Perfect Contrition: “The Golden Key of Paradise”

“If I could wander through the country preaching the Word of God, my favourite theme would be perfect contrition.”

– Cardinal Franzehin

(Quotes taken largely from ‘Perfect Contrition’ by Fr. Rev. J. Von Den Driesch)

If there existed a cure to cancer, who among us would not be thankful?! Well, Perfect Contrition provides us with much more than that; it frees us from eternal death and opens to us eternal life and joy!


Before explaining this beautiful gift of God, it must be known that we can only profit from it if we are sincerely sorrow for all mortal sins, such as those listed by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10. Other sins could be added to this list, such as those found in this online Catechism:

Reading this Catechism makes one more aware of sin, which is deadly. And how can we avoid sin if we are unaware of it! Believe the saints: something as simple as spiritual reading could save your soul. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14) Do you know God’s commandments? Read the Catechism, dear friend!


Now, back to Perfect Contrition!

What is Perfect Contrition?

“It is perfect when we are sorry through love of Him… we are sorry because sin offends God, Who is so good and infinitely loveable… It is like a child repenting of a fault because it has grieved its parents, who are so good and loving, and have done so much for it.”

What is the fruit of Perfect Contrition?

“In the Council of Trent, the Church, under the assistance of the Holy Ghost, declared ‘that Perfect Contrition — that is, that which proceeds from the love of God — justifies man and reconciles him with God even before the reception of the Sacrament of Penance.’ Of course, it is understood that such a person, if a Catholic, has at least the implicit intention of going to Confession.”

Who can make an act of Perfect Contrition? 

“… there is no one who, if he sincerely wishes it, cannot, with the grace of God, make an act of Perfect Contrition. Sorrow is in the will, not in the senses or feelings. All that is needed is that we repent because we love God above everything else; that is all. True it is that perfect contrition has its degrees, but it is none the less perfect because it does not reach the intensity and the sublimity of the sorrow of St. Peter, of St. Mary Magdalene, or of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Such a degree is desirable, but it is by no means necessary. A lesser degree, but, provided it proceeds from the love of God, and not through fear of His punishments is quite sufficient.”

How to Obtain Perfect Contrition.

“First of all we must bear in mind that perfect contrition is a grace- a great grace- from God. We should therefore constantly pray for it. Ask for it, not only when you wish to make an Act of Contrition, but often during the day. It should be the object of your most ardent desires. Repeat often, “My God! give me perfect sorrow for my sins!” And if you sincerely mean what you say, Our Lord will hear your prayer.”

“Remain there at the foot of the Cross while the Blood of your Saviour falls drop by drop upon your soul. Ask yourself how you have corresponded with these proofs of love. Call to mind your past sins, and forgetting for a moment both Heaven and Hell, repent because your sins have reduced your Saviour to so pitiable a state. Promise Him that you will not crucify Him again, and then slowly and fervently repeat the Act of Contrition. Better still, repeat those wards of sorrow that will spontaneously rise up in your heart, now softened by grace and filled with a holy bitterness.”

“Do you wish to know an easy way of exciting yourselves to true sorrow for your sins? Make three little visits- the first above (Heaven), the second below (Hell), the third in the middle (Calvary).” – St Charles Borromeo

Perfect Contrition is not uncommon.

“Often, very often, without even thinking of it, you have Perfect Contrition for your sins. For example, when you hear Mass devoutly or make the Stations of the Cross properly; when you reflect before your crucifix or an image of the Sacred Heart. What is more, every time you say the ‘Our Father’, in the first three petitions you make three acts of perfect charity, each of which is sufficient to cancel every sin from your soul.

Perfect Contrition could save our soul!

“Suppose, which God forbid, that someday you have the misfortune of committing a mortal sin. After the distractions of the day, when you are at home in the quiet of the evening, your conscience will begin to trouble you, you will begin to feel ill at ease, and perhaps frightened, and with very good reason, too. What are you to do? God places in your hands the golden key that will reopen for you the Gates of Heaven that you closed during the day. Make an act of contrition from the motive of the love of God: resolve to sin no more, and go to Confession when you can; then go peacefully to bed. You are at peace with God, and if you die during the night you will be saved.”

Perfect Contrition weakens scrupulosity.

“Again, if often happens that we are in doubt as to whether we have given consent to a temptation or not. What are we to do? Examine our conscience? This is useless for it will only bring the temptation back again, especially if against holy purity; and, moreover, we will never decide whether we have consented or not. No; make an Act of Perfect Contrition, as St. Francis de Sales was accustomed to do, and worry no more… Finally, every act of contrition strengthens our souls, and so increases our confidence of obtaining the greatest of all graces- final perseverance.”

A formula for Perfect Contrition.

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, because Thou art so very good, and I firmly purpose by the help of Thy grace not to offend Thee again.”

Perfect Contrition helps us to achieve great Holiness. 

“The English spiritual writer, Fr. Faber, narrates how for a long time he was puzzled by the fact that so many persons have lofty and sincere aspirations after high perfection, and so few reach it. . . . This must have a common cause. What is it? After long years of inquiries, reflection, and hesitations he came to the persuasion that the common cause of all failure in perfection is the Want of Abiding Sorrow for Sin. He adds, “All holiness has lost its principle of growth if it is separated from abiding sorrow for sin,” while on the contrary, “No vocation will he frustrated by a soul in which there is this abiding sorrow for sin.”

Encouraging examples of Perfect Contrition.

+ It is related in the life of the Curé d’Ars that on one occasion, a lady, a perfect stranger to him, asked him to pray for her husband, a careless Catholic, who had just died suddenly and without receiving the Sacraments. “He was so careless, Father,” she said, weeping; “he did not go to his duties, and whatever will become of him?” “Madam,” replied the saintly priest, “do you not remember the bouquet of flowers he picked every Saturday to decorate Our Lady’s altar? In return Our Blessed Lady obtained for him the grace to make an act of Perfect Contrition before dying, and he is saved.”

+ Take, again, the case of Mary Magdalen — a public sinner. She did not even say one word, but simply wept at the Feet of Jesus. Jesus saw the sorrow in her heart, and, turning to her, said: “Woman! because you have loved much your sins are forgiven you.” See, then, how little is needed — only to love God above everything. And love demands neither time nor trouble; it suffices to think of Jesus crucified, for it is impossible then not to love Him, and to be sorry for the sins by which we have crucified Him.

+ Remember the good thief — a robber condemned to death — and yet for those few words spoken from his heart, “Lord, remember me when You shall come into Your Kingdom,” he was immediately promised Heaven by Christ Himself: “Today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

+ Visiting a criminal condemned to death, St. Michael Garicoits insisted: “My friend, you are in a good situation. Cast yourself upon the bosom of Divine Mercy with utter confidence. Say, ‘My God, have pity on me!’ and you will be saved!”

+ Lastly, look at Saint Peter, who denied his Master three times. Jesus looked at him; Peter said not a single word, but, “going out, wept bitterly.” He was forgiven; he was chosen by Christ to be His first successor on earth — the Prince of the Apostles — and today is one of the most glorious saints in Heaven.

“God leaves no living man without furnishing him abundantly with all the means required. He gives us not a bare sufficiency of means to love Him and in loving Him to save ourselves, but also a rich, ample and magnificent sufficiency—such as ought to be expected from so great a bounty as His.”

– St. Francis de Sales

“Dear readers, should we ever have the misfortune to offend God, let us give a look at the tabernacle where Jesus is palpitating with love for us, or let us think of Calvary. Our hearts will be touched. We will repent. We shall be forgiven and saved.”