The Penitential Rite at Mass

Yesterday morning I attended mass at St. John’s Episcopal Church with my friends Richard and Russell. As those who have attended an Episcopal mass know, it bears a striking resemblance to a Catholic mass, except that the order of the mass parts is not quite the same.

The change in sequence that had an impact on me this morning was the placement of the Penitential Rite near the end of the Liturgy of the Word and before commencement of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, rather than at the beginning of the service, as at a Catholic mass.

For me, that had the effect of making the Penitential Rite more meaningful. That is to say, the process of listening to the preaching of the Gospel and reflecting on the words of the sermon (which was really a quite good message about the salt and light gospel), prompted me to think of particular things I wanted to bring to God during that prayer of confession. Coming to it after the hearing and reflecting on God’s word, my participation in the Rite seemed much more intentional and mindful than it often otherwise is and, thus, I found it a much more powerful experience.

I am obviously not suggesting that the order of the Catholic mass ought to change because I had an experience like this at an Episcopal Mass. But my experience does make me think it is worthwhile to think about how to bring that same intentionality and reflectiveness to the Penitential Rite every time I go to mass.


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