This is a Catholic thing. The Catholic Church is big on repentance. The "How to Confess" node gives an overview.

There are many versions of this in English, but this one appeals to me (largely because it's got that nice ominous bit about "the pains of Hell", as my esteemed colleague observes):


O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee.

I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.

I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.1


This is good solid Catholicism here: We feel bad. We're scared of God, but more importantly, we love the old guy. We regret our sins not because we got caught, but because what we did was wrong and because it displeased God. We intend to keep on feeling bad, and to get it right next time.

You can rattle this off without giving it much thought, but if so, you might as well be reciting Led Zeppelin lyrics for all the good it'll do your immortal soul. Your intent is what matters. The ritual is designed to get your mind focused on God, Last Things, damnation, and whatnot. That focus should help you get your intent on the right track, but the ritual itself is not the active principle here.

Somebody (I've forgotten who, for which I'm heartily sorry) reminded me that the "pains of hell" part has been replaced in recent years with something milder. Vatican II, or some later outrage? I know not, but It's a damn shame. We've got our niche, dammit, let's make the most of it and let the Episcopalians occupy theirs in peace.


I'm kinda apostate and long out of practice. If I've gotten anything wrong, I'd be grateful for corrections or suggestions from real dues-paying Catholics.



1 From the Small Catechism of the Catholic Religion by Bishop John Neumann of the Congregation of the Most (not merely the second most) Holy Redeemer, Fourth Bishop of Philadelphia, 1884.

Final track of Madonna's 1989 album, Like A Prayer. Half-spoken, half-sung, sort of a dance remix of the classic Catholic Act of Contrition (see the first writeup of this node).

It begins with a whisper: "for thou art the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever Amen. Hail Mary full of grace..." before launching into drums and guitar and voices not unlike the choir in the album's title track.

The rest:

(Spoken:) O my God, I am most heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishment, but most of all because I have offended Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.

I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life, and to avoid the temptations of evil.

(Sung/Chanted:) O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. And I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because my God I have offended Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.

(hesitating) I reserve, I reserve... I reserve...

I reserve... I resolve... I have a reservation.

I have a reservation.

(Bitchy scream:) What do you mean it's not in the computer?

Needless to say, this cracked me up the first time I heard it, probably some time in the early 1990s, and I wrote it up mostly for that giggle. Is there standard "I am not even remotely a Catholic" disclaimer? I feel like one might be in order here: I was raised nontheist, but with a very basic literacy in world religions, but I wonder how this piece would resonate if I were more fluent in the original ritual speech it riffs on/parodies.


Last updated 10 April 2012. Go go gadget insomnia-fueled node audit!

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.