Holy Week Penance Service – Liturgy Preparation

Preparations: All priests taking part vest in alb and purple stole beforehand. Candles are lit: the church lights may be dimmed. Servers lead the entrance procession during the entrance song.

Introductory Rites

Entrance Song (eg. The Lord’s My Shepherd’ or ‘O The Love of My Lord’ or ‘Lay your hands gently upon us’.) Greeting (eg. The Lord be with you…)


Opening Comment (by the Presider)

‘Welcome to this celebration of God’s forgiveness, and of our reconciliation with God and one another. Our service has four parts. After this brief introduction (the first part), we will listen to God’s word and reflect on it. Then we will celebrate the Rite of Reconciliation, during which everyone will have the opportunity of going to Confession. The service will end with an Act of Thanksgiving.’

Let us pray…. (Opening Prayer follows, from the Rite of Penance/Gnás na hAithrí published by Veritas Publications in 1976. Choose from pages 115-117)

(For example): Lord, turn to us in mercy and forgive us all our sins that we may serve you in true freedom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Liturgy of the Word

A selection of readings is given in the Rite of Penance/Gnás na hAithrí, pages 119 to 202. One reading may be sufficient — the healing of the man born blind (Fourth Sunday of Lent) or the raising of Lazarus (Fifth Sunday of Lent). The homily follows. See homily resources for the Fourth or Fifth Sundays of Lent in any publication.

The Examination of Conscience may take the form of a period of silence following the homily. Or the following may be used:

‘We are called to be reconciled to God and to each other:

  1. Reflecting on my relationship with God: Do I keep God’s laws and commandments? Do I pray each day? Do I attend Mass when I should?
  2. Reflecting on my relationship with others: What kind of person am I to live with? Am I kind to those around me, helpful and sensitive? What kind of person am I to work with? Am I honest? What kind of friend am I? Am I loyal and trustworthy?

Let us pause a moment to call to mind our own sins…. A long pause for silent reflection follows, then: ‘Let us confess our sinfulness to God and one another: I confess….’

A litany of repentance may be prayed (eg. Rite of Penance/Gnás na hAithrí p. 239) or a song may be sung: eg God of Mercy and Compassion or a version of the Kyrie used in the Penitential Rite at the start of Mass. The Lord’s Prayer follows.


Individual confessions

(As the priests take up their positions, standing in various locations around the church, the presider explains the procedure.)

‘You are now invited to make your Confession to the priest of your choice. Begin by saying to him:

“I am sorry for all my sins, especially for….”

Tell him your sins, listen to his advice and the penance he gives you, and hear him absolve your sins. Then return to your seat and pray for those still waiting to confess. When everyone has been absolved, we will pray together in thanksgiving.’

The presider may add:

I invite you to pray the Act of Sorrow: “O my God, I am sorry for all my sins, for not loving others and not loving you. Help me to live like Jesus and not sin again. Amen.”


Thanksgiving (after the Confessions have been completed)

Psalm of praise: A responsorial psalm of praise is prayed, eg Psalm 129 from the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A. Or a hymn of thanksgiving may be sung (eg Amazing Grace or Holy God We Praise Thy Name.) At the end of the Act of Thanksgiving, the church lights are turned on in full. A Sign of Peace is then exchanged. Details of the Holy Week Ceremonies are announced and all who took part are thanked. The Final Blessing is then given.

Dismissal: Go in the peace to love and serve the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Final song: Instrumental music fills the church as priests and people leave.

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