Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Series on perfect contrition: Part I – What is contrition for sin


Contrition is a pain of the soul and a hatred for sins committed. It must be accompanied by a good purpose, that is to say, a firm resolution to correct oneself and to sin no more.

In order for contrition to be real, it is necessary that it be interior, that it come from the depths of the heart; it must not then be a simple formula uttered without reflection. It is not necessary to show it either by sighs or tears etc. All those displays may be an indicator, but they are not the essence of contrition. That resides in the soul and in the will determined to flee from sin and return to God.

Beyond that, contrition must be universal, that is to say, it must be understood of all sins committed - at least of all mortal sins. Finally, it must be supernatural and not purely natural, for that has no use.

This is why contrition, like every other good thing, must come from God and from His grace. Only the grace of God can engender it in us. However, God always grants us the necessary grace provided that we ask it of Him, provided that we possess good will and a sincere and supernatural repentance.

If our repentance is based on a motive of interest, or for a purely natural reason (i.e. temporal evils, shame, or illness), we shall have only natural contrition without merit. However, if it is based on some truth of the faith (i.e. hell, purgatory, heaven, God, etc.), then we will truly possess a supernatural contrition.

This supernatural contrition can be, in turn, perfect or imperfect and here we are come to our topic of perfect contrition.

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