At the beginning of almost every Mass, is the Penitential Rite. It is a general acknowledgment of our sinfulness and a request for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Through this rite, one receives forgiveness for their venial sins (one of many ways; mortal sins must be absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation). One of the three options for general confession is the Confiteor (a/k/a “I confess”).
Sometimes the Confiteor is called the “mea culpa” (Latin for “my fault”) as the penitent accepts full responsibility for their sins. To me that is a good way to think of it as it is central to the prayer. The prayer is brief, so I will go over it for my non-Catholic readers.
I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, – an admission to both God and all assembled.
that I have sinned through my own fault, – I chose to sin, blame is squarely on my shoulders alone, I offer no excuse. To emphasize this sentiment, the penitent should lightly strike their breast at this point.
in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; – I acknowledge all the forms by which I have sinned.
and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God. – I ask for the intercessory prayers of others.
Absolution through the priest follows with him saying “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.“
Somehow I feel like a small weight has been lifted, not unlike the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is coming clean, being honest, getting set right with God. One other thing I think about is that the other penitents have asked me to pray for them. It seems like the Hail Mary would be the perfect prayer, at the earliest opportunity.
The current Latin for the Confiteor is:
Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres,
quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne:
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres,
oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.
The US English translation of the Confiteor shown above is from the current US English translation of the Mass. A new worldwide English translation (closer to the Latin form) has been approved and will probably be placed into use at Advent 2012. That new translation is:
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.