VATICAN - Prayers for Lent - Act of Contrition (I)
Vatican City (Fides Service) - The formula of the Act of Contrition may vary a little according to the language. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in English gives the follow text:
“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.”
Despite slight differences in the various languages the contents are the same, seven elements set in three parts: acknowledgment of sin and contrition because it offends God; recognition that God is all good and deserving of love and created us out of love; promise with the help of God’s grace never to offend him with sin in the future and to avoid occasions of sin.
The first Act of Contrition we find in the Gospel of Saint Luke. It is Jesus himself who teaches it to his disciples when he tells them the parable of the Prodigal Son: “When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled himself with the husks the pigs were eating but no one would let him have them. Then he came to his senses and said, "How many of my father's hired men have all the food they want and more, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired men. "So he left the place and went back to his father» (Luke 15, 14-20).
« I will leave this place and go to my father … So he left the place and went back to his father »: he realises his unhappy state and decides to ‘turn around’ and go back to his father. This ‘turning around’ is an act of “conversion”: acknowledging our fault, stop, ask forgiveness and resolve to change direction and walk the path of life.
(to be continued)
(J.M.) (Agenzia Fides 15/3/2007, righe 31, parole 411)
See the Act of Contrition in various languages