Friday, May 16, 2008
Tears of St. Peter, 1647, by artist Guercino, shows St Peter crying before the Blessed Mother for his sin of denying Jesus three times during His Passion. Notice how the white cloth collecting the tears of sorrow stands out, and the sorrowful expressions of St. Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
According to the Catechism, true contrition must have four qualities: it must be interior, meaning that our contrition is sincere; it must be supernatural, which means we are sorry because we offended God; it must be supreme, which means we hate sin above all other evils and are willing to endure any suffering rather than keep offending God by sin; and it must be universal. This last one means we must be sorry for at least all the mortal sins we have committed, including those in our past.
The Church teaches us that there is perfect contrition and imperfect contrition. Perfect contrition means that we are sorry for our sins because we love God above all things and are sorry for having offended Him. If we make an act of perfect contrition to God after committing a mortal sin, our sin is forgiven, but we still must go to confession as soon as possible, and before receiving Holy Communion.
Imperfect contrition occurs when we are sorry for having offended God because we are afraid of the punishments of Hell, or because our sins are hateful in themselves. Imperfect contrition is sufficient to receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.
Like St. Peter, we can achieve perfect contrition if we only meditate on the goodness of God, and love Him because He is all good and worthy of all our love. We should make frequent and fervent acts of love to God every day. Here is a little prayer you can say anytime, anywhere:
"Oh, my God, I love thee with all my heart, all my soul, all my spirit and all my strength."