Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Perfect Contrition part 3

BY REV. F. QUIRIJNEN, S.J


III.-THE EFFECTS OF PERFECT CONTRITION

A tree is known by its fruit, Our Lord has said. A consideration of the fruits of Perfect Contrition will doubtless still more impress on us its importance and excellence. These effects differ according as a person is in the state of grace or in mortal sin. Presently we take the latter case.

A person in the state of mortal sin is at enmity with God. But God’s grace and the Holy Ghost move him to sorrow and repentance. Corresponding to the grace received, he makes an act of Perfect Contrition. What change takes place in him? Outwardly none. Yet in the depth of his soul things have happened at which the very Angels marvel and rejoice, things greater than the creation of the universe greater, too, than the resurrection of Lazarus, or any other visible miracle wrought by Christ during his life on earth.

Contrition Justifies .-The primary and chief effect which Contrition produces is reconciliation with God. ―Perfect Contrition, the Council of Trent teaches, ―reconciles man with God before the Sacrament (of Penance) is actually received, Reconciliation with God means foremost that justification which St. Paul and St. John never weary in describing, admiring and praising in enthusiastic terms:

You were in darkness, now you are sons of the light and sons of the day -You are renewed, a new creature in Christ Jesus- You have been grafted on Christ; His life flows in you; you are in Him and He is in you together with the Father, whose beloved children you are, and with the Holy Ghost, of whom you have become the living temples. Such are the effects of justification and consequently of contrition.

Perfect Contrition justifies ; it restores the supernatural life of grace to the soul.- According to a generally accepted opinion, through perfect contrition the soul receives again all the sanctifying grace it had before and also an increase of grace in recompense for its act of Perfect Contrition. The words of holy Scripture seem to imply this: ―The wickedness to the wicked shall not hurt him in what day soever he shall turn from his wickedness. Perfect Contrition also restores to life the merits of good works performed in the previous state of grace but destroyed by sin.

Contrition Remits the Guilt of Sin .- Through Perfect Contrition the light and life of sanctifying grace have been restored. By the very fact the guilt of all mortal sins- and also of all venial sins on which Contrition has been made to bear-has been forgiven. ―As a fire which has taken possession of a forest cleanses it out thoroughly, so the fire of love (contained in Perfect Contrition), where it falls, takes away and blots out everything that could injure the divine seed (sanctifying grace). - Such is the efficacy of true contrition, the Roman Catechism teaches, ―that by its benefit we at once obtain from the Lord the pardon of all, our sins. -Perfect Contrition works in us the spiritual miracle promised by the Holy Ghost through the Prophet: ―When you shall seek the Lord with all your heart and in the affection of your soul . . . , if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

Contrition Remits Everlasting Punishment along with the guilt of the offence against God. An instant ago Hell was still yawning under the sinner’s feet; now Heaven is thrown open to him. He was under the slavery of the devil; now he is ―in Jesus Christ, and, as St. Paul writes to the Romans, ―there is no condemnation to them that are in Jesus Christ.
Let us keep this in mind, especially when we visit the sick, or assist someone in his last struggle. Perhaps for some reason or other he cannot receive the last Sacraments. Maybe he is a non-Catholic. Whoever he be, he may easily be taught to make an act of Perfect Contrition for all the sins of his life. He will thus save his soul: and we shall have the immense consolation and great merit of having been God’s instrument in his salvation. What a grand opportunity of con- soling the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who on the cross, thirsted with a burning thirst for the salvation of souls, and feels immense joy upon one sinner doing penance.’’

Contrition Remits the Temporal Punishment which remains to be undergone in this life or in Purgatory, after the guilt of sin and the eternal punishment have been forgiven. The more intense the love of God which animates contrition, the greater is the part of temporal punishment which is taken away. ―It may even happen, St. Thomas teaches, ―that contrition which follows from charity merits . . . the remission of ALL punishment . . . because contrition although finite in its intensity, derives infinite power from the charity, whereby it is quickened.

A Preservative Against Faults .-One sin leads to another, but also one grace calls for further grace. Perfect Contrition reconciles us with God, makes of us again His friends and beloved children. He owes it, then, to Himself to protect us with a special Providence against new falls. In virtue both of this special Providence to which it entitles us and of the charity by which it is animated, Perfect Contrition makes us again firmly adhere to God as to our Supreme Good. It is therefore an excellent preservative against falls.
Finally, note that all this array of wonderful effects is produced AS SOON AS Perfect Contrition arises in the soul, as instantaneously as when ―God said: Be light made. And light was made. God might have limited His mercy and granted the grace of Perfect Contrition in certain—circumstances only, for example, when a person is in danger of death. But God’s mercy knows no bounds. Since man has the sad power-or rather weakness-of committing sin at any time and in any place, God holds out to him the grace of Perfect Contrition at all times and in all places-a truly marvellous dispensation. Perfect Contrition brings back the resurrection of the soul, its coming back to life, its life in God through Christ Jesus. The raising of the body of Lazarus to life was a great miracle, because by that time he had been in the grave for three days. But through Perfect Contrition Christ daily raises up souls that were dead to God, perhaps for years on end.

(b) If now a soul already in the state of grace makes an act of Perfect Contrition, it is clear there is no question of remitting guilt and punishment. Yet, the effects in this case are not less great: every act of Perfect Contrition produces in such a soul a growth of supernatural life, an increase of the pure love of God and of hatred of sin; a more intimate union with our divine Lord, more particularly with His Sacred Heart ―sorrowful unto death in the Garden of Olives, and a closer resemblance with Him on the Cross. If these acts are repeated throughout the day, they produce the precious sense of compunction, of which we shall say something more below.

Wonderful then is the efficacy of Perfect Contrition! As St. Thomas teaches, it is in a true sense infinite because its power is derived from an infinite power, the Passion and the Death of Christ. Our Lord has first in His own Person grieved, sorrowed and suffered for our sins, that He might now suffer grief and sorrow for the same IN US. When we make an act of Perfect Contrition, it is no doubt our own act, but still more is it His: it is His grace which inspired it and sustains it all along; and it is He who brings it to fruition by uniting it to His own sorrow and Passion, thereby giving it divine and therefore infinite efficacy.
Some more Remarks:

1. Contrition does not dispense from Confession.-As contrition cleanses the soul even before confession, one may ask: ―Why then, go to Confession at all? The answer is that the Sacrament of Penance is the ordinary means to obtain forgiveness. Perfect Contrition produces the same effect, but not independently of Confession. It does so, partly at least- in virtue of the intention of Confession which it implies. ―The reconciliation (produced by Perfect Contrition) is not to be ascribed to Contrition itself without the desire of the Sacrament (of Penance), which desire is included in contrition, says the Council of Trent. Without this intention of Confession Perfect Contrition could not remit a single sin
Has this intention to be expressly made? No, it is not necessary to think of confession when arousing oneself to Contrition. It suffices that one does not exclude it by the explicit intention not to confess one’s sins. Perfect Contrition, if sincere, includes the will of observing henceforth all God’s Commandments. Now, to confess one’s sins is a divine command. Therefore the intention to do so is contained in the very act of Perfect Contrition. The Catechism summarizes this doctrine by saying: ―Perfect Contrition has this special value that by it our sins are forgiven immediately even before we confess them: nevertheless, if they are mortal sins, we are strictly bound to confess them.

Must we avail ourselves of the first opportunity to go and confess the mortal sins forgiven by Perfect Contrition?-No, there is no such obligation. But, of course, it is advisable to go to confession soon after. ―If we fall into mortal sin, says the Catechism, ―we should make an act of Perfect Contrition and go to confession as soon as we can.

2. Contrition Does Not Supersede Confession.-Nor is it even meant to diminish the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance. The relation between Contrition and Confession is illustrated by the following comparison: ―When you meet with an accident and injure your hand or foot, what do you do? You immediately apply such remedies as you have at hand and then call the doctor at the first opportunity. Do the same for an injury to your soul: Immediately make an act of Perfect Contrition, which is the home remedy, and then, as soon as possible, have recourse to your spiritual doctor, your confessor.
When one confesses the sins already forgiven by Contrition, what profit does one derive from the Sacrament of Penance? The profit is manifold. The sacrament increases sanctifying grace and the love of God in us; it diminishes the temporal punishment still remaining to be undergone in this life or in Purgatory. It provides us also with special actual graces which increase our hatred of sin and strengthen us in the fight against temptations. These graces are proper to the Sacrament and cannot be supplied by any other means. The reception of the Sacrament is also the occasion of renewing and deepening our contrition and purpose of amendment.

3. Finally, before receiving Holy Communion,if one has committed a mortal sin since one’s last good Confession, it is not enough to make an act of Perfect Contrition; ONE IS BOUND by precept first to CONFESS the sin and receive absolution for it: ―Let no one burdened with a mortal sin, however much contrite for it he may think himself to be, receive Holy Communion without previous sacramental Confession, says Canon Law. This is the meaning of the words of St. Paul: ―Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the Bread and drink of the Cup, as interpreted by the Council of Trent. It is the special reverence, due to the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist because it contains not only the power of Christ as the other Sacraments, but Christ Himself, which has inspired the Church to lay down this law.