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Rachel wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question about Contrition.

I know I am in mortal sin and that scares me because I know that it means if I die, it could constitute an eternity in Hell, but I haven't gone to Confession because I'm having trouble feeling contrite for the sins I have committed.

I don't know what to do. I know if you are not sorry for your sins and you confess them then your Confession is invalid, but I don't want to die with these mortal sins on my soul. I don't feel sorry for what I've done; I feel like I'm just lukewarm. I don't really care either way and I don't know what to do nor do I know why I am lukewarm.

I love studying Catholicism. I'm constantly on Yahoo Answers and know all the answers. I know what the Church teaches and I love learning more about Church history. I love the Mass. I hate not being able to receive the Blessed Sacrament and yet, despite all of this, when I think about my sins, it's like nothing. I have no feeling whatsoever regarding them.

This scares me even more because I'm not ignorant of what I've done and I understand the gravity of what I've done but I cannot seem to find the contrition for my sins that I need in order to receive absolution in Confession.

I'm also afraid of going to Confession and being told, I've been absolved, when I'm not really absolved, because of my lack of contrition. Then if I received Christ unworthily in Holy Communion, I bring judgment upon myself.

Nevertheless, I don't want to go the rest of my life unable to receive Holy Communion.

  • Can you help me?
  • What should I do?
  • Are there any novenas out there that include asking for contrition?



  { What should I do if I am having a hard time being contrite for my mortal sins in Confession? }

Eric replied:


Don't confuse contrition for feelings.

If you resolve not to commit these acts again because you know they are wrong and want to do what is right, that is enough. Better yet, you want to not do them again because you love God, but first things first.

Repentance is an act of the will. It means to literally go back, i.e., reverse course. As long as you are resolved to avoid these sins in the future (even if you don't have hope you'll give in, as long as you plan to fight the temptation to do them) — you can go to Confession and receive absolution. Then God can work with you and perhaps the feelings will come later. Also explain the situation to the priest, and he can make a sure judgment about your contrition.

Do go, I encourage you.


John replied:

Hi, Rachel —

Just to add to Eric's answer. Confession, like the Eucharist is an encounter with Christ. In such an encounter, we can be transformed if we are open to transformation. So whether your contrition is weak, or you can't bring yourself to want give the sin up, you should still go and tell the priest you're having trouble resolving to avoid this sin. If he's a good priest, he'll be able to advise you and give you penance that will help you.

There is a saying:

If you don't want to change, ask God to give you the desire to change.

The Sacrament of Confession gives us the strength to change and also the desire to change.
Let God decide, whether or not your contrition or intention is sufficient. He's in the business of redeeming lives and changing them for the better. He never turns anyone away who seeks His help to live a holier life.

He never stops forgiving because He can't stop loving unconditionally.


Paul replied:


Ditto on Eric's advice.

Also, remember Confessions are valid with the penitent having contrition or attrition; which means either appropriate love of God or fear of God.

You said:
. . . that scares me because I know that it means if I die, it could constitute an eternity in Hell.

That sounds like holy attrition to me. It recognizes:

  • God as God
  • His power, and
  • the fact that He rewards and punishes.

With attrition, as well as contrition, there is faith. Consider the old traditional Act of Contrition prayer:

I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell.

In newer versions it states,

I detest all my sins because of Your just punishments.

This is attrition, and it enables absolution in the Confessional to be valid.

Also, from the little you wrote, you may actually have contrition. Your love for Jesus in the Eucharist and your burning desire to receive Him again displays a love of God and a detestation of your sins for keeping you from Him.

Either way, I would go to the sacrament of Confession. If it seems appropriate to you to explain your perceived problem to the priest before stating your sins, then certainly do it.

You may not fully appreciate the gravity of how much sin offends God (as none of us really do), but it seems you do appreciate the gravity of their results in your relationship with God and His Church.



Mike replied:

Hi, Rachel —

You said:
I know I am in mortal sin and that scares me because I know that it means if I die, it could constitute an eternity in Hell, but I haven't gone to Confession because I'm having trouble feeling contrite for the sins I have committed.

First, I want to commend you for your sensitive Christian conscience and knowledge of the faith.

In addition to the fine comments my colleagues have made, I'd also recommend, to put your mind at ease, looking into the Brown Scapular. You can google for a free one on-line.

Here is some relating the literature on the Brown Scapular:

Hope this helps,

[Related posting]

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