When I was young I was taught to conclude my confession with, "For these and all the sins of my past life, I ask pardon and absolution." This is a strange expression and almost seems to imply I've had other lives in the past, does it not?
No, it does not. This is a mode of speaking, an expression, and should not be understood in a strictly literal manner. There are all sorts of expressions and manners of speaking which, if read in a literalist manner, make little sense, but everyone knows what they mean euphemistically.
For example, a mother may say to her child, “Put on your shoes and socks.” Literally, this would be difficult and clumsy, since it seems to say that I should put on my shoes, and then my socks on top of the shoes. But of course, it means no such thing. And while it is more true to say one ought to put on his socks and shoes, everybody knows what it means. Another example is the expression “coming and going.” But of course one cannot really come, until they first go. So the expression more accurately should be “going and coming.” But despite poor word order, everybody knows what “coming and going” means and adjusts.
And thus, when we ask forgiveness for the sins of our “past life,” it is clear we are referring merely to the sins we have committed in the past. If this saying is bothersome to you, then you may amend it, for it is not a formal or prescribed way of ending the confession, but it is simply a common sentence many use to tell the priest they are done mentioning their sins.
Theologically, one is not required to ask forgiveness for sins of the past which have already been forgiven in the sacrament. And thus, another way a penitent can end his confession is to say something like “For these, and other sins I cannot recall, I ask for pardon and absolution.”
Our new priest does not wash his hands at offertory in daily mass. He says without a server it is hard and the rite no longer has practical use. Is this right?
The priest celebrant should wash his hands, even if there is no server. Though it is a bit awkward to pour water over one's hands from a cruet, finger bowls can perhaps be used for the purpose.
Father's explanation that there is no practical necessity for him to wash his hands does not hold. It is true that the hand washing in ancient times had more practical purposes due to the reception of many and varied gifts during the offertory procession. Handling these things often soiled the priest's hands. But liturgical rites don't have a merely practical point. The washing of the priest's hands has an important spiritual dimension as well, indicating his desire to be free of sin before offering the Holy Sacrifice, and handling the Body and Blood of Christ. Omitting this rite is not permitted.
Our Bishop closed our parish. My grandparents were among those who built and paid for this parish. By what right does the bishop close what is ours?
Canonically, there likely are some solutions that permit the lay faithful to take possession of a building slated for closure, undertake its maintenance and keep them open as chapels etc. under the supervision of the local church. Frankly, though, most congregations that have reached a critical state where closure is deemed necessary are not in fact able to undertake such solutions.
While there are legitimate canonical issues, as the lay faithful you have canonical rights at the closing of the parishes, I am not a canon lawyer and would like to answer your question pastorally.
And from a pastoral point of view, it seems evident that bishops do not close parishes, people close parishes. Some wish to explain the widespread closing of Catholic parishes, especially in the Northeast, as mere demographic shifts. And while there are demographic issues, the fact remains that with the Catholic population almost double what it was in the 1950s, many parishes filled to overflowing back in that era now sit increasingly empty.
This is a teachable moment, and we must accept some very painful facts. When only 25% of Catholics go to Mass nationwide, and when Catholics stop having many children, or effectively handing on the faith to their children, this is what happens.
The Church simply cannot maintain parishes and other institutions such as schools and hospitals when Catholics are largely absent. Pastorally speaking, people, not Bishops alone, close parishes. Many parishes, schools, seminaries and convents now sit largely empty. And as they begin to go empty, bills are unpaid, maintenance is deferred, and the situation eventually becomes critical. Dioceses do not have endless amounts of money, or priests and other personnel to staff and maintain increasingly empty, no longer viable parishes… Decisions have to be made.
Pastorally, one would hope that long before things go utterly critical, that bishops, working together with communities that are going into crisis, can speak honestly and work for solutions. But this is not simply the responsibility of the Bishop, it is the responsibility of all the people of God to have such honest discussions.
Thus, we are left with a difficult but teachable moment about what happens when the faith handed down to us is largely set aside by the vast majority of Catholics. It's time to Evangelize and make disciples, as Christ commands.
"Building our Catholic faith one question at a time."