a traditional act of contrition

A Traditional Act of Contrition

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This traditional act of contrition is a favorite among Catholics. Even though there are other variations, we find ourselves coming back to this one over and over.

Normally, you would pray an act of contrition, in the confessional, after confession of sins, but you can pray it at any time, including, when you cannot get to confession right away. Just be sure to get to confession as soon as possible, if there is mortal sin.

It is very important that there is firm resolve. We can’t just “say the words” without meaning it and doing all we can to not commit the sin again.

How to Pray This Traditional Act of Contrition

  • Don’t rush through it. Say each word slowly and with conviction
  • Imagine our Lord on the Cross, as you say it. Remember how he suffered for us.
  • Think about how sin offends him and resolve to do your best not to sin again.

Although we should reflect on the enormity of sin, we should never fall into despair.

Our Lord is merciful. Never be ashamed to go to confession, no matter how horrid the sin.

He does not want us to perish, but he wants us to have everlasting life.

Traditional Act of Contrition

Oh, 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.

Act of Contrition FAQ

When should I say an act of contrition?

  • In the confessional, after you have confessed your sins. Sometimes the priests may ask you to say the act of contrition outside the confessional, if time is limited.
  • Anytime you want to express your sorrow and repentance for your sins.

The Sinner’s Guide

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sinner's guide

What is the difference between a  Perfect Contrition & Imperfect Contrition?

Perfect Contrition:

Perfect contrition. Sorrow for sin arising from perfect love. In perfect contrition the sinner detests sin more than any other evil, because it offends God, who is supremely good and deserving of all human love. Its motive is founded on God’s own goodness and not merely his goodness to the sinner or to humanity. This motive, and not the intensity of the act, less still the feelings experienced, is what essentially constitutes perfect sorrow…

Perfect contrition removes the guilt and eternal punishment due to grave sin even before sacramental absolution. However, a Catholic is obliged to confess his or her grave sins at the earliest opportunity and may not, in normal circumstances, receive Communion before he or she has been absolved by a priest in the sacrament of penance.  Colin B. Donovan, STL on EWTN.

Check out a very simple way to make an act of perfect contrition.

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Imperfect Contrition

Imperfect contrition arises from “any other motive, such as loss of heaven, fear of hell, or the heinousness of guilt, then it is termed imperfect contrition, or attrition.” Source.

Don’t spend time worrying about whether your contrition is perfect or not. What’s important is that you do have contrition for your sins.

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This article was originally posted in 2021.

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  1. My goodness, I did not realize there were so many mortal sins. I have left the Catholic Church fo4 13 years and have been thinking of coming back. But I do not think you want me. I am living a quiet life as I have Parkinson’s, bipolar and mild dementia. But the Catholic Church is too harsh on people. It is difficult to come back to the Church that has hurt me so much. I had a difficult childhood and the Church was never there for me.

    1. I’ve felt similar about it in the past, sometimes a rule may feel so unjust, sometimes you just feel like there is no point because you’ll never be as perfect as the saints, along with many other thoughts, these thoughts, unresolved, can easily drive someone mad.

      There are authorities out there that you can consult on these questions that you have (the Bible itself being the primary one), matters that may really confusing or stressful or downright absurd can make you want to abandon the faith because it seems unjust, although sometimes these ideas you may have are misunderstandings that result from translations not being very sufficient (This in particular happens with a lot of Greek words, they have multiple variations of a word that the English language doesn’t have, but there are people on the internet and other places that can help out with determining what these mean,) or are from a bad source (unfortunately, it seems some priests have been spreading some wrong ideas about certain topics.)

      I’m deeply sorry that you’ve had bad experiences with the Catholic Church, as well as the difficult childhood, I don’t know what that feels like, but I pray that you will be able to have your questions answered and be able to join the Catholic Church again, we do want you, God wants you, I’m sorry if anyone has made you feel otherwise, God made you something beautiful and sin is not what defines who you are, it doesn’t define who anyone is, it’s something we can escape from. I know it can be a struggle, but God wants to help you through it, stay well Nancy, God bless you.

    2. Hi Nancy, i can share with you that I too have had a difficult childhood due to child abuse by my mother for which I have physical, emotional and mental scars. At one time I felt just like you, know that is the ennemy of lies who is denying you of God’s love to you. I urge you to return to church, go to confession, pray our heavenly Mother of God the Virgin Mary, reflect on the sufferings of our Lord, love the cross for it has changed me and will change you too. You are loved, do not believe the lies the ennemy sends to you in the way you are suffering. God loves you and is waiting for your return. It’s powerful blessings you are worthy every moment of your life. Those that have done wrong in our Catholic Church are dealing directly with God our Father, love his son and our heavenly Mother which are both shedding tears for your return. God is love and only LOVE! May you be nlessed today for all your sufferings. Dianne

    3. You have nothing to fear but fear itself . If you know you are sorry for sins and long to bathe them from your soul , then the acts will not bare you from the love of God that is waiting for you .

      If you are truly sorry then you will know this, and if you are resolved to avoid those sins again through the love of Jesus , no priest will fail to resolve you if those sins through our blessed Lord.

      Reading your words I am convinced you are sorry and long to return to the church , who wait like our Lord to embrace you .

      Think of it like this . If you have a child and it has done wrong , if they look to you to hug them and embrace them , would you not want to because you still love them – of course you would – and so it is with our Lord . He is waiting with his arms held out to you to come in to his arms . Go to him and tell him you are sorry. The feeling afterwards is truly beautiful and you will kick yourself for not doing it sooner .

    4. Don’t confuse the Church with people in the church during an age of apostasy that are part of Satan’s plan to interfere with God’s plan of salvation for humanity. This plan is found only in the Catholic Church who is the body of those in the new Covenant.

      1. This is true, and in her case its called converting back! I did that last March converted after being distant for so long. I don’t regret it, i only regret not realizing what i was doing. Yes there are many sins but many we do not know are sins. God is merciful. He loves all of us.

    5. I’m sorry you feel like that. I was a wandering Catholic for many yrs. I missed it and was welcomed back with open arms and love. Whatever you have done, God will show you His Mercy if you have remorse in your heart. Please open your heart to God’s Live and Mercy in the Catholic Church.

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