Most commonly prayed at the end of confession, the Act of Contrition is a short Catholic prayer of penance and mercy. To express your “contrition” is to share your sorrow or remorse; the Act of Contrition is an apologetic prayer. There are several forms of the Act of Contrition, though the traditional version is likely the most popular. Other modern forms, however, might be more comfortable for you to pray.
Where did the Act of Contrition come from?
As Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp points out for Vatican News, the roots of the Act of Contrition trace back to the Old Testament, most notably through the “Penitential Psalms.”
Praying for God’s forgiveness “became the path for re-admittance into God’s presence, lost because of sin.”
In the New Testament, we see examples of the power of contrition in the Gospel of Luke, with the penitent woman whom Jesus forgives.
In more recent times, many Catholics are familiar with the Act of Contrition as it appeared in the Baltimore Catechism.
When do you say the Act of Contrition?
Those seeking the sacrament of Penance usually say the Act of Contrition before the priest offers absolution of sin. In this case, the Act of Contrition helps us focus on God’s love and forgiveness over our sinfulness.
The prayer, however, is not confined to the formal sacrament, nor is it always required during Reconciliation. The priest may ask you to recite it, or he may not.
Many people will pray the Act of Contrition before bed or at some other regular time during the day. As with most prayers, there’s no “wrong” time to pray the Act of Contrition!
Striving for “Metanoia”
Praying the Act of Contrition helps us strive towards “metanoia.”
The USCCB describes metanoia as conversion or “to turn one’s mind around.” When we confess and demonstrate contrition, we turn our hearts and minds towards God, away from our own selfishness.
Praying the Act of Contrition can be the first step in undergoing this powerful change that encompasses our thoughts and actions. As Pope Francis said in one of his first homilies, “The Lord never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.”
Act of Contrition – Traditional
The traditional Act of Contrition is likely the most commonly prayed version.
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.
Act of Contrition – Modern
This more modern version of the Act of Contrition can also be found in the Rite of Penance.
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.
Act of Contrition – The Jesus Prayer
This simple yet powerful prayer of contrition helps us ask Jesus for His mercy; it’s a great prayer to begin or end your day or to conclude your time in prayer.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
On Hallow, you can pray the Act of Contrition with Jonathan Roumie, the actor who portrays Jesus in The Chosen. Click here to download the app and start praying!
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