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Ask the Register: Act of Contrition?

Q. I was taught two forms of the Act of Contrition: a “short form” and a “long form.” I have always prayed the “short form” as the succinct nature resonates with me. However, I’ve noticed it is often not displayed on the sacrament guides hung inside some confessionals. Is there a preferred Act of Contrition?

A. This is a very practical question that affects almost all readers. Thanks for asking it.

The short answer is no, there is not a preferred or “official” Act of Contrition. When we are young it is easy to memorize prayers that are formulated and that in part is why the Church gives us prayers such as the Act of Contrition.

You will remember there are three essential parts of a good confession: 1. To confess one’s sins, 2. To do penance and 3. To amend one’s life. As long as these three elements are contained in an Act of Contrition, it suffices for a fruitful celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

At the end of this column are two traditional Acts of Contrition which emphasize these three points. If one has difficulty remembering them, cut them out of this paper and take them with you the next time you go to confession. If you have the creativity, you can make up your own act of contrition if you wish, as long as it has the three elements mentioned above.

An act of contrition is an expression to God of the sorrow of the penitent. There is no required formula for this and it may be very simple such as “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Reconciliation, Penance or Confession—all synonyms—is a very essential part of our relationship with our good Lord. Do not ever be afraid of the sacrament but see it as a loving encounter with Jesus.

A friendly reminder from this parish priest: if it has been since Easter since your last confession, it has been six months. A good rule of thumb is at least once a month.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell 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 help, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

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 occasions of sin.

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These questions were answered by a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln. Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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