And many of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds. And many of them who had followed curious arts, brought together their books, and burnt them before all; and counting the price of them, they found the money to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.Acts 19:18-19
Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. Matthew 18:18
He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. John 20:21-23
The Blessings of Confession
Blessed are they that wash their robes in the Blood of the Lamb. (Apoc. 22:14).
Catholics truly may be called blessed in the means they have of washing the sin-stained robes of their souls in the Precious Blood of the Lamb of God in the Sacrament of Penance! There is no question that Confession especially frequent Confession is an inestimable blessing to mankind. Man can hope for no greater blessing on this earth than true peace of soul. The Sacrament of Penance is a perennial fountain of peace. It is a source of untold consolation to human hearts. This Sacrament gives any and every member of the Catholic Church who has transgressed the holy laws of God an easy and simple means to obtain full pardon and to be restored to His friendship. This is its first and principal effect. Its second effect is to wipe out the punishment due to sin: eternal punishment entirely, and temporal punishment in whole or in part, according to the penitents dispositions.
It closes the gates of Hell, which open to swallow up in the infernal abyss souls who deliberately turn away from God by mortal sin and who sunder the ties binding them to Him by preferring their own wills to His. A good Confession opens anew the portals of Heaven, which are barred to souls so long as they remain in the state of mortal sin. It clothes souls with the beautiful nuptial garment of Sanctifying Grace, or renders that garment still more beautiful if the soul already possesses it.
It restores past merits, which are lost by even a single mortal sin. It renders the soul capable again of performing acts meritorious of an eternal reward, which is impossible while it is in the state of mortal sin. It confers sacramental graces, that is, powerful supernatural helps to avoid sin in the future, and to persevere in the service of God. It gives a claim to the special graces the soul needs in order to lead a God-pleasing life.
Finally, it checks sinful passions and inclinations to evil. To partake in fullest measure of these blessings of the Sacrament of Penance, it is necessary for the penitent to know how to make a good Confession. The present booklet is an attempt to help souls in this allimportant matter by explaining the five requisites of a good Confession, plus various points which are of vital importance for the fruitful reception of this Sacrament.
The Five Things Necessary for a Good Confession
As every well-instructed Catholic knows, the five things necessary for a good Confession are: 1) An Examination of Conscience, 2) Contrition (or sorrow) for sin, 3) A Firm Purpose of Amendment, 4) The Confession of ones sins to a priest, 5) Acceptance of ones penance (making satisfaction for sin).
I. EXAMINATION OF
Go, show yourselves to the priests. (Luke 17:14). This was the command given by Our Lord to the ten lepers He had healed. This is also the command God gives to souls who have contracted the far more loathsome disease of spiritual leprosy - namely, sin. The priest has been appointed by Our Lord as a spiritual physician to heal the diseases of the soul. But to do so, the priest, like any other physician, must know the nature of the disease. In other words, he must know the sins that have been committed. The penitent, therefore, must make known to him the exact state of his soul. To gain this self-knowledge, it is undoubtedly necessary for the penitent to search seriously into his life since the time of his last Confession, reflecting upon his
thoughts, words, deeds and omissions. This inward scrutiny of oneself is called the Examination of Conscience. It should be performed with earnestness and care, mindful of the warning of St. Paul: But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Cor. 11:31).
A. FALSE CONSCIENCES AND
A diligent examination of conscience should bring clearly to the penitents mind his sins of thought, word, deed, desire and omission, according to their kind, their number and their relevant circumstances. In this examination, two faults are to be avoided: 1) Laxity (or remissness) and 2) Scrupulosity.
1. The Lax Conscience
A lax conscience is a false conscience. It is erroneous because it is easy-going and too broad-minded. It passes over grievous sins as of small consequence. Christ reproached the blind Pharisees for this fault, saying that they were Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. (Matt. 23:24). The lax conscience needs the fear of God, which Scripture tells us is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps. 110:10). The soul gives no thought to Gods omnipotence and retributive justice. It presumptuously and willfully deceives itself. Finally, it comes to regard grave matters as of slight importance. In this way, it places itself in very grave danger of being eternally lost.
As everyone should and must live according to a correct conscience, it is imperative to do away with all wrong attitudes, in order that this God-given mentor may be a safe guide in ones spiritual life. A person who has a lax conscience must endeavor to remedy it by meditating frequently on the enormity of sin and the shortness of life, on the Passion of Our Lord, and on the horrible and unending punishments of Hell. He should pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of true discernment regarding sin, for a holy and proper fear of God, for a true horror of sin, for sincere sorrow for his sins and for an abiding compunction of heart.
2. The Scrupulous
The scrupulous conscience is narrow-minded and timid. It is always in a state of confusion and perturbation. It is obscured, as it were, by a fog and is unable to discern between right and wrong, between sin and temptation. It persists in seeing grave moral evil where none exists. Sometimes scrupulosity is permitted as a visitation or trial from God, who in His inscrutable counsels allows it for the souls good and for His own greater glory. But God is the God of peace and love and does not will that souls should be disturbed for a long time by such a trial. Hence, when scrupulosity comes from God, it usually ceases after a time if the soul is humble and obedient.
Scruples may also be a temptation from the devil. In most cases, however, they proceed from purely natural causes. Certain conditions of mind and body nervousness, impaired health, melancholy may produce scruples. This disease of the conscience may reach a degree where the soul is no longer able to pass a calm and reasonable judgment on certain moral matters, or even on any question of right or wrong. A scrupulous person does not have the light to see things in their true aspect. Often he lacks humility and submissiveness to his spiritual guide and tends to self-sufficiency and selfwill. If so, he faces the danger of falling into the first error, laxity, and eventually his continued state of anxiety may affect his mind.
A scrupulous person needs to cultivate a
loving, childlike confidence in God and must obey his confessor unquestioningly.
Spiritual guides agree that unconditional obedience to the confessor is the most
necessary element in defeating scrupulosity, and it is oftentimes the only means
of deliverance. Meditation on Gods attributes of Goodness, Mercy and Love will
help the soul afflicted with scruples to attain confidence and trust in God.
Such a person should avoid idleness and all external circumstances which are apt
to produce or increase his scruples. Instead of minutely examining again and
small failing which he tends to exaggerate the scrupulous soul must regard its scruples as a little child reposing in the arms of its loving father would regard a dog barking fiercely on the ground below, for just as the dog cannot harm the child in the least so long as it remains in its fathers arms, so neither can scruples harm the soul so long as it honestly seeks to please God and relies on His love. By acts of love and trust in God, and by complete obedience to the confessor which must be emphasized again the soul usually can attain in time the peace of a true conscience.
3. The Doubtful
Oftentimes persons find themselves in a state of uncertainty as to whether or not an act they intend to perform is a sin. It is a moral principle that one is not permitted to act when in a state of real doubt. St. Paul says, For all that is not of faith is sin. (Rom. 14:23). If one is uncertain whether a particular act is sinful or not, it is sinful to perform such an act. The reason is that such a person thereby shows that he is just as ready to do wrong as to do right. Some degree of moral certainty that is to say, such as would be considered sufficient by an ordinarily prudent personis necessary.
As an example, let us take a doubt which might arise regarding the fast and abstinence on the vigil of a feast. (*This example is based on pre-1960 Church laws of fast and abstinence. Publisher, 2000) The person knows that the vigils of certain great feasts are days of fast and abstinence from meat, but the question arises in his mind whether or not the day before the Feast of the Ascension is such a day. If he ate meat on that day, assuming that the day was not a day of fast and abstinence, but he had taken no pains to find out for certain, he would sin thereby, even though fast and abstinence were not actually prescribed by the Church. His duty is to make sure, if he can, whether or not it is a day of fast and abstinence, and to act accordingly. This he could ordinarily do by inquiry or by referring to a Catholic calendar, though circumstances might arise where it would be impossible at the time to resolve the doubt. In this latter case, he should refrain from eating meat.
B. HOW TO MAKE A GOOD EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
One who goes to Confession frequently need not spend too much time in examining his conscience, wearying his mind to no purpose and giving scrupulosity a chance to gain a foothold. The examination should be calm, but earnest. The first step is earnest prayer to the Holy Spirit to ask for light and grace to know and detest ones sins. The examination should bring to mind the time of the last good Confession and whether or not the penance was performed. It should cover ones sins of thought, word, deed, desire and omission:
1) Against the Commandments of God,
2) Against the Precepts, or Laws, of the Church,
3) With regard to the Seven Capital Sins,
4) Regarding neglect of the duties of ones state of life, and
5) Concerning the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy omitted.
Those who examine their conscience every night and go frequently to Confession will readily remember any mortal sins that may have been committed. But for such as go to Confession rarely and are addicted to sinful habits, or have made a number of unworthy Confessions, more than a passing glance at their consciences is needed. Such persons ought to begin their self-examination a few days before going to Confession, remembering that this Confession may perhaps decide the fate of their soul for eternity. It would be very useful for them to follow a form of examination such as is given in this booklet on pages 52 to 67.
A sincere examination of conscience brings a person face to face with the many maladies and deplorable weaknesses of his soul. He has found out the number, kind and gravity of his sins, and this must fill him with confusion and make him exclaim with the publican: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13). Hence, he will pass from self-examination to contrition. Contrition is the key to Gods mercy and pardon. It is the most essential condition for a worthy reception of the Sacrament of Penance. Sin is a great evil. Even though at times it may affect the body, its chief effect is on the soul, for it separates the soul from God, either entirely (in the case of mortal sin), or partially (in the case of venial sin), by loosening the ties of our friendship with God.
To get back into Gods favor by Confession, the sinner must sincerely repent of his wrongdoing. He must be truly sorry from a supernatural motive and detest his sins with his whole heart, firmly resolving not to commit them again. Without this sorrow or contrition, there can be no pardon for sin. The priest has no power to absolve a sinner who does not have true contrition. If he attempted to do so, the absolution would be worthless. God Himself will not, and cannot, forgive anyone who is not sorry for his sins and fully determined not to offend Him again.
Contrition is defined by the Council of Trent as a sorrow of the soul and a detestation of the sins committed, with the firm determination not to sin again. (Sess. XIV, Cap. 4). Note that contrition is a sorrow of the soul not of the body. It does not consist in words, or in tears, or in an emotion, or in striking ones breast, or in mere outward signs.
A. THE QUALITIES OF
True Contrition has four qualities. It must be 1) Interior, 2) Supernatural, 3) Universal and 4) Sovereign.
Contrition is interior when it comes from the heart. Hence it is often called a heartfelt sorrow. It is not necessary to make violent efforts to excite this heartfelt sorrow, for such efforts often produce anxiety and result only in external show. Nor does being heartily sorry for sins mean that one should be troubled about them. Repentance and contrition are an effect of love of God; anxiety is an effect of self-love. True contrition is calm and humble. Sometimes it is a sensible sorrow, that is, a sorrow that makes itself felt; but this is not at all essential. Contrition is essentially an act of the will. A person has sufficient contrition when his sins displease him to such a degree that he is resolved not to commit them again, should the occasion present itself anew. St. Francis de Sales says that the ability to wish is a great power with God, and one has contrition by the simple fact that one wishes to have it.
Therefore, if the will is displeased above all things at having committed sin, and if one can say with the Psalmist: I have hated and abhorred iniquity (Ps. 118:163), the contrition is good and sufficient.
True contrition is supernatural. It is an actual grace of the Holy Spirit, and it is aroused by supernatural motives. The principal supernatural motives are:
1) The infinite goodness of God.
2) The suffering and death of Christ.
3) The loathsomeness of sin.
4) The everlasting reward lost by sin.
5) The everlasting punishment to which sin makes one liable.
Perfect contrition is sorrow which proceeds from a pure or perfect love of God, who is infinitely good and perfect in Himself and deserving of all our love. It is sorrow for sin because sin displeases God. Our Lord said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. (Matt. 22:37). These words contain the essence of perfect contrition, for as the Council of Trent declares, Perfect contrition is that which is conceived out of a motive of charity, namely, the love of God as He is in Himself, or on account of His goodness.
Effects of Perfect
Perfect contrition immediately cleanses the soul from all guilt of sin and reconciles it to God, even apart from the Sacrament of Penance. Perfect contrition always includes at least an implicit desire and intention to receive the Sacrament of Penance, and the obligation to confess all mortal sins still remains, even after one has made an act or acts of perfect contrition. One should note well that if one has committed a mortal sin, perfect contrition alone without the Sacrament of Penance is not sufficient before receiving Holy Communion. The person must first go to Sacramental Confession; otherwise, he commits a mortal sin of sacrilege.
Perfect contrition is necessary as a means of salvation for dying sinners (in the state of mortal sin) who have not received and cannot receive the Sacrament of Baptism (*Salvation under these circumstances presumes the gift of faith and Baptism of Desire. Publisher, 2000) and for dying sinners who, though baptized, cannot receive the Sacrament of Penance. Perfect contrition is the last and only key to Heaven for sinners at the hour of death (be they Catholic or non-Catholic) who cannot have recourse to the keys of mercy entrusted by God to His priests in the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction.
Perfect contrition, however, is not necessary for the valid reception of the Sacrament of Penance. Here, imperfect contrition (also sometimes called attrition) suffices. One ought, nevertheless, to strive to have perfect contrition, for the greater ones sorrow for sin, the more pleasing it is to God and the more temporal punishment is remitted at the reception of the Sacrament; the greater also is the penitents merit, the measure of which determines his degree of heavenly glory.
Theologians unanimously agree that merits which have been lost through mortal sin revive at the reception of the Sacrament of Penance. It is not certain, however, whether all the merits one possessed before sinning are restored, or whether these merits are increased or diminished. Saint Thomas is of the opinion that the merits are restored in proportion to the disposition of the penitent, so that sometimes the penitent rises in greater grace than he had before, sometimes in a lesser grace. Obviously, then, the more perfect ones contrition, the greater will be the measure of merit restored.
In the case of a person who has committed no mortal sins, perfect contrition (even outside of Confession) increases and more greatly secures the state of grace, remits the venial sins of which he repents, cancels temporal punishment due to sin, and strengthens and increases in the soul a true and steadfast love of God. How to Make Acts of Perfect Contrition Perfect contrition is a grace, a great grace, springing from the love and mercy of God. It must be earnestly sought for, not only when preparing for Confession, but habitually. O my God, give me the grace of true repentance, a perfect contrition for my sins, should be one of our most frequent prayers.
To dispose his soul for perfect contrition, one ought to place himself either in reality or in imagination before a Crucifix and look on the Wounds of Jesus, reflecting seriously for a short time on Who it is that suffers there, on the dreadful torments He endures, on the shame and sorrow that overwhelm this innocent Victim of sin, and on the infinite love with which this merciful Redeemer atoned for these sins. Then, with heart and lips, he may repeat slowly and fervently an act of contrition, such as that given on page 69.
Although, as stated above, it is better and more profitable to the soul to have perfect contrition in receiving the Sacrament of Penance, the second kind of supernatural contrition, which we call imperfect contrition, is sufficient for a good Confession. Imperfect contrition, also called attrition, is defined as that supernatural sorrow and hatred for sin which arises from reflection on the heinousness of sin, from dread of the loss of Heaven, or from fear of Hell and its torments. Hence, the motive of imperfect contrition is the fear of God and His judgments. Though imperfect contrition springs from a supernatural motive, it is lower than the motive of perfect contrition. Nevertheless, imperfect contrition proceeds from the grace of God and from motives springing from faith. It is therefore pleasing to God.
Imperfect contrition is more easily excited in the soul than perfect contrition because it is accessible to all who have even the least degree of faith. Even the greatest sinners can make an act of contrition arising from the fear of God or the dread of Hell. With such contrition, the pardon of sins may be obtained within the Sacrament of Penance.
The third requisite for contrition is that it be universal; that is, it must extend to all mortal sins without exception or reserve. Contrition is not genuine unless every mortal sin be detested. It is impossible for some mortal sins to be forgiven and others to remain unforgiven. All are pardoned, or none is pardoned. It is impossible for light and darkness to be in one and the same place. Hence, Sanctifying Grace and mortal sin cannot dwell together. If there be grace in the soul, there can be no mortal sin; and if there be mortal sin, there can be no grace, for mortal sin expels all grace. If Sanctifying Grace abides in the soul, the soul has a claim to Heaven. If the soul is in the state of mortal sin, it is headed for Hell. The sinner must therefore necessarily be sincerely sorry for all mortal sins if he wishes to be reconciled with God, for it is impossible to have a claim on both Heaven and Hell simultaneously; it is impossible to be a friend and an enemy of God at one and the same time.
In his epistle, St. James the Apostle states the principle thus: Whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all. (James 2:10). One single mortal sin retains the soul in the devils power. And since no mortal sin is forgiven without sorrow, contrition must extend to all mortal sins. This, of course, does not mean one must make a special act of contrition for each individual mortal sin. It is sufficient that the act of contrition embrace all the mortal sins committed. In the case of venial sins, however, contrition need not be universal, though of course it is desirable that it should be.
Venial sin does not make the soul an enemy of God, but only lessens its degree of friendship. This fact, however, should not make one minimize the grievousness of venial sin. A person may make a good Confession if he is truly sorry for some venial sins, even though he still has an attachment to others. But only those will be forgiven for which he is sorry. A Confession is valid and good, therefore, if sorrow exists for the principal venial sins, when there are no mortal sins to confess. But if there are both mortal sins and venial sins, the Confession is good even though one has sorrow only for the mortal sins. If the penitent has only venial sins to confess and is sorry for none of them, the Confession is invalid, that is to say, the sins are not forgiven though the Confession is not necessarily sacrilegious, for absolution was given on the presumption of the penitents having sorrow, whereas he did not.
Finally, contrition must be supreme or sovereign, which means that contrition for sin should be the greatest of all sorrows. It should exceed the sorrow caused by the loss of all earthly goods or friends, because sin is the greatest of all evils, bringing not a temporal, but an eternal loss to the soul. Yet as mentioned earlier, this sorrow does not have to be felt with the emotions. From these considerations, it is clear that in preparing for Confession special attention should be given to the act of contrition, which should always be made before entering the confessional to insure that one has true sorrow for his sins, because sorrow for ones sins is the principal requisite for receiving Gods forgiveness. In the confessional, the act of contrition should then be renewed, rather than made for the first time. Otherwise the penitent would run the risk of possibly not having true sorrow for sin, or of having only a vague sense of sorrow and not a firm purpose of amendment.
Relapses into Former
It is not to be concluded that a person was lacking in true contrition if he again falls into the same faults after Confession, for sin tends to become habitual and is often deeply ingrained in a persons behavior. Contrition is an act of a moment, and it is quite possible that bad habits and a certain affection for sin may cause a relapse, even though at the time of Confession one was firmly resolved not to commit sin again. Relapses into mortal sin that spring from a perverse will, however, must not be tolerated. They must be attacked in their root until they are conquered. They can be entirely overcome
through persistence in receiving the Sacraments of Confession and Communion worthily and through persistent and fervent prayer especially prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and especially through her holy Rosary for this intention. This combination is guaranteed to work if the penitent is genuinely sincere and is absolutely persistent in these devotions. In the case of impurity, it may be necessary for the penitent to go to Confession and Communion daily in order to overcome this sin. Our divine Lord Himself gave us the cue for success in overcoming sin when He said, The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent bear it away. (Matt. 11:12). In other words, one has to resort to every extremity to overcome certain types of mortal sin, in an effort to save his soul. And it is proper to do so! Ones confessor should readily understand and will even applaud such a valiant, determined effort.
After mortal sins, one must work at eradicating purposeful venial sins. But relapses into venial sin which proceed from inadvertence, from surprise, from the infirmity and frailty of human nature, can never be entirely overcome except by some special privilege from God. (Council of Trent, Sess. VI, can. 23). St. Francis de Sales says that if we rid ourselves of such faults a quarter of an hour before death, we shall do well.
III. PURPOSE OF
The third requisite for a good Confession is a firm purpose of amendment. This is intimately connected with sincere contrition, being its second element. A firm purpose of amendment is a resolution to avoid, by the grace of God, not only sin, but also the dangerous occasions of sin. The purpose of amendment should be firm, universal, efficacious and durable. It is firm when the penitent is disposed to avoid sin at any cost. Like contrition, a firm purpose of amendment is universal when it extends to all mortal sins; it is efficacious when the penitent earnestly endeavors to correct his evil habits and shuns all proximate or near occasions of sin; it is durable when it is lasting and is not a mere passing sentiment.
A. OCCASIONS OF SIN
An occasion of sin is any person, place or thing which ordinarily puts a person in danger of committing sin. Holy Scripture warns us: He that loveth danger shall perish in it. (Ecclus. 3:27). The occasion leads one into sin, or pressures one into committing sin. Therefore, in order to avoid sin, the occasion must be shunned. There are four kinds of occasions of sin: 1) near occasions, in which one generally falls; 2) remote occasions, in which one sometimes falls; 3) voluntary occasions, which one can avoid if one wills to do so; and 4) involuntary occasions, which one cannot avoid.
A person who is unwilling to avoid a near or a voluntary occasion of sin is not fittingly prepared to receive absolution and forgiveness of his sins. If the priest is aware of his imperfect dispositions, he will refuse absolution. Persons who are occasions of sin are those in whose company one usually falls into sin. Places are those locations where one usually falls into sin, such as taverns, theaters of ill repute, public beaches, dance halls, and all immoral resorts of any kind, whether one actually commits sin in them or not. Things that are occasions of sin are bad books, indecent pictures, immoral or lewd movies and videos, and suggestive songs, jokes, and the like. Our Saviour says of occasions of sin: If thy hand or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off and cast if from thee. It is better for thee to go into [eternal] life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. (Matt. 18:8).
B. PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT
MUST BE SPECIFIC
Though a firm purpose to lead a better life in the future is sufficient for a worthy Confession, a more specific resolution will be more fruitful. The more a person resolves to do battle against his besetting faults in a positive way, the more likely he is to succeed. His resolution will be more effective. Instead of saying, I am going to avoid sin in the future and practice virtue, one ought to resolve to stay away from this or that particular place or thing which led him into sin. Then he must also make definite, positive efforts to overcome his habitual sins, and even impose upon himself a small penance to be performed when he finds he has failed in a particular matter. Another effective means is to resolve to perform the contrary act of virtue a certain number of times a day, in order to establish oneself in the habit and to lessen the possibility of offending in that point again.
Prayer especially the prayer of the Holy Rosary ought always to accompany our efforts to overcome our faults, for all depends on Gods grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. God Himself tells us, Without Me, you can do nothing. (John 15:5). Even though a person may have misgivings about a relapse because of his weakness, or even if he does actually fall, it is not an indication that his purpose of amendment was not sincere. Like contrition, this depends, as we said, on his good will. A firm purpose of amendment is neither a simple wish nor a positive knowledge, but an earnest determination to do ones best to avoid sin in the future. Firm confidence in Gods help when difficulties arise will be of immense value in successfully overcoming temptations.
IV. CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION
A. THE CONFESSION OF
Confession is the fourth condition required of the penitent for the forgiveness of his sins. The word confession comes from the Latin word confessio, which means an acknowledgment, a manifestation. Sacramental Confession, therefore, is the manifestation or acknowledgment of ones sins to a priest, who is duly authorized by the bishop of the diocese for the purpose of granting forgiveness in Confession. The Sacrament of Penance is a Sacrament of mercy. It should be approached with confidence and peace of heart. It has two component parts: 1) the Confession proper, that is, the penitents telling of his sins; and 2) the Absolution or pardon imparted by the priest...
THE GOLDEN KEY TO
FATHER AUGUSTINE LEHMKUHL, S.J.
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
FROM THE FRENCH VERSION OF FATHER SIMON
PUBLICATION YEAR 1930
This little book is as valuable as lengthy treatises, as much for the sovereign importance of the
subject that it discusses (a subject, sadly, very little known by most Christians) as for the abundance of
doctrines and the interest of its practical applications. "The Great Means of Salvation," such is the title
that St. Alphonsus de Liguori gave to a tract on prayer published with many other works from his pen.
And so great was his confidence in the efficacy and the power of prayer to assure the salvation of
souls, that he would have wished, said he, to see his little book in the hands of everyone. About the
exercise of the love of God and of perfect contrition, we can say, with just as much truth, that they are
"the great means of salvation," because between an act of charity or perfect contrition and the
acquisition of eternal life, the connection is more intimate and even closer than between prayer and
Consequently, I would like to see this little work, like St. Alphonsus' own, in the hands of everyone,
convinced as I am that the careful reading of it and putting into practice its teachings would open the
gates of heaven to a multitude of souls in danger of eternal damnation without it, and it would increase,
in a marvelous way, the grace of God in those who have been faithful since their baptism.
Every Christian ought to be soundly instructed about the capital importance of the act of perfect
contrition and of charity on account of the inestimable services that such knowledge can render us at
the hour of our death and allow us to render at the deathbed of a dying person, to whom Providence
might lead us. No one, even in good heath, should forget this truth. But it is desirable overall that
everyone cherish it deeply engraved in his heart for the hours of infirmity and the perils of death.
May it please God that this pamphlet be distributed as far and wide as possible. There is no doubt
that its reading will be accompanied by abundant blessings.
FATHER AUGUSTINE LEHMKUHL, S. J.
This succinct little work was providentially found in a decrepit seventy-five-year-old copy published
in French. It is unquestionably the most important matter a Catholic, or anyone for that matter, could
ever read - the key to heaven indeed. Knowledge of perfect contrition is more important today than
ever before, the sacrament of penance having been all but been obliterated by enemies within the
Church and true confessors ever fewer and farther between.
See, on reading this Essay, how perfect contrition is even for those not baptized, nothing less
then baptism of desire (in voto). In the words of the prophet, one cannot but exclaim that "the Lord
your God is gracious and merciful, patient and ready to repent of evil" (Joel 2, 13). Where perfect
contrition is, there is charity, and where charity is, there is sanctifying grace. This grace, as the Angelic
Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, is not limited to the sacraments, the visible signs and causes of
grace. And whoever dies in the state of grace is saved, as surely as those who die without it are lost.
The pamphlet, however, has no polemical intent, but is solely for those who, for ignorance of perfect
contrition, stand to despair of forgiveness at the hour of death.
It is our prayer that everyone who reads this booklet will procure a supply for himself and give
copies to all his family and friends, that a translator for it may be found in every language, and that it
may reach to the ends of the earth. Indeed, may its propagation become a veritable apostolate for every
true Catholic. How many souls stand thereby to be saved, and what a rich reward for oneself in such an
apostolate! "Charity covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4, 8).
~ THE MOST REVEREND ROBERT F. MCKENNA, O.P.
Upon seeing the little book The Golden Key to Paradise, you will, dear reader, experience, I
surmise, the curiosity of seeing whether the content matches the title. Perhaps some mistrust will
inspire you, and you will ask with misgiving if you are dealing with one of those so-called sensational
and foolproof pieces of mass-market literature.
Well, then, dear reader, no, it is a genuine and tangible key, and certainly, easy to handle: it is
perfect contrition. It can open heaven for you, every day, at every moment, if you have had the
misfortune to close it through mortal sin, and especially if, at the hour of death, you do not have by
your side a priest, the dispenser of divine mercy. Perfect contrition will be the last key that, with the
grace of God, will open heaven for you. However, to do so, you must have gained the habit of
employing it effectively during your life. How many souls, thanks to perfect contrition, have been
assured of heaven, who without it would have been irremediably lost! "If I were able to traverse the
countryside preaching the divine word," said the learned and pious Cardinal Franzelin, "my favorite
sermon topic would be perfect contrition."
WHAT IS CONTRITION?
Contrition is a pain of the soul and a hatred for sins committed. It must be accompanied by a good
purpose, that is to say, a firm resolution to correct oneself and to sin no more.
In order for contrition to be real, it is necessary that it be interior, that it come from the depths of the
heart; it must not then be a simple formula uttered without reflection. It is not necessary to show it
either by sighs or tears etc. All those displays may be an indicator, but they are not the essence of
contrition. That resides in the soul and in the will determined to flee from sin and return to God.
Beyond that, contrition must be universal, that is to say, it must be understood of all sins committed
- at least of all mortal sins. Finally, it must be supernatural and not purely natural, for that has no use.
This is why contrition, like every other good thing, must come from God and from His grace. Only the
grace of God can engender it in us. However, God always grants us the necessary grace provided that
we ask it of Him, provided that we possess good will and a sincere and supernatural repentance.
If our repentance is based on a motive of interest, or for a purely natural reason (i.e. temporal evils,
shame, or illness), we shall have only natural contrition without merit. However, if it is based on some
truth of the faith (i.e. hell, purgatory, heaven, God, etc.), then we will truly possess a supernatural
This supernatural contrition can be, in turn, perfect or imperfect and here we are come to our topic of
WHAT, THEN, IS PERFECT CONTRITION?
In a few words, perfect contrition is contrition based on the motive of love, and imperfect contrition
is that which is based on the fear of God.
Perfect contrition is that which flows from the perfect love of God. Now, our love of God is perfect
if we love Him because He is infinitely perfect, infinitely beautiful, and infinitely good (love of
benevolence) or because He has shown us His love in such an admirable way (love of gratitude). Our
love of God is imperfect, if we love Him because we expect something from Him.
Accordingly, in imperfect love, we think above all about the favors received, and in perfect love, we
think above all of the goodness of the One who bestows these favors. Imperfect love makes us
preferably love the favor itself, whereas perfect love makes us love the Author of these favors, and that
less for His gifts than for the love and the goodness that these gifts manifest.
From love, contrition flows. As a result, our contrition will be perfect, if we repent of our sins for
the sake of the perfect love of God, whether from benevolence or from gratitude. It will be imperfect,
if we repent of our faults owing to the fear of God, whether because sin has made us lose the reward
that we have been promised, viz., heaven; or because we have earned the punishment imposed on the
sinner, viz., hell or purgatory.
In imperfect contrition, we think particularly about ourselves and about the evils that sin brings to
us, according to the light of faith. In perfect contrition, we especially think of God, His greatness, His
beauty, His love, and His goodness; we consider sin an offense and that it has been the cause of the
many sufferings endured to redeem us. We wish not only our own good, but that of God.
An example will help us grasp it better. When St. Peter had denied our Savior, "he went forth and
wept bitterly." Why did he weep? Was it for the shame that he was going to endure in front of the other
Apostles? In such a circumstance, it would have been a purely natural pain and without merit. Is it
because his divine Master is perhaps going to strip him of his dignity as an Apostle and Supreme
Pastor, or drive him from His kingdom? In this case, the contrition would be good, but imperfect. No
indeed! He repents, he weeps because he has offended his beloved Master, so good, so holy, and so
worthy of love. He weeps because he has responded to that immense love with base ingratitude, and
that is perfect contrition.
Now, don't you, too, dear reader, have the same motive as St. Peter to detest your sins, for the sake
of love, for the sake of perfect love, and for the sake of gratitude?
Without any doubt, God's favors are more numerous than the hairs on your head and every one of
them should make you repeat the words of St. John: "Let us love God, because He first loved us" (1
John, 4, 19).
And how has He loved you?
"I have loved thee," says God Himself, "with an everlasting love, I have had pity on thee and I have
drawn thee to me" (Jer. 31, 3).
"With an everlasting love I have loved thee."
From all eternity, before there was even a trace of you upon the earth, He cast upon you this look of
love that penetrates everything. He prepared for you a soul and a body, heaven and earth, with all the
tenderness of a mother who prepares to welcome the child who is going to come into the world. It is
God Who has given you life and heath; it is He Who gives you the good things of nature every day.
This idea was sufficient for the pagans themselves to bring them to the knowledge and the perfect
love of God. For a greater reason, it should bring you there - you a Christian who possesses the love
and the supernatural goodness of God for you. Through the prophet He says, "I have had pity on you."
You were condemned like all men as a result of original sin; God sent His only Son who became your
Savior and redeemed you with His blood by dying on the cross.
It was of you that He lovingly thought in His agony in the Garden of Olives, when He shed His
blood under the whips and the thorns, when He followed, carrying His cross, the long and painful path
of Calvary; when, nailed upon the cross, He expired in the midst of ghastly torments, it was of you that
He thought, with a tender love, as if you had been the only person in the world. What shall we make of
that? "Let us love God, because He loved us first."
Moreover, God drew you to Himself by baptism, which is the first and chief grace of life, and by the
Church, in whose bosom you were then incorporated. How many men have been able to attain the true
faith only through the strength of effort and sufferings! But to you, God gave it to you from the cradle,
out of pure love. He drew you to Himself, He draws you every day by means of the sacraments and by
numberless graces, interior and exterior, with which He showers you. You are, as it were, submerged
in an ocean, the ocean of goodness and divine love, and He wishes again to crown all these graces by
placing you near Him and making you eternally happy. What will you give Him for such love? Isn't it
true that you must make a return for these advances? Then let us love our God, since He loved us first.
Let us come to the point: How have you responded to the love of a God so lovable and so good?
Without doubt, by your ingratitude and by your sins. But do you repent of this ingratitude? Ah, yes,
without any doubt, and you burn with a desire to make amends for it by a limitless love. Well, then, if
that is so, you have at this moment perfect contrition, that which is based on the love of God and which
is called contrition of love or of charity.
But in contrition of charity itself, there is a degree, more elevated yet, that consists in purely loving
God, because He is infinitely glorious, infinitely perfect, and worthy of being loved, the abstraction of
His mercy for us. Let us make a comparison. There are, in the firmament, a number of stars so distant
from us that we cannot perceive them, and yet they are all as large and as bright as the sun that so
freely imparts to us warmth and life. Likewise, suppose that man had never been in possession of this
eternal star that is God's love. Suppose that God had created neither the world nor any creature: He
would be no less great, no less beautiful, no less glorious, no less worthy of being loved, for He is
Himself and in regard to Himself the greatest good, the most perfect, and me most lovable.
Such is the sense of the formula: I am heartily sorry...because You are infinitely lovable and You
deplore sin. Reflect a moment and consider God's love; especially contemplate the Savior's bitter
sufferings. In this light, you will easily understand, and it will pierce your heart through.
Here, then, are the practical means to achieve perfect contrition.
HOW DO YOU OBTAIN PERFECT CONTRITION?
You must recall first of all that perfect contrition is a grace, and a great grace, from the mercy of
God. You must ask it of Him earnestly. Ask it of Him, not only at the moment when you wish to make
an act of contrition, but frequently. It should be the object of our most ardent desires. Therefore, repeat
often, "My God, grant me perfect contrition for all my sins." Our Lord will grant your prayer, if He
sees in you a sincere desire to please Him.
That said, here is how you will easily be able to make a perfect act of contrition. Cast yourself at the
foot of a crucifix, either at church or in your room, where you imagine yourself in the presence of
Jesus crucified, and, in the sight of His wounds, meditate with devotion for a few moments and say to
yourself: "Who, then, is nailed on this cross? It is Jesus, my God and my Savior. What does He suffer?
His mangled body covered with wounds shows the most terrible torments. His soul is soaked with
pains and insults. Why does He suffer? For men's sins and also for my own. In the midst of His
bitterness, He remembers me, He suffers for me. He wishes to expiate my sins." Stop there, while the
ever-warm blood of your sweet Savior falls drop by drop upon your soul. Ask yourself how you
responded to your lovable Savior's tokens of tenderness. Recall your sins and, forgetting for a moment
heaven and hell, repent especially because they are your sins that have reduced your Savior to such a
state. Promise Him no longer to nail Him to the cross with new sin, and lastly, recite, slowly and with
fervor, an act of contrition.
The act of contrition may be expressed in many ways, according to the feelings of each penitent.
Below is one of the most well known:
"My Lord and my God, I repent from the depth of my heart of all the sins of my life because by
them I have earned the punishments of Thy justice, in this life and for eternity; because I have
answered Thy favors with my ingratitude; but especially because by them I have offended Thee, Who
art infinitely good and infinitely worthy of being loved. I firmly resolve to amend my ways and to sin
no more. Grant me the grace to be faithful to my purpose. So be it."
In this prayer, we express three motives of contrition: the first is imperfect contrition and the next
two are perfect contrition. Nothing prevents us, in effect, from linking these two kinds of contrition;
the first leads us so much the more easily to the second.
1. "Because by them I have earned the punishments of Thy justice...." This pertains to imperfect
2. "Because I have answered Thy favors with my ingratitude...." This is a motive that approaches
perfect contrition and is joined with it, for if I have the sincere regret of having answered God's love by
my ingratitude and my sins, I would necessarily wish to make amends for this ingratitude by my love.
Now, he who, by a motive of love, regrets having offended his benefactor, truly possesses perfect
contrition, or contrition of charity.
3. "But especially because by them I have offended Thee...." Reread the above prayer and you
will understand the meaning of these words. There you will see, clearly expressed, love and perfect
contrition. To obtain it more easily, add the following words to your act of contrition, either orally or
from your heart:
"But especially because, by my sins I have offended Thee, Who art infinitely good and infinitely
worthy of being loved. Who art my Savior, and who died upon the cross for my sins."
Afterwards comes your resolve: "I firmly resolve to amend my ways and to sin no more...."
But you will say, this is easy for someone else, but for me it is something too lofty and almost
impossible. Do you think this is true? Don't you believe it!
IS IT DIFFICULT TO MAKE A PERFECT ACT OF CONTRITION?
Without a doubt, the act of perfect contrition is more difficult than the act of imperfect contrition
required for confession. However, there is no one who, with God's grace, cannot obtain perfect
contrition, provided he desires it sincerely. Contrition is in the will and not in the sentiment, though
even without tears its intensity should have some proportion to the sin or sins we have committed.
Moreover, and this is a very proper consideration to give us encouragement, before the time of our
Lord, in the ancient law perfect contrition was, for 4,000 years, the only means of obtaining
forgiveness of sins. Again, in our times, there exists no other form of forgiveness for thousands of
pagans and heretics. Now, it is true that God does not wish the death of the sinner; He cannot wish to
impose a perfect contrition impossible to attain. Contrition must, on the contrary, be within the range
of all men. Well, then, if so many unfortunates who live and die can obtain this perfect contrition far
from (though through no fault of their own) the stream of grace and the Catholic Church, is perfect
contrition so difficult for you who have the good fortune of being Christian and Catholic, who are the
object of much greater graces and who are better taught than these poor infidels?
I will go further. Often, without your suspecting it, you have perfect contrition. For instance, when
you devoutly hear holy Mass, when you make with fervor the Stations of the Cross, when you meditate
with devotion in front of an image of Jesus crucified or of His divine Heart.
Some words often suffice to express the most ardent love and the sincerest contrition. Some of these
are, for example, the ejaculatory prayers: "My God and my all"; "My Jesus, mercy"; "My God, I love
Thee above all things"; "My God, have pity upon me, a poor sinner"; "My Jesus, I love Thee."
WHAT EFFECTS DOES PERFECT CONTRITION PRODUCE?
Some truly admirable effects! For the sinner, thanks to perfect contrition, he immediately receives
forgiveness for each of his faults even before making his confession. Nevertheless, he must make a
resolution to confess himself at an opportune time; of course, this resolution is included in perfect
contrition. Every time he makes an act of perfect contrition, the pains of hell are immediately remitted,
he recovers all his past merits, and he turns from being an enemy of God to being His son by adoption
and co-heir to heaven.
For the just man, perfect contrition enlarges and strengthens the state of grace. It erases the venial
sins he has detested, and increases in him the true and sound love of God. Here are the marvelous
effects of divine mercy in the soul of the Christian owing to perfect contrition. Perhaps, they may
appear unbelievable to you. Undoubtedly, you think, in danger of death, we should ask for contrition;
but is it credible that at every moment perfect contrition produces such effects? Is this teaching
concerning perfect contrition well founded?
I answer you that it is as solid as the rock upon which me Church is built and as certain as the very
word of God. At the Council of Trent, the Church, in explaining the chief truths disputed by the
heretics, declares (Session xiv, Chap. 4) that perfect contrition, that which proceeds from the love of
God, justifies man and reconciles him to God, even before the reception of the sacrament of penance.
Now, the Council nowhere says that this is only in danger of death. Therefore, perfect contrition at all
times produces this effect. Besides, in that the Church relies on the words of Jesus: "If anyone love
me" - and with perfect contrition we truly love Him - " my Father will love him, and we will come to
him and make our abode in him" (St. John 14, 23). God cannot live in a soul stained by sin. Perfect
contrition or the contrition of charity accordingly wipes away sins.
Such has always been the teaching of the Church, the holy Fathers, and her doctors: Baius has
been condemned for having maintained the contrary. In fact, if, as we said just now, perfect contrition
must have brought forth such admirable effects in the Old Testament, in the era of the law of fear, it
will all the more produce these effects in the New Testament, where the law of love reigns.
But then, someone will say, if perfect contrition wipes away sin, what good is it to confess it
afterwards? It is true that perfect contrition produces the same effects as confession, but it does not
affect them independently of the sacrament of penance, since perfect contrition precisely supposes a
firm purpose to confess the same sins that it has just pardoned. For, to confess all sins, at least the
mortal ones, is a law of Jesus Christ and a law that cannot change.
Is it necessary to confess one's sins as soon as possible after the act of contrition?
Very strictly speaking, that is not necessary, but I strongly urge you to do so. You will thus be all the
more sure of being forgiven and you will obtain, at the same time, the precious graces attached to the
sacrament of penance, those that are called the sacramental graces. Perhaps, now, you will be tempted
to say to yourself: "If it is easy to obtain the remission of sins through perfect contrition, I do not have
to trouble myself about confession. I will sin without scruple, and I will be discharged of the debt of
sin by an act of perfect contrition!" Anyone who would think in such a way will not have even a
shadow of perfect contrition. He would not love God above everything, since he would not have the
serious desire to break with sin and change his life, the condition required equally by confession and
perfect contrition. He could well fool himself, but he could never fool God. He who truly has perfect
contrition is entirely resolved to renounce mortal sin. He will cleanse himself as soon as possible in the
sacrament of Penance, and, by his good will aided by the grace of God, he will keep himself from sin,
and he will strengthen himself more and more in the happy state as a child of God.
Perfect contrition is a great aid for those who loyally and sincerely wish to recover and preserve the
state of grace, and especially for those who fall into sin from habit, i.e., who, in spite of their good will,
lapse again from time to time owing to their bad habits and their own weakness. It is, however, entirely
different for those who use perfect contrition as a means of sinning with impunity: they turn the divine
remedy of perfect repentance into a hellish poison.
Don't be among the latter, my dear reader, and don't allow so precious a grace to serve you ill.
WHY IS PERFECT CONTRITION SO IMPORTANT
AND SOMETIMES EVEN NECESSARY?
It is important throughout our life and at the moment of our death.
First and foremost, it is important during our life. What, in reality, is more important than grace? It
beautifies our soul; it penetrates it and transforms it into a creature of a new order by making it a child
of God and heir to heaven. It renders all the works and sufferings of the Christian worthy of eternal
life, it is the magic wand that changes all into gold - into the gold of supernatural merits. What, on the
contrary, is sadder than a Christian in the state of sin! All his sufferings, all his works, all his prayers
remain barren, without any merit for heaven. He is an enemy of God, and if he dies, he goes to hell.
The state of grace, therefore, is of capital importance and necessary to the Christian.
If you have lost grace, you can recover it in two ways:
(1) by confession,
(2) by perfect contrition.
Confession is the ordinary means, but since it is not always available, God has given us an
extraordinary means: perfect contrition.
Let us suppose that one day you have the misfortune to commit a mortal sin. After the worries of
the day, in the quiet of the night your conscience awakens; it condemns you forcefully, and you are in
agony. What are you to do? Well, then, God puts in your hands the golden key, which will open for
you the gates of heaven. Repent of your sins intensely, for the love of the good and bountiful God.
On the contrary, how much is to be pitied the Christian who ignores the practice of perfect
contrition. He goes to bed and rises in the state of mortal sin. He lives in this manner two, three, four or
more months, from year to year, perhaps. The dark night in which he is shrouded is not for one
moment interrupted after confession. A sad state, to live almost always in mortal sin, as an enemy of
God, without any merit for heaven and in danger of eternal damnation!
Another benefit: if before receiving a sacrament, say Confirmation or Matrimony, for instance, you
recall an unpardoned sin, perfect contrition allows you to receive this sacrament worthily. Only for
Communion is confession required.
Even for a Christian in a state of grace, the frequent practice of perfect contrition is very useful.
First, we are never certain of being in a state of grace. Now, every act of perfect contrition increases
this certainty. It often occurs to us to wonder whether we have given in to temptation. Such doubts
delay and discourage the soul on the path of virtue. What are we then to do? Scrutinize ourselves if we
have or have not consented to temptation? This would be fruitless. Make an act of perfect contrition
and be at ease.
Even supposing that we possessed certainty of being in a state of grace, perfect contrition will still
be very useful to us. Each act of perfect contrition increases grace and an ounce of grace is worth more
than all the treasures in the world. Each act of perfect contrition erases the venial sins that disfigure the
soul; thus the soul grows more and more beautiful. Each act of perfect contrition remits temporal
punishment due to sin. Let us remember the words of the Savior regarding Mary Magdalene: "Many
sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much" (St. Luke 7, 47). And if this forgiveness of
temporal punishment makes us appreciate and value indulgences, good works, almsgiving, charity
toward God, which is the queen of the virtues, it stands in the first rank of these good works.
Lastly, with each act of perfect contrition and of love, our soul strengthens itself in good, and thus it
has firm confidence of obtaining the paramount grace of final perseverance.
The practice of perfect contrition is, therefore, very important during our life, but most especially at
the hour of our death and above all if we are in danger of sudden death.
One day, a large fire broke out in a heavily populated city, and many were found dead. Among the
many persons who cried out in the courtyard of a house, a twelve-year-old child, on his knees, begged
for the grace of contrition; then he entreated his companions to pray with him. Entirely hapless,
perhaps they owed him their salvation.
Now, similar dangers threaten us at every moment and at the time when we least think about them.
You can be the victim of some accident, fall out of a tree, be run over by a train or a bus; you can be
taken unawares at night by a fire in your bedroom; you can make a misstep on a stairway or fall in the
midst of your work. They carry you away, dying. They run to look for a priest, but the priest is late in
coming, and the time is short. What do you do? Immediately make an act of perfect contrition. Repent
mightily out of love and gratitude to God and Jesus Christ crucified. Perfect contrition will have
afforded you the key to heaven.
It is not the case that it is lawful for everyone to wait until the last hour in the hope of being free
from every sin by means of a simple act of perfect contrition. It is very doubtful, in fact, that perfect
contrition can avail those who have misused it in order to sin. The benefits detailed are chiefly for
those who have good will.
"But," you will ask me, "will I have the time to make an act of perfect contrition?" Yes, with God's
grace. Perfect contrition does not require much time, especially if, during your life, you have practiced
it often. It takes only an instant to make it from the depths of your soul. Besides, God's grace is more
efficacious at the moment of danger, and our mind is much more active. At death's door, the seconds
seem like hours. I speak from personal experience.
On July 20, 1886, I came very close to death. It was a matter of eight to ten seconds of pain, the time
it takes to pray half an Our Father. In this very brief moment, thousands of thoughts crossed my mind.
My whole life passed before me with an unimaginable speed; at the same time I thought of what was in
store for me after death. All that, I repeat, happened during the short period of half a Pater. Fortunately,
my life was spared. God thus willed it so that I could write The Key to Heaven. Well! The first thing I
had to do in such a danger was to make what they taught us in catechism - an act of contrition - and to
have recourse to God in seeking His protection. Truly, it was then that I learned to love and treasure, as
is proper, perfect contrition.
Afterward, I made it known and prized everywhere when I had the
opportunity. What a loss that people do not better understand its importance in this last moment!
Everyone rushes about; they do not understand the tears and cries; they lose their heads; they go to find
the doctor or the priest; they bring fresh water and all the remedies that they secretly possess. And
while the sick person is in agony, no one, perhaps, has pity on his immortal soul; no one suggests to
him to make an act of perfect contrition. If you find yourself in a similar situation, hasten to the side of
the dying person and, calmly and serenely presenting to him, if possible, the image of Jesus crucified,
with a sure and firm voice, tell him to think and to repeat from the depths of his soul what you are
about to say. Then slowly and clearly recite the act of contrition even though it would appear that the
sick person understands and comprehends nothing. You will have done a supremely good work that
will earn you his eternal gratitude.
Even if you are dealing with a heretic, help him in his last moments in the same way. It is not
necessary to speak to him about confession. Urge him to make an act of love of God and of Jesus
crucified in slowly reciting to him the act of contrition.
WHEN SHOULD YOU MAKE AN ACT OF CONTRITION?
If you have carefully followed me up to this point, dear reader, let me at once ask this of you: for
God and your soul, every evening do not fail to make an act of contrition along with your prayers.
Assuredly, it is not a sin to leave it out sometimes, but what I offer is good and useful advice. Do not
say that the examination of conscience and perfect contrition are good for priests and for perfect souls;
do not say, "I don't have time. In the evening, I am too tired!"
How much time do you need? A half hour? Fifteen minutes? No, a few minutes will suffice. Don't
you say some prayers lying in your bed? Well, after praying, think a few moments about the faults and
the sins of that day and recite slowly and fervently, at the foot of the crucifix, the act of contrition.
Start this evening, and you will not regret it.
If you should ever have the misfortune to commit a mortal sin, do not remain in this state. Restore
yourself by perfect contrition. Restore yourself at once, or at least at your evening prayers, and without
delay go to confession.
Finally, dear reader, sooner or later the hour of death will strike for you, and if, God forbid, it comes
unexpectedly, you know the remedy; you know where to find the key to heaven.
If you do have the time to prepare yourself, may your last action be an act of love toward God, your
Creator, your Redeemer, your Savior, a sincere and perfect act of contrition for all the sins of your life.
After that, throw yourself into the arms of divine mercy.
And now I leave you, dear reader. Reread this little book, and put it into practice. Cherish perfect
contrition; practice this precious means of obtaining grace, which Providence has placed in your hands.
In sum, the true key to heaven.