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There Is Power In The Act of Contrition

August 6, AD2017

The Prayer of Forgiveness

The Act of Contrition is the prayer we, as Catholics, pray after we confess our sins during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I like this common prayer:

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His Name. God have mercy.

There is great value in this prayer in bringing us healing from God.  

Contrition

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “the penitent’s act of contrition occupies first place. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” 

CCC 1452-1454 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.51

The contrition called “imperfect” (or “attrition”) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.52

I am a person who sees the great value in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I frequent the sacrament often. Sometimes in between Confessions, I find myself looking up to the Heavens and asking God to forgive me for my failures.  Although it is not “Confession”, it is a great opportunity to ask God for his forgiveness and healing.

Believing More Fully in God’s Love and Forgiveness

A priest recently suggested to me to pray the “Act of Contrition” during those times I need to say “I’m sorry” to God in between receiving the Sacrament. I think as human beings we all have times of failure in our walk.  Those challenges occur with our families, at our jobs and daily interactions.  It is not always easy to “keep a watch” on our speech, judgments, and reactions. We wish to be patient, loving and slow to react, but we seem to slip. For the times we lose our temper, can’t forgive someone or participate in negativity, we need the Lord to guide us. We need the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts. Slowing our speech will help us. We need the Holy Spirit to change our critical attitudes and pride. Praise the Lord that He is close in these moments.  He has the power to steer us in the right direction.

Praying the Prayer with Sincerity

There have been times in my own life where I have prayed “The Act of Contrition” very quickly without thinking much about it. I think if we reflect on the words in humility, we will find the wisdom of Jesus. There are lots of variations in this prayer. I suggest finding a prayer that you like and can pray easily in your heart. Reading or meditating on the words slowly helps to digest them.

It has been said that anything you do for about three weeks or 21 days can become a habit if practiced regularly.  For good or bad this is true. When I find myself in a position of failure with God, I stop myself and pray. Praying the “Act of Contrition” either aloud or in my heart is a blessing. Life will never be perfect.  We find our perfection in the humility of this prayer. We can ask the Lord for his grace. I pray that you will experience the great effects of “The Act of Contrition”.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Anne DeSantis is a wife and mother, 50+model/actor from the Greater Philadelphia area. She has been writing with The Catholic Stand since 2014. She homeschooled her two daughters all through school, and embarked on a career in modeling, acting, and writing in recent years. She is a 2012 graduate of "The Church Ministry Institute" within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She treasures her Catholic faith and enjoys spreading God's love through her writings with this publication. She also writes articles for CatholicMom.com. Her daughter Alaine DeSantis is a writer with The Catholic Stand.

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  • Catholic Dan

    I so much prefer the older Act of Contrition which states that “I firmly resolve witht he help of Thy grace…” Resolve is so much more committed to conversion and grace is the important help we need.

  • Giovanni Serafino

    My dear Mother, may she rest in peace, was taught as a young child to pray the “act of contrition ” every night before going to bed, which she did faithfully every day of her life. Needless to say, she taught us to do the same.

    Unfortunately, many children no longer have practicing Catholics as parents, nor do they attend catechetical instruction, or participate in Holy Mass. Many are unfamiliar with the Our Father, Hail Mary, let alone the beautiful act contrition. Very disappointing indeed!

  • Terri Castles

    I say it in the Communion line. And like Mike, mine is the older version;)

  • Christopher

    Going to confession and saying an Act of Contrition is what humans do to get to heaven. Not going to confession and not saying an Act of Contrition is what humans do not to go to heaven. Any questions?
    Matthew says Ch 9 Vs 6-8:

    6. But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

    7. He rose and went home.

    8. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.

    Verse 8 is great verse to point out to our “Bible only” Protestant friends!

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Hmm…I am one of those Protestants, Christopher,and I admit that I’m baffled as to how you are interpreting this particular passage. Perhaps you will be so kind as to enlighten me as to what Jesus was saying that I didn’t get…I await your reply. 😎.

    • Thanks for joining the discussion.

    • Christopher

      Real truth can be baffling with the wrong perspective. Consider a golf putt. If you only look at it from the back side it looks like it goes in hitting it straight. But if you look at it from the other side you may see there is a break at the end of the putt. Real truth represents the line you must hit the putt to get into the hole to make the putt. If you play golf you know how many people miss putts with the wrong perspective.
      With that said, Chapter 9 verse 8 makes sense when you examine what lead up to it. You see it starts in Chapter 5 Christ begins teaching with authority with the Beatitudes on Sermon on the Mountain, with lessons using similes of salt and light, and teaching about law. Christ continues to show His authority in Chapter 6 with teachings about alms, fasting, true treasures and God and money, along with giving us the Lord’s prayer. Then in Chapter 7 He gives more authoritative lessons teaching us to stop judging, along with giving the lessons of pearls before swine, the golden rule and false prophets. Then in chapter 8 He proves that He has all authority by several miracles which includes cleansing of Lepers, healing a Centurion’s servant, curing Peter’s mother-in law, along with driving out demons and calming the sea. In chapter 9 show us the climax of His authority with His healing of the paralytic. He then transfers “such authority to humans beings”! Chapter 9 verse 8! Then you see in chapter 10 He sends His apostles out using His authority which includes forging of sins.
      Now here’s where you misinterpreted or become baffled.1500 years later Martin Luther, a former Catholic priest, created a new theology which you follow. This theology gives a different perspective on how “to make the the putt”, per my earlier example. He said not only to ignore historical perspective, but also he said that Christ did all the work for our sins so they is no need for confession! Just go by what the Bible says. But as you can see Christ Biblically gave authority to His apostles to forgive sins and historically we now know to their successors. For a better perspective consider this example: If you home’s entrance had a glass door, that represents your soul, and Christ rang that door, a Protestant says Christ cleaned both sides of the door which allows you to see Him and open the door to Him. They content He did all the work with His dying on the cross So why go to confession and communion. A Catholic contends that Christ only cleaned His side of the door. We have to clean our side of the door which we do by going to confession to a Priest and Holy Communion at Mass, which is His body. But that’s another argument! I hope this enlightens you and makes it clearer for you.

    • Thanks for sharing.

  • Jim Sokola

    I try to say an Act of Contrition each evening before going to sleep just in case the Lord takes me in my sleep. I don’t always do it but I try to think of God and things related to God before I fall asleep. Also, trying to show gratitude towards God for all he did for me during the day. A priest suggested this in a homily. My last thought used to be about temporal things and worries. I try to avoid this now.

    • Great advice. Thanks!

    • Jim Sokola

      Your welcome and God bless you!

    • Great suggestion!! Thank you for sharing it Jim!!

    • Jim Sokola

      God bless you and your welcome!

  • Eddie

    Excellent. Poignant. On the money. I love confession. I try and go at least once a week, it is a form of exorcism, a time for self exam and best of all complete reconciliation with our God. Thank you for this beautiful essay.

    • And thank YOU for taking a moment to comment! God bless.

  • A.M.

    ‘ How to make a good confession ‘ – Rev.Fr Fr.John Kane and may be some surprising insights into the nature of true contrition , how same can be an ongoing experience in the life of the believer –

    http://catholicexchange.com/cultivate-true-contrition ;

    such a process might contradict the expectation of many and could also explain the reasons for many leaving the faith or The Church , to search for the instant happiness often promised falsely ,
    in shallower ways in other churches or the secular world .

    Unsure if it is to such whom The Lord says –
    ‘ you healed the sick, cast out demons ..depart from Me , i never knew you ..’ , that knowing The Lord , the price of His Passion by mediating on same is how one gets to have true contrition of what it cost The Lord and His Mother , to bring us freedom from the holds and claims of the enemy spirits that we invite in through wrong choices ..
    Reading the Old Testament with its vivid description of the ongoing effects of sin in generations also might be thus to help bring the needed contrition and gratitude , by taking in what it cost
    The Lord and with Him , The Father , who is in Oneness with The Lord .

    May His mercy help us all to have true contrition on behalf of the sins of us all and thus the earnestness to participate in the Holy Mass , to offer gratitude with all of heaven , and confession as needed and to be protected from near occasions of sin , from the abiding love of the Trinity , through the Immaculate Heart .

    • So appreciated.

    • A.M.

      Thank you ..and to all whose prayers too are what helps…

      Good to recall the Parable of the Prodigal , as The Church too often wisely brings to our focus , for the Season of Penitence , in Lent ; same seen as equivalent for the process of contrition – the recognition of how far away one is ,
      the long walk back , the needed work that still has to be done ,even after the party , to all who might have been wronged ….

      and the older brother , who was busy ‘doing the work ‘ , yet , not having grasped the
      Father’s Heart that would have been grieving over the younger …or even for the older who seems callous at one level .

      ‘All I have is yours ‘ – yet the older brother had not taken in what was the most precious in that Heart – the compassion for the brother ….

      and the Prodigal too , could have decided to stop and stay at the house of a friend of the Father , on the way home , who would have shared the news of how good The Father is , yet , not quite having grasped how He would want the Son home .

      Our Lord , saying just enough ……leaving the rest for the Spirit of truth ..

      Three in One , in the constant , ongoing sharing of Oneness of love …..in whose house
      one day , we would all look at all the pains and sorrows , in the light of His love and mercy !
      God Bless !

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I have my theology students pray the Act of Contrition each day during Lent, both because it is an appropriate prayer for the season and so they will get it in their heads.

    I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday but I can recite flawlessly the Act of Contrition I memorized when I was seven.

    • That is truly good Kevin!

    • My confessor can probably tell that I am a senior not from the sound of my voice but from the version of the Act of Contrition I say (also memorized at a young age.) “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all
      my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they
      offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I
      firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.” I think I usually make “punishments” and “occasions” singular though.