Q: Are the faithful to strike the breast three times during the Confiteor?
In the January 2012 Newsletter from the Committee on Divine Worship, a question and answer about the Roman Missal states:
How many times do we strike the breast in the Confiteor?
The Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship addressed this question in a 1978 dubium (found in Notitiæ 14 , 534-535):
While in the Roman Missal promulgated by the authority of the Council of Trent the words were very frequently also accompanied by minute gestures, the rubrics of the Roman Missal restored by the authority of the Second Vatican Council are noteworthy for their discretion with regard to gestures. Having said this: The words mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa which are found in the Confiteor are introduced in the restored Roman Missal by a rubric of this sort: “All likewise… striking their breast, say…” (Order of Mass, no. 3). In the former Missal, in the same place, the rubric read like this: “He strikes his breast three times.” It does not seem, therefore, that anyone has to strike his breast three times in pronouncing those words in Latin or in another language, even if mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa is said. It suffices that there be a striking of the breast.
Does that answer still suffice? I see our priest striking the breast three times. Our good deacons (trained by you) only strike once. As we teach our children, I want to teach them the correct model to follow.
A: Yes, the correct action is one strike of the breast. The three strikes are so broadly practiced throughout the church worldwide that it will be difficult to change. But teaching children is a good way to start.