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.
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”.