BARROW: ‘Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault’

February 23, 2021

On numerous occasions, I have been asked to speak and write about the sin of racism. I can assure you that this writing will probably not be my last.

As an African-American, I and those who share my common ancestry are often sought out to speak or write about this sin when in fact, it should be the entire body of Christ speaking about it, speaking up against it and repenting if one finds they are contributing to its manifestation.

Honestly, it is my fault. It is my fault because I have accepted the default/typecast of being some sort of authority and go-to person on the sin of racism, but it is far from true.
What is true is that I have personally experienced racism in various forms, from the outright blatant to the subtle. I have read about, studied and listened to countless stories, some from my elders recounting times when the Church we love denied them dignity in worship because of the color of their skin.

These lessons do not make me an expert, but in some way, they have compelled me to speak or write when others choose to remain silent. Whether it happens in the Body of Christ, in the workplace, in a park, or while driving, racism is an affront to God and neighbor.

Now that my preamble is out of the way, I will take this opportunity to refer to beautiful words we know verbatim. These words, appropriately located before the Liturgy of the Word and of the Eucharist, are indeed a sobering prelude to our participation in the Mass. I propose that these words and other gifts within the Church may be used to combat the sin of racism. Brothers and sisters, I use the word combat because it is truly a battle that no disciple may ignore.

The beautiful words are found in the Confiteor spoken in unison during the Penitential Rite:

I confess to almighty God and to you,
my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
(Striking breast) through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Although it is part of the Mass, this prayer should be used outside of Mass if we witness or give voice to the sin of racism or any sin.

A wonderful resource by the U.S. bishops named, “The Eucharistic Liturgy: Formed, Transformed, and Sent,” provides a great explanation to our current understanding of this sacred experience:

During the Penitential Act, we acknowledge the sin that affects our relationship with God, ourselves, others and the world around us.

We seek Christ’s healing love and forgiveness in order that we might be transformed — both as individuals and as a community, into a people of love.

During the Confiteor, we ask the members of our heavenly community, “blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints,” and our brothers and sisters around us to pray for us, and we for them.

If we do our part as the Confiteor’s words suggest by praying to God for each other, soliciting the intercession of the Blessed Mother and all the Angels and Saints, the sin of racism loses its powerful grip on humanity.

Sisters and brothers, this example is one of the many resources we have at our disposal.

It is my hope and prayer that we collectively and individually contemplate and live the words of the Confiteor in combating the sin of racism at this very moment.

Doris M. Barrow III is the coordinator of Religious Education at St. Monica Parish and campus minister at Texas Southern University.

Photo by Joshua J. Cotton