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Act of Contrition: How, Why, and When to Say It?

An act of contrition is a form of prayer used by Christians to express sorrow for their sins and their desire to repent. The term is strongly associated with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However, we can make Acts of Contrition privately, or during a liturgical service, to acknowledge our sins. Learn why, and how to pray the Act of Contrition.

Prayer of Contrition

“My God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee: and I detest my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they have offended 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.”

Why Pray The Act of Contrition?

“Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32)

Every sin is like a wound inflicted to Jesus Christ and adds to the burden that we must carry with ourselves. Making an examination of conscience and expressing penance for our wrongdoings help us grow closer to the Lord. In doing so, we can experience His love and infinite mercy - we are truly liberated.

Though we are sinners, we do not need to be imprisoned by our sins forever: Jesus died on the Cross to atone for our sins. When we make an act of contrition, we are seeking to repair our relationship with Jesus Christ, it is like leaving our sins at the foot of the Cross. An act of contrition is closely connected with Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity: when asking for the grace of forgiveness, we are full of hope and we believe that God will grant us the strength and the courage to do penance and to sin no more.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

How to Pray The Act of Contrition

Alone, During Mass, or During Confession

The Act of Contrition is an integral part of the Sacrament of Penance. It is also recited at the end of confession, before receiving absolution by a priest. 
There are also:

Acts of contrition can be prayed at other times. For example, when praying for God’s forgiveness during the evening, we can acknowledge our transgressions and our misdeeds of the day : we can begin our evening prayer session by saying a prayer for repentance.

Lastly, at the beginning of Mass, the entire assembly is summoned to acknowledge their sins by praying an act of contrition together, called the Confiteor

Two Other Penitential Prayers

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51: 1-2)

“Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me,for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!” (Psalm 25: 6-7). 

Discover God’s Eternal Mercy with Hozana

God’s love for Man is infinite, and His mercy is eternal. With Hozana, you have access to a wide variety of praying communities to share a moment of prayer with: call upon the eternal mercy of the Lord and pray for the holy souls in purgatory, say a Novena to the divine mercy of Christ, or to St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer: “together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mercy” - Pope John Paul II.