The Act of Contrition

Three Forms of This Prayer for Confession

Priest in Confession Booth with Cross
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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. Recognizing our sins is an important part of our spiritual growth. Unless we acknowledge our sins and ask for God's forgiveness, we cannot receive the grace that we need to become better Christians.

There are many different forms of the Act of Contrition; the following are three of the most popular in use today.

This Traditional Form of the Act of Contrition was common throughout the 19th and the first half of the 20th century:

The Act of Contrition (Traditional Form)

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 I love 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.

This Simplified Form of the Act of Contrition was popular in the second half of the 20th century:

The Act of Contrition (Simplified Form)

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

This Modern Form of the Act of Contrition is commonly used today:

The Act of Contrition (Modern Form)

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy. Amen.

An Explanation of the Act of Contrition

In the Act of Contrition, we acknowledge our sins, ask God for forgiveness, and express our desire to repent. Our sins are an offense against God, Who is perfect goodness and love. We regret our sins not just because, left unconfessed and unrepented, they can prevent us from entering Heaven, but because we recognize that those sins are our rebellion against our Creator. He not only created us out of a perfect love; He sent His only begotten Son into the world to save us from our sins after we rebelled against Him.

Our sorrow for our sins, expressed in the first half of the Act of Contrition, is only the beginning, however. True contrition means more than just being sorry for the sins of the past; it means working hard to avoid those and other sins in the future. In the second half of the Act of Contrition, we express a desire to do just that, and to use the Sacrament of Confession to help us do so. And we acknowledge that we cannot avoid sin on our own—we need God's grace to live as He wishes us to live.

Definition of Words Used in the Act of Contrition

Heartily: very; strongly; to a great degree

Offended: to have displeased someone; in this case, God, Who nonetheless cannot be injured by our offense

Detest: to dislike greatly or intently, even to the point of physical illness

Dread: to regard with great fear or a sense of horror

Resolve: to set one's mind and will on something; in this case, to steel one's will to make a full, complete, and contrite Confession and to avoid sin in the future

Penance: an outward act that represents our contrition for our sins, through a form of temporal punishment (punishment within time, as opposed to the eternal punishment of Hell)

Amend: to improve; in this case, to improve one's life in cooperation with God's grace so that one conforms his will to God's

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Richert, Scott P. "The Act of Contrition." ThoughtCo, Mar. 11, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-act-of-contrition-prayer-542599. Richert, Scott P. (2017, March 11). The Act of Contrition. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-act-of-contrition-prayer-542599 Richert, Scott P. "The Act of Contrition." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-act-of-contrition-prayer-542599 (accessed April 23, 2018).