When you need to go to confession but can’t…
The Key to Heaven, especially for Our Times
You can still be forgiven of your mortal sins if there is no priest available to hear your confession…
For the great majority of Catholics in the world today, it is virtually impossible to go to confession to a validly ordained priest who professes the true Catholic Faith of the ages and does not profess communion with a public heretic or apostate like Francis or Benedict XVI. Throughout Church history, there were many people in sundry places and circumstances that made approaching a priest for confession, for one reason or another, impossible. And it goes without saying that although everyone will die one day, most people will not have a priest close-by to whom they can make their deathbed confession.
Does this mean, then, that our chances of making it to Heaven are, for that reason, very slim? By no means!
It is a deplorable fact that although all Catholics know to approach the sacrament of Penance to have their mortal sins forgiven, only few seem to know that there is a way to have one’s mortal sins forgiven outside the sacrament of Penance, although not entirely apart from it: through Perfect Contrition. In order not to fall prey to any confusion, it will be important to understand exactly what is meant by it and how it “works”, that is, how to obtain this great grace.
What is Perfect Contrition?
In the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent issued a decree on the Sacrament of Penance, which includes a chapter dedicated to the subject of contrition. The subsequent Catechism of the Council of Trent also explains contrition and how it relates to the sacrament of Penance. The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia likewise contains an informative article summarizing the essentials on contrition.
In a nutshell: Perfect Contrition is a supernatural sorrow for, and hatred of, the sins one has committed, accompanied by a firm resolution never to sin again, because by committing them one has offended God, who is infinitely good and deserving of all of one’s love.
It is evident that if the truth about Perfect Contrition is to bear rich fruit in souls, then this somewhat complex definition needs a detailed explanation that is easily comprehensible by the common man. To this end, the Australian Catholic Truth Society in 1959 issued a very readable booklet on this topic written by an Italian priest. You can read its full text online here:
On Feb. 26, 2016 our friends at True Restoration released an episode of their “Spiritual Life” series on Restoration Radio about Perfect Contrition, in which the Benedictine monk Fr. Bernard Uttley explains in an easy-to-follow manner the nature, mechanism, effects, and importance of Perfect Contrition. We have since acquired the rights to this audio file, so now you can listen to the entire 105-minute episode free of charge here:
If we examine closely the Act of Contrition we are supposed to pray at least once a day, we see that Holy Mother Church tries very much to instill in our souls the necessary dispositions for obtaining Perfect Contrition:
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 they offend 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.
Perfect Contrition is an immense source of grace in this life and is of special importance at the time of death. All Catholics ought to be familiar with it and join it daily to their Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity.
Whether you have a confessor available or not, make sure you are always perfectly contrite for your sins, and you will never be without sanctifying grace. The gates of Heaven will be open to you, and you will never again be tempted to despair.
The primary effect of Perfect Contrition being the recovery of sanctifying grace outside of the sacrament of Confession, this extraordinary means shows the great mercy, generosity, and magnanimity of Almighty God towards His sinful human creatures. After all, it is clear that we cannot always and everywhere have a priest at our disposal, and the availability of God’s forgiveness throughout the history of the New Covenant would be seriously curtailed if it depended strictly on the presence of priests wherever there are sinners.
Please do not ignore, neglect, or make light of this most important topic. For a great many of us, Perfect Contrition may one day make an eternal difference.
“Wherefore I say to thee: Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much.”
Image sources: Wikimedia Commons (Fondazione Cariplo; cropped) / unknown
Licenses: CC BY-SA 3.0 / fair use