An Act of Perfect Contrition
A reader posed a question on my post in which I talk about the need for frequent confession:
Precisely HOW does one make an “act of PERFECT Contrition”? I have read a very old booklet on this subject, and it states that we must acknowledge, even if we don’t Feel any emotions thereto, the many occasions of the Love of God in our lives and in that of humanity as a whole, as a specific statement in our act of contrition, and not just focus on the just punishments. Is this right? If not, what is the right way to make an act of perfect contrition? The priests I ask say they do not know or that one isn’t necessary or that all that’s needed is to pray “Jesus Son of the Living God have Mercy on Me a Sinner”???
The Concise Catholic Dictionary of 1943 actually has the definition, much to my surprise. The CCD states specifically in the definition of contrition:
“Sorrow and detestation of sin which has been committed together with the purpose of sinning no more. It is perfect contrition if it is based on love of God, imperfect contrition (attrition) if based on a lower motive.”
Perfect contrition is when you express sorrow and detestation of sin that you have committed because of your love for God. I would say that it sounds like we do not necessarily need to express sadness or feelings because we want to, but ultimately because we have offended God, who is all good and deserving of all of our love.
I would further say that an act of perfect contrition needs to be based purely on our love of God and how we have destroyed our relationship with Him.
The example given in this pamphlet seems to be off. It appears to conflict with the very definition of what perfect contrition is if we only focus on the “love of God and the good of humanity”. I honestly don’t even see how that would lead one to sense the need to even confess.
From what I can tell based on what perfect contrition is, it appears that the priests you have asked are mistaken. To their credit, they probably have not been formed properly during their time in seminary. This is such a sad state of affairs. Pray for them.
Imperfect contrition itself is not bad, but it is not perfect or rightly ordered. Attrition is better than not having any remorse whatsoever. In the confessional, attrition will do just fine.
Realize that you have offended God and are not in the state of grace. Go to confession, confess your sins, and make the act of contrition. In your heart, resolve that you are doing it out of love for God and have the intention that you will never sin again.
Go to confession as often as you need to.
In the Catechism of the Council of Trent, there is a couple of full pages on true contrition. You can find a link to an online version here. Starting at the section entitled “The First Part of Penance” up to “The Second Part of Penance”.
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