What is contrition and why is it important?
Gerard Seghers, “Repentence of St Peter”, c. 1627
Catechism of St Pius X
11 Q. What is contrition or sorrow for sins?
A. Contrition or sorrow for sin is a grief of the soul leading us to detest sins committed and to resolve not to commit them any more.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
12 Q. What does the word contrition mean?
A. Contrition means a crushing or breaking up into pieces as when a stone is hammered and reduced to dust.
13 Q. Why is the name of contrition given to sorrow for sin?
A. The name of contrition is given to sorrow for sin to signify that the hard heart of the sinner is in a certain way crushed by sorrow for having offended God.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
389. Will God forgive us any sin unless we have true contrition for it?
God will not forgive us any sin, whether mortal or venial, unless we have true contrition for it.
Let the wicked man forsake his way and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord; and he will have mercy on him. (Isaiah 55:7)
395. Should we always try to have sorrow for all our venial sins when receiving the sacrament of Penance?
We should try to have sorrow for all our venial sins when receiving the sacrament of Penance, and, when we have only venial sins to confess, we must have sorrow for at least one of them or for some sin of our past life which we confess.
Now therefore saith the Lord: “Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments. (Joel 2:12-13)
396. Why should we have contrition for mortal sin?
We should have contrition for mortal sin because it is the greatest of all evils, gravely offends God, keeps us out of heaven, and condemns us forever to hell.
If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn. (John 15:6)
397. Why should we have contrition for venial sin?
We should have contrition for venial sin because it is displeasing to God, merits temporal punishment, and may lead to mortal sin.
398. How many kinds of contrition are there?
There are two kinds of contrition: perfect contrition and imperfect contrition.
399. When is our contrition perfect?
Our contrition is perfect when we are sorry for our sins because sin offends God, whom we love above all things for His own sake.
Create a pure heart for me, O God, and renew in me a steadfast spirit. (Psalm 51:12)
400. When is our contrition imperfect?
Our contrition is imperfect when we are sorry for our sins because they are hateful in themselves or because we fear God’s punishment.
And the children of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do thou unto us whatsoever pleaseth thee, only deliver us this time.” (Judges 10:15)
401. To receive the sacrament of Penance worthily, what kind of contrition is sufficient?
To receive the sacrament of Penance worthily, imperfect contrition is sufficient.
402. Should we always try to have perfect contrition in the sacrament of Penance?
We should always try to have perfect contrition in the sacrament of Penance because perfect contrition is more pleasing to God, and because with His help we can always have it.
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 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.