An Act of Perfect Contrition
In the absence of the opportunity to go to Confession, we have created this guide on perfect contrition for your use. An act of perfect contrition is a good tool for reconciliation until the sacrament, itself, is available again.
We encourage you to read below, then join us on our webcast tonight from 6pm to 8pm for Adoration.
An Act of Perfect Contrition
As we approach Holy Week and given the complete closing of Churches so that no sacraments can be administered, there is not only an inability to receive the Eucharist, but also to go to Confession. Though this may be distressing, it is still possible to seek a perfect contrition.
First and foremost, any contrition must consider how we have sinned through examining our conscience. Any examination of conscience requires of us a conversion of the heart; a turning away from sin to the grace offered to us through God’s mercy. Perfect contrition comes out of our love for God and hatred of sin. It motivates us to live better lives; lives that seek to place God and God’s will for us at the center of it. Indeed, this is what our Lenten journey is and is described in the Catechism as interior repentance.
Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. (CCC 1431)
The companion to this interior repentance is interior penance. Interior penance can take form in a variety of ways (see CCC #1434-39). Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are methods that have been the traditional practices of the Church, which move our hearts to seek a reconciliation with those we have harmed through sin. This conversion of heart moves us in a direction of repentance for that sin, solidarity with the sufferings of Christ and our human family and concern and care for the needs of those less fortunate through acts of charity.
The St. Ignatius of Loyola in his journey of seeking perfect contrition developed the Spiritual Exercises out of which comes the Daily Examen. The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. St Charles Borromeo in his journey of seeking perfect contrition developed the three visits: the first above, the second below and third in the middle. The visit above is to heaven and the eternal good we jeopardize when we sin. The visit below is to Hell, the place of the painful eternal separation from God and God’s grace and love. The visit to the middle is to the Cross and considering the price that Jesus paid through his passion and death to free us from the bonds of sin.
So while we are not able go to Confession, perfect contrition is a way of receiving the grace of God’s forgiveness, until the opportunity exists to make a good confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.