BY REV. F. QUIRIJNEN, S.J
IV. IS IT EASY TO HAVE PERFECT CONTRITION?
We have already cleared the ground for the answer by insisting on two points: (1) Perfect Contrition must proceed from the pure love of God, but does not exclude other motives. (2) No special degree of intensity or duration, no sensible sorrow, no tears and sighs are required for Perfect Contrition.
Evidently it is more difficult to make an act of Perfect than of imperfect Contrition. It is also clear that fervent Christians more easily make acts of Perfect Contrition than the lukewarm. But is Perfect Contrition difficult to obtain for one who has begun to be sorry for his sins? Is it beyond the power of the ordinary man of good will who tries to live up to his moral standards, but is too weak always to avoid mortal sin?
The answer is a decided NO. Any one who sincerely wishes it can with the grace of God make acts of Perfect Contrition. This can be clearly proved from the revelation God has given us about His dealings with men.
Contrition derives its perfection from the love of God. Hence to prove that acts of pure love of God are easy is equivalently to prove that Perfect Contrition is easy. From both the Old and the New Testaments it appears that God has imposed on all men a strict command to make acts of the love of God. Jesus, when asked, ―Which is the great commandment of the Law? answered:
―Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.
Now, God is a Father. There is no Father like Him. His feelings are apparent from the fact that ―while we were yet sinners,He sent His only begotten Son into the world and delivered Him up for us. ―His proper quality, says the Church, ―is ever to have mercy and to spare. -
His mercy is from generation unto generation, sings the Blessed Virgin in her Magnificat and who knew the Heavenly Father better than Mary, herself the perfect created mirror of God’s mercy?
Does a Father burden his children with hard precepts? Still less does God command impossibilities. ‗When commanding, as the. . Council of Trent says, ―God admonishes thee to do what thou art able and to pray for what thou art not able, and in proof of this assertion, the Council quotes St John, who says ―His commandments are not heavy, and Christ’s own words, ―My yoke is sweet and my burden light. When God commands, at the same time He enlightens. When He asks something, He gives the strength to do it. Hence, the very fact that our loving Heavenly Father, who knows the ignorance and weakness of the masses of men of all times and places, requires us to make acts of the love of God is sufficient proof that it must be easy to make such acts.
―In order that, the commandment of love may be fulfilled, St. Francis of Sales writes, ―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.
We come to the same conclusion by another argument. God wants to have all men. Hence His Providence furnishes all without exception with the means whereby they can be reconciled with Him. Before Christ the only means for adults was Perfect Contrition, so it is even now for all those who, for want of knowledge or opportunity, cannot avail themselves of the Christian Sacraments that is to say, for the vast majority of men. Who then can tolerate the thought that ―this solitary plank, Perfect Contrition, thus made necessary by God, would be so slippery that only a few can seize and hold it, or that this ark of salvation would be so hard to enter into that the vast majority of those for whom it is intended must remain out of it and perish in the deluge? No, God does not impose on us a sorrow for sins that is beyond the power of even the weakest person of good will.
This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that the Church constantly urges us to make acts of Perfect Contrition. What she officially teaches in her catechisms to all her children, in the world or in religion, illiterate and learned, the tepid and the fervent, sinner and saint, is an Act of Perfect Contrition. Now, the Church, a tender Mother- ―pia mater Ecclesia -.does not require from her children anything that is beyond their power. Hence, beyond a doubt, in her mind Perfect Contrition is easy to all. Only one thing can make it difficult, to us-our want of confidence in God’s mercy and in the infinite merits of Christ-O my God, I believe, help Thou my unbelief. Transform it, I beseech Thee, into that boundless confidence which animated
Thy dear child, the little St. Therese. She writes:
―It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin that I lift myself up to God by confidence and love. Ah! I feel that even if I had on my conscience all the crimes that can be committed, I would not lose anything of my confidence; I would go, my heart broken with repentances and throw myself into the heart of my Saviour. I know that He cherished the prodigal child, I have listened to His words addressed to St. Magdalen, to the adulterous woman, to the Samaritan . . . I know that all this multitude of offences would be swallowed up in the abyss in the twinkling of an eye, as a drop of water thrown into a burning furnace.