Act of Contrition

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Acknowledge Our Sin

  • 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.


  • Among the penitent’s acts, contrition is the first step.
  • There are two types of contrition:
    • Imperfect (where our sorrow comes more out of fear of God’s punishments or perhaps from the dreadful nature of the sin itself).
    • Perfect (where we are truly sorry for our sins out of our love for God).
      • This 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.
      • It is sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed together with the resolution not to sin again.
      • When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity).
      • Such contrition remits venial sins.
      • It also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

The Act of Contrition

  • Both types of contrition are reflected in the Act of Contrition, a Catholic prayer expressing sorrow for sins.
  • It is used in liturgical services, in private, and especially in the examination of conscience.
  • It is part of the Sacrament of Penance prayed by the penitent.
  • After the priest assigns a penance and before he gives the penitent absolution.
  • It is customarily said before one goes to bed at night.
  • It generally includes:
    • an expression of sorrow,
    • an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and
    • a promise to amend one’s life and avoid sin.
  • It expresses in words a deeply personal “act” that engages a person’s affections and will.

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.

The Act of Contrition (Modern)

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.

The Act of Contrition (Traditional)

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.

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 be 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 will

See also

Living the Eucharistic Day