Through My Most Grievous Fault

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Whenever we say the Confiteor at Holy Mass we confess that we have 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.” Although we say those words rather casually sometimes, their meaning is important.
Three times we admit that we have sinned, “through my fault” as we strike our breast in humility and sorrow. It’s certainly an appropriate way to begin Holy Mass, and a pretty dramatic gesture, if you think about it.
First, it’s a recognition that we come to Mass not as saints, but as sinners, in need of God’s mercy. What we say before we receive Holy Communion is absolutely true: “Lord, I am not worthy.” Pope Francis has said that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but medicine and nourishment for the weak.” What the Pope says is true enough, but it doesn’t nullify the Catholic teaching that we cannot receive Holy Communion if we are in the state of serious sin. We are called always to repent of our sins and to change our sinful way of life.
When we say that we have sinned “through my fault,” it’s an important confession that we ourselves are responsible for our sins and that we have to take ownership of our moral faults and failures. Sometimes we fall into the trap of blaming other people, or our circumstances to justify the sins we commit: “I know that I did something wrong, but it’s because of the way I was treated in the past . . . because of the people I was with . . . because I’ve been under a lot of stress,” the unrepentant sinner says.
Mature Christians take responsibility for their own sins, without excuses. They echo the words of Psalm 51 and say, “My offenses, truly I know them; my sin is always before me.” They fall down before the Lord, strike their breast, and admit that their sins were their own “grievous fault.” It’s only then that forgiveness, reconciliation and healing can begin.
The Confiteor ends with a sincere plea for help as we “ask blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters,” to pray for us. It’s a fitting recognition that we need God’s grace and the support of the Church in heaven and on earth, if we are to move beyond our sins and to grow in holiness.
Something to think about: Are you honest in confronting your sins?