easier to comprehend what one is hearing better when it is read by another native English speaker. Sometimes when we are learning a language and we hear native speakers, the speed with which they speak or the particularities of native pronunciation become an obstacle to progress in learning.

I was just reminded of these audio files and thought I should make them available for the benefit of any other priest or seminarian who might be preparing to say Mass in Spanish. Of course, they still name Benedict XVI as pope and they have the name of our Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama, but those can easily be heard and substituted with “Francisco” and whatever the name of the bishop of the place is. Since I cannot embed audio on my blog, I made the files into Youtube videos and posted them there. Here they are:

Eucharistic Prayer I – The Roman Canon


Eucharistic Prayer II (with its proper preface)


Eucharistic Prayer III


Hopefully these will be of use to someone!

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Sisters Need Help!

I’ve written on several occasions about the excellent Cloistered Dominican Sisters of St. Jude in Marbury, Alabama. Today I received their latest newsletter, and see that they are again in need of a special boost so that they can replace their clothes dryers – which are older than me! Here is their letter (click to enlarge):

Click to Enlarge and Read

Please see if you can send even a small donation their way. And please continue to pray for them and that more young ladies will consider a vocation with them!


Thank you!

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Thank You to a Reader

A kind reader sent me a book from my Amazon wish list. Alas, there was no indication who sent it – I will pray for you nonetheless. Thank you!

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Prayers for Confessors to Say

One spring during my period of studies in Rome, I spent Holy Week at a parish in Edinburgh, Scotland and assisted with the sacred functions there. It was there that I saw, for the first time, a beautiful prayer for a confessor to say after he had finished hearing confessions. I remember feeling quite consoled and reassured by it. For whatever reason, however, I did not snap a phone photo or otherwise write that prayer down, though I did remember enough from it that I was able to find it at a later time via internet search.

Fast forward to recently: Father Z posted various prayers for before and after hearing confessions, including the one I remember reading. I took them and touched them up a bit according to my own stylistic preferences and formatted them for hanging in our two confessionals here at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

For the convenience of other interested priests or seminarians, I also want to provide a Word document with the text of these prayers, so that they can easily reformat and print as they wish. The following document includes also the prayer of absolution in English, Spanish, and Latin (all Novus Ordo).


If you enjoy a closer relationship with your priest, you might forward these prayers to him for his consideration. I personally have found them not only consoling/reassuring, as I said, but have also experienced that they help me to focus properly for the sacrament and more effectively pray for my penitents afterwards.

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New Book

I recently had the opportunity to have dinner with Dr. Peter Kwasniewksi, a professor at the great Wyoming Catholic College and a distinguished writer on many topics relating to our faith — especially the sacred liturgy. His writings are regularly featured on blogs like New Liturgical Movement. He also lectures widely and is an accomplished musician besides.

While at dinner he showed us a galley proof of his latest book. Now, just a week or two later, I see that it has been published: Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of the Ages.

Of note is the fact that this book has a foreword by the great German writer, Martin Mosebach. If you are interested in matters liturgical and have not yet read Mosebach’s book, The Heresy of Formlessness, I urge you to do so (sadly, it appears only to be available in Kindle format now).

I look forward to reading this book. (Alas, I’m not a celebrity blogger who gets advance copies of books sent to him 😉 — so I can’t say I’ve read it yet.) Here is the publisher’s description:

The traditional liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church is a highly formal ritual unfolding in layers of elaborate gesture, rich symbolism, whispered Latin, and ancient plainchants. “Experts” after the Second Vatican Council were convinced that such a ritual was irrelevant to “modern man.” To the shock of some, the delight of many, and the surprise of everyone, the old Latin Mass (and much that went along with it) has tenaciously survived during the past half-century and become an increasingly familiar feature in the Catholic landscape. What are the reasons for this revival, especially among the young? And why is this development so important for the renewal of Catholicism?

Peter Kwasniewski offers a lively account of the noble beauty and transcendent holiness of the traditional Roman liturgy, which humbles us before the mystery of God, stirs us with its pageantry, carries us into sacred silence, and bears us to a world of invisible realities. He contrasts this priceless treasure with the rationalistic reforms of the sixties, which yielded a Catholic liturgy severed from its own history, inadequate to its theological essence, unequal to its ascetical-mystical purpose, and estranged from its cultural inheritance. His conclusion: if there is to be a new springtime in the Church, the widespread restoration of the traditional liturgical rites will be at the heart of it.

Kwasniewski is a very stimulating writer and a great thinker. Take a look!

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Benediction: A Detail

Not at my parish – but nearby

A wonderful devotion, which we get to experience every Friday here in my parish, is Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. And we follow the usual format for it: we sing the Tantum Ergo, then priest or deacon sings the verse and Benediction prayer, then there is the blessing with the Holy Sacrament, Divine Praises, reposition, and singing of “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”. 

Did you know about the head bow during the Tantum Ergo?

Yes: when sung in Latin, it is a tradition in many places to bow the head while singing the second line — veneremur cernui.

Those words mean, “let us venerate [this great Sacrament] with head bowed“!

Perhaps I should say, “it was a tradition in many places”! I see few people do it anymore.

The common English version takes poetic license so as to render the text beautifully — thus it’s probably most fitting to bow the head for the first line: “Down in adoration falling”. 
Did you know about this pious detail?

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Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May

Just a little show-and-tell: our new statue of Our Lady of Fatima, in the church sanctuary for the month of May.

Bishop Baker is promoting the image of Our Lady of Fatima for the Marian year he proclaimed for our diocese (5/13/17–5/13/18), so I will need to find a suitable place to display it publicly for the whole year. 

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A Heart for Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph has worked great miracles in my parish, starting with a major (and urgent) exterior renovation that was completed in the past couple of years – and many other things besides. In recent months I’ve been reflecting upon how God seems to “emphasize” certain saints over others in different periods of Church history; others are noticing this as well and it indeed seems that now is the time of St. Joseph.

In order to express our gratitude to St. Joseph for the many prayers that he has answered and miracles that he has worked in our midst, I celebrated a special Votive Mass this past Wednesday at the conclusion of which I placed a votive heart on our statue. This heart was procured by the previous pastor, who was instrumental in encouraging devotion to this great saint and who witnessed many of the miracles that he has done.

In my homily I preached about how placing ex votos on or near images is a very traditional thing, though perhaps not so common in the United States today (maybe the closest thing we have is the notices about St. Jude that people place in the classified section of the newspaper in order to give thanks for answered prayer and spread his fame). I have written about ex votos on several occasions on this blog. (See here, here, here, etc.)

We are now blessed to have votive hearts on our statue of the Blessed Mother and also on St. Joseph. Both of them have done and continue to do so much for us! Deo gratias!

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Thank You

A kind reader sent me two books from my Amazon wish list. Amazon did not include any slip of paper saying who sent them! Thank you, whoever you are! Know of my prayers.

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We Need To Use Prayer Books

I had an interesting insight tonight while praying with a wonderful group of men and boys that meets at my parish.

As the meeting began we all knelt down to say an opening prayer from their prayer book. Facing the cross, we prayed the “En Ego” prayer. Here is a version I found online:

Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,
while before Your face I humbly kneel and,
with burning soul,
pray and beseech You
to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments
of faith, hope, and charity;
true contrition for my sins;
and a firm purpose of amendment.
While I contemplate,
with great love and tender pity,
Your five most precious wounds,
pondering over them within me
and calling to mind the words which David,
Your prophet, said of You, my Jesus:
“They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones.”

And it occurred to me: we need to use prayer books. If prayer is merely spontaneous, it is easy — especially for beginners — just to pray for needs and wants (Lord, please give me X, Y, or Z) or perhaps to pray for others (Help so-and-so with such-and-such). Would a group of boys ever learn to ask for faith, hope, and charity in a habitual manner without further guidance? Would they meditate on the Lord’s wounds while considering their need for repentance?

A good prayer book (such as this one) teaches us how to pray and what to pray for, beyond our perceived needs or those of others. Indeed, the faithful use of such prayers can lead us into a deeper personal relationship with Christ. Of course it is not automatic — we can, after all, recite pre-written prayers in a perfunctory way. But when we strive to say the venerable old prayers from the heart, we ask for things we might not have thought to ask for otherwise, and the Lord shapes and guides us in ways we might not have been open to otherwise.

There is wisdom in using a good prayer book on a regular basis. It cannot replace meditation and spontaneous prayer, but it can add a great deal to them. What is your favorite prayer book?

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