Dear Father Angelo
First of all I say thank you very much for the wonderful service offered by your website and I hope you will enlighten as many people as possible.
If possible I would like to ask you, who are certainly more prepared than me, questions about the act of contrition and forgiveness in general.
Please post this email of mine and your kind future reply on your site: I hope they can help someone!
Premise: I am a scrupulous person and many times I think I have committed a mortal sin even perhaps where it is not there.
This makes me fall and makes me believe that I have to recite the perfect act of contrition in order to be forgiven before Confession.
Now I come to my questions …
I have read that the only act of contrition that remits sins, even mortal ones, before Confession is the perfect one.
The latter differs from the imperfect one by the fact that it is not moved by the fear of being punished by God or by the fear of hell but by the true regret of having offended the Father with our actions.
The point is: how do you definitively and without any doubt understand whether the act of contrition we recite is perfect or imperfect?
I have already read on the web the conditions for this act to be perfect, but I would like to have a direct clarification from you, Father Angelo, because I believe that I have been wrong to recite it.
Is there a concrete, sensitive and definitive proof to understand if we have performed a perfect act?
I think it is an important question because if a person finds himself in gross negligence and dies shortly after, the difference is abysmal: with the imperfect act he goes to hell while with the perfect one he saves himself eternally.
How do you know if you are moved by the fear of hell or by sincere sorrow?
2nd question: I know that there are different formulas for the act of contrition.
Ever since I was little they have always asked me to recite this, even in the confessional: “O Jesus of burning love, I had never offended you, etc …”
This is shorter than: “My God, I regret and grieve with all my heart for my sins etc …”
I ask you if mine, when recited correctly, has the same value as an act of perfect contrition as the other, much longer version?
3rd question: in the conditions necessary for a perfect act of contrition there is also the implicit intention to confess as soon as possible.
My problem is this: what does “as soon as possible” mean?
Is it quantifiable in time?
Can we prepare to go to confession at a specific time of the year or must we go to the confessional immediately afterwards?
Example: if I recite the act of contrition and implicitly prepare the confession and later this opportunity occurs again and again; Can I say: “no, I don’t confess now but later”?
I know it’s been a long question, but in my opinion these are important topics that can also be useful to other people.
I trust your Father Angelo, please elucidate me.
I answer your questions following your own numbering.
1. Speaking of an act of perfect contrition, it must be said immediately that it does not exclude being accompanied by imperfect contrition.
Imperfect contrition is the one motivated by the evils that can fall on us because of our sins.
This contrition is healthy because it avoids sin and leads to confession. But in itself, although it is already the fruit of immediate grace from God, it does not yet restore charity, which is the motor of sanctifying grace.
Charity makes us friends of God, his intimates and confidants.
But we are truly his friends only when we are sorry for having offended a friend as good and so lovable as God is and for having been the cause of the crucifixion and death of the Lord.
This contrition is not only the fruit of present grace, but of sanctifying grace.
Nobody can issue it unless the person has already been reached by this grace.
2. To issue a perfect act of contrition it is enough to make our own the feelings that the Church suggests to us when it asks us to recite the act of contrition.
These feelings are those expressed by the words of the act of contrition that I put in bold:
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because of thy 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.
Lord, mercy, forgive me ”.
These feelings are not a formality, but they include the intention to change one’s life.
If there is no will to change one’s life, one cannot speak of perfect contrition.
3. The act of contrition recited above all in the Milan area is the one that begins with the words: “O Jesus of love on fire …. “
Although shorter than the previous one, it is all an act of perfect love.
Here again I emphasize which is the meaning of the words “contrition restores grace”:
“O Jesus of love on fire, had I never offended you, O my dear and good Jesus with your holy grace I do not want to offend you anymore because I love you above all things”.
4. In the conditions necessary for a perfect act of contrition there is also the implicit intention to confess.
Not as you have written” as soon as possible”. It should be understood” as soon as the opportunity arises”.
This means, for example, that perhaps there is an opportunity to confess because there is a priest available, but it is more appropriate to go to your confessor or in any case to another.
Therefore, the scrupulous obsessions that assail you must be eliminated.
5. However, I would like to remind you that the recovery of sanctifying grace through an act of perfect contrition is not yet sufficient to be able to approach Holy Communion.
Sacred Scripture refers to this when it says: “Let each one examine himself and then eat some bread and drink from the chalice” (1 Cor 11:28).
That “then” is significant and supposes that in the meantime is done, what logically must be done, namely the confession of serious sins.
6. This is not only because of the intrinsic meaning of the institution of the sacrament of confession for which Saint Augustine says: “Let no one say: ‘I do Penance privately, on my own, before God’, and ‘the God who forgives knows what I do in my heart ‘. Then God would have said without reason: ‘what you loose on earth will also be loosed in heaven!’. Just as without reason he would have handed over the keys of the kingdom of God to the Church! Can the Gospel be made vain? Can the words of Christ be made vain? ” (Sermon 392, 3) but also because with confession, in addition to sanctifying grace, sacramental grace is given, which gives all the necessary help to start a new life and to receive the Lord’s Body with purity and holiness.
7. Only in exceptional cases, that is, when there is no opportunity to confess and there is a serious reason for having to receive Holy Communion, it is possible to approach with the sole act of perfect contrition with the intention of confessing as soon as possible.
In fact, canon 916 states: “He who is aware of being in grave sin should not celebrate Mass or communicate to the body and blood of the Lord without the premise of a sacramental confession, unless there is a serious reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in which case it should be remembered that he is bound to perform an act of perfect contrition, which includes the intention to confess as soon as possible ”.
I would like to emphasize that the intention to confess as soon as possible is only for those who receive Communion in this exceptional case, and not for those who ordinarily issue an act of perfect contrition.
Although it is certainly a good thing to confess without waiting for the Greek Kalends. The grace proper to this sacrament is also important.
Thank you for the questions that may interest many people.
I wish you well, I recommend you to the Lord and I bless you.