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Friday, 7 September 2012

Why we say the Act of Contrition


My sins nailed you to that cross

Lord Forgive me for I have sinned....

The Act of Contrition is usually associated with the Sacrament of Confession, but Catholics should also pray it every day as part of their normal prayer life. In it, we acknowledge our sins, ask God for forgiveness, and express our desire to repent. Does sorry seem to be your hardest word? It shouldn’t be! The Act of Contrition is a prayer in which we ask God to forgive our sins. We say it in the sacrament of reconciliation, or penance (otherwise known as confession). Our Lord thought so much of this sacrament he made it one of seven He instituted to give us grace! The Act of Contrition acknowledges our need to stay close to God for His help in dealing with our sinful nature.
 There are two types of contrition: perfect (where we are truly sorry for our sins out of our love for God) and imperfect (where our sorrow comes more out of fear of God’s punishments or perhaps from the dreadful nature of the sin itself). Both are reflected in this version of the 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 art 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. Amen.

Note that there are several other versions of this prayer. The one above is perhaps best known, however. You can say the Act of Contrition any time. (It is often used in night prayers, for example.)
There are two main types of sin, venial and mortal. Venial sins can weaken our relationship with God while mortal sins can kill it! (Hence the name.) Note there are three main conditions for a sin to be mortal: the sin itself must be grave, we must know it is so, and yet still freely consent to committing it anyway. A mortal sin, if not forgiven through confession, can lead to our eternal separation from God (that is to say, our damnation) for eternity!

When we sin we turn away from God and His will for us. However, when we recite the Act of Contrition, especially after confession, we turn back to Him acknowledging our need for His healing power in our lives. His mercy is there for us as long as we approach him with humility and make a sincere effort not to repeat our sins.

Jesus, please forgive me.