Striking the breast during the Confiteor ?

I was blessed to grow up in a traditional parish in a small town where people know each other.  Things progressed slowly and like many Catholics we learned a great deal of our religious practices through our parents, and through observation.   I came from a family of mixed religious traditions.   Methodist/Baptist/Catholic .   I went to Sunday school in a Baptist church with my mother, and Mass with my father.    Sundays were long days for us.    We somehow never seemed to mind it much.       I didnt go through CCD as many traditionally do, instead, although I attended masses it wasnt until after I was 30 that I was finally confirmed.  Needless to say there were many things that Catholics traditionally do, that I also did without knowing why.    Something I took up the cause to complete.

Like many other things the children shall lead them…    My daughter went through RCIA with my wife( who was already confirmed and a practicing Catholic).    She wanted to go through the process with her, not only as support for her, but also because she was wanting to update her understanding of the intricacies of the faith.

After Mass one day, my daughter asked me ” Dad, why do you do this thing.. ( motioning the striking of the breast) “?

I feign to say that I didnt have an answer for her since I had always done it and I believed it was symbolic of a pugilistic practice of days gone by.   I determined to go out and find a better answer for us both.

After some research I found that in Ezikiel Chapter 18, is the bibilical basis for this practice.   Here is the passage :

“because the breast is the seat of evil thoughts: we wish to dispel these thoughts, we wish to purify our hearts”.

There is also a reference from that reveals the following from Saints Jerome and Augustine :

St. Augustine and St. Jerome testify. “No sooner have you heard the word `Confiteor'”, says the former, “than you strike your breast. What does this mean except that you wish to bring to light what is concealed in the breast, and by this act to cleanse your hidden sins?” (Sermo de verbis Domini, 13). “We strike our breasts”, declares St. Jerome.

I hope this information proves helpfiul to others besides just my daughter and I.  If you have other questions about the practices of the faith please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email and I will do my best to answer as quickly as I can.

Peace be with  you !


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