Ever since I've been a Catholic--minus the seven days in between my baptism and first confession--I've found the end of confessions awkward. After a priest prayed the absolution, I would respond with "Amen" and then various things might happen. The priest might say any number of things or nothing at all. If he said something, it would usually be "go in peace," to which I would respond, "Thanks be to God." But he might also say "Have a nice weekend," "Take it easy," or something like that. If the priest didn't say anything after my "Amen," I would say, "Thank you, Father."
Because of all this I was very pleased when I took the confessions course and learned what was really supposed to happen.
After the penitent responds to the absolution with "Amen," the priest is supposed to say, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good," to which the reconciled penitent responds, "His mercy endures forever."
Then the priest dismisses the penitent with one of several formulas, the first of which is, "The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace."
Now I'm willing to bet that the majority of readers have never experienced this. I never experienced it myself before I was ordained. Also, my experience as a confessor is that a large portion of penitents start to get up as soon as the absolution formula is done, or are already saying thank you or bless you or wishing you a good weekend.
Part of the trouble with it is that unless the penitent is a religious or a priest, they are unlikely to produce the response, "His mercy endures forever" naturally.
This brings me to my newest confessor. After I respond to the absolution with "Amen" he continues: May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the good you have done and any suffering you have endured be cause for the remission of your sins, the increase in grace, and eternal reward. Amen.
Right away I thought, 'this is pretty cool,' and I wondered where this encouraging formula had come from. A quick trip to my Roman Ritual revealed that this ending is my confessor's version of the post-absolution prayer for the old Rite of Penance: Pássio Dómini nostri Jesu Christi, mérita beátae Maríae Vírginis, et ómnium Sanctórum, quidquid boni féceris, et mali sustinúeris, sint tibi in remissiónem peccatórum, augméntum grátiae, et praémium vitae aetérnae. Amen.
Looking back at my copy of the Rite of Penance (which is out of print and very hard to find; how telling is that?) I was surprised to see that a version of this prayer is preserved in the current rite as well, as one of the choices for the priest after the verse "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good" and the response, "His mercy endures forever." In the current American English translation of the rite it goes like this: May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ , the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints, whatever good you do and suffering you endure, heal your sins, help you to grow in holiness, and reward you with eternal life. Go in peace.
I like it and I'm thinking of starting to use it myself.