Sunday, August 8, 2010

How to make an act of perfect contrition

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Saint Maximilian Kolbe wrote a letter to his followers. 

The purpose of this letter was to exhort his disciples to prepare themselves for the approaching feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8.

But it also showed them how to receive forgiveness for sin in the coming war, where priests were scarce and it was hard to receive sacramental confession.

He wrote:

“Whoever can, should receive the Sacrament of Penance.  Whoever cannot, because of prohibiting circumstances, should cleanse his soul by acts of perfect contrition: i.e., the sorrow of a loving child who does not consider so much the pain or reward as he does the pardon from his father and mother to whom he has brought displeasure.”

This is a magnificent formula and lesson on how to make an act of perfect contrition.

As most people know, there are two types of contrition:

- perfect: out of love of God;

- imperfect: out of fear of Hell.

Catholic teaching distinguishes a twofold hatred of sin; one, perfect contrition, rises from the love of God Who has been grievously offended; the other, imperfect contrition, arises principally from some other motives, such as loss of heaven, fear of hell, the heinousness of sin, etc. (Council of Trent, Sess. XIV, ch. iv de Contritione). (The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Contrition”)

When we go to confession, imperfect contrition is sufficient to receive the pardon of our sins.

However, in extraordinary circumstances where [when] we cannot get to confession, we can make an act of perfect contrition, which is sufficient to have our sins forgiven.

Important: The act of prefect contrition includes the desire for the sacrament of Penance (or Reconciliation) and the intention to receive sacramental confession at the very first opportunity.

NOTE: One who is conscious of mortal sin may not receive the Holy Eucharist without prior sacramental confession.

The fact that we can always make an act of perfect contrition, in any circumstance, and at any time, is very consoling and very important to remember.

Especially when we think of our troops who are in harm’s way.  They may not have a chaplain in their battalion before entering battle.  In that case, they should always say an act of perfect contrition.

Actually, not only in extraordinary circumstances should we make acts of perfect contrition. At any time, if we have the misfortune of committing a mortal sin, we should seek to reconcile ourselves with God as soon as possible by an act of perfect contrition, before going to confession.

Furthermore, even not being guilty of serious sin, we should make frequent acts of perfect contrition to ask forgiveness for the serious sins of the past, and for the venial sins of the present.

In doing so, we show our love for God. And we prove our aversion to sin, which offends Him. In doing so, we surely receive more abundant graces to sin no more. A highly recommended practice is to include an act of contrition in our “before bed” prayers.

Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.



  1. Being forgiven is my favorite part of being Catholic. That moment where I feel the presence of Christ blessing me and absolving me through the hands of the priest is a beautiful moment that I treasure for days after. Once, I was so overcome that I kissed the hands of the priest, as if they were God's hands and thanked both him and the Lord. I told the priest what was in my heart, that I loved everyone I had ever met and that he, in his priesthood, was a beautiful sight to see. He was so happy to see my joy that he didn't even give me a penance! And so, starting tonight, I plan to go on a three-day fast on bread and tea. Don't worry, it won't kill me! I could stand to lose some weight anyway! Seek out that joy of forgiveness someday; it might make the difference and get you right into Heaven!

  2. This is my second day of this novena. I just want to thank the Blessed Mother in advance for the favor I requested. I know one way or another my prayers will be heard. I am posting this novena as requested.

    3 Day Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel; Never Known to Fail

    Oh, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven.

    Blessed Mother of the Son of God; Immaculate Virgin, assist me in my necessity.

    Oh, Star of the Sea, help me and show me you are my Mother.

    Oh, Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succour me in my necessity. (Mention your request here).

    There are none that can withstand your power.

    Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (3x).

    Holy Mary, I place this prayer in your hands. (3x). Amen.

    Say this prayer for 3 consecutive days and then you must publish it and it will be granted to you.

  3. After saying the 3 day novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a week later we received some promising news. I know it will take some time but we'll be patient and know that Our Lady heard my pleas.

    O Most Beautiful Flower of Mt. Carmel, Fruitful Vine, Splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God. Immaculate Virgin assist me in this my necessity. Oh, Star of the Sea, help me and show me you are my mother. oh Holy Mary Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in this my necessity. There are none that can withstand your power.
    Oh Mary Conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee (3 times)
    Holy Mary I place this cause in your hands. (3 times)

    Say for 3 days and publish. This novena has never failed me, I want to give thanks to Our Lady for hearing my prayers.