Sorrow and Repentance for Sin – part 3.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Sorrow and Repentance for Sin.
In the present we shall go more into details explaining the nature and the qualities which are required for true sorrow, but before doing so we will give a word of instruction and consolation to two classes of devout persons.
(i). Some people think that they are unable to conceive real sorrow for their sins, and on that account are much pained, and experience even great agony of mind, whenever they approach the sacred tribunal in order to be cleansed from their faults. Such persons must bear in mind the teaching of St. Thomas, which is followed by all Theologians. He distinguishes in contrition a two-fold sorrow, one which he calls essential, and which resides entirely in the will, that is in the spiritual part of the soul. By this kind of sorrow we disavow the evil we have done, and repent of it by an act which is not sensibly felt, because it is entirely spiritual, like the power of the soul from which it proceeds. The other kind of sorrow has its seat in the emotional part of the soul, and is only an overflow of the act of the will; the emotion which arises from it in the sensitive part, so to say, of the soul; that is in the affections (St. Thomas Suppl., Part III, Q. 3, A. I, in Corp.).
Now we should ever remember that everything belonging to the essence of contrition proceeds from the will. It is not a feeling in the sensitive part of our nature: and sorrow of the will, not mere emotion of the feelings, is required for sin. The feeling of sorrow is only a sympathetic correspondence of the regret or disavowal of the will, and it does not depend upon us to feel it or not, since it affects the sensitive appetite, which power, as the Angelic Doctor observes, at times obeys, and as frequently disobeys the superior part of the soul. Thus, it may frequently happen that the will is sincerely repentant, without making any corresponding impression on the emotional part of the soul, so that one who is really penitent may appear to himself not to have any contrition at all.
If such persons ask of God the necessary sorrow, and use all their endeavours to stir it up at least in their will and are resolved to sin no more, they may remove all anxiety from their minds, and they may rest assured that they have the requisite sorrow, even though they feel it not, and though their hearts be harder than flint.
Such persons ought to make their acts of sorrow in calmness and peace, without effort or straining, for this would only have the effect of disquieting the soul, and of preventing the motions of the will from producing any impression on the heart. The more we strive after sensible affections the less do we feel them. So much the more, too, as this wearying anxiety prevents such acts from being perfectly performed by the will, inasmuch as it hinders the light and inward motion of the Holy Ghost, who does not usually work on souls that are not in calm and at peace.
(2). There are pious persons who feel such sorrow for their past sins that they are never contented, but wish to renew the accusation of them over and over again, and would if allowed confess them afresh every day. These good people need to be taught that this is not the proper penance for their former transgressions. St. Thomas distinguishes two sorts of penitence, the one interior, the other exterior. The former consists in sorrow and regret for the faults we have committed; and this, says the Saint, ought to be unceasing, and should never be laid aside throughout our life (St Thomas, Part III, Q. 84, Art. 8, in Corp.).
St John Chrysostom, treating of this inward penitence expresses the same opinion. He teaches that it should be lasting: as it is a mark of great humility to keep ever in mind, and to mourn over, our past sins. This he proves by the example of St Paul, who, when his present life was free from sins, kept ever in mind the sins of his former life, even though they had long since been washed away by the waters of Baptism, for he knew that to have former sins constantly before the mind gives birth to sorrow, regret, tears, and compunction of heart (Lib. II, De. Compunctione Cordis).
St. Augustine, in like manner, says, that we should be sorry all our life long for our faults; for when we cease to grieve over them, penitence wholly fails, as it consists, chiefly in sorrow.
Outward penitence, as St Thomas goes on to observe, consists in the accusation we make of our sins in Confession. But, he says, this need not be continual, as interior penitence must be; but should cease when all has been done which God’s commandment and the needs of the soul require (Lib. de Vera et Falsa Poenit, C. 13).
There is then no necessity for this class of pious persons to be repeatedly confessing their past sins. It is in no way required by Almighty God, does no good but may do much harm. Such persons can confess their sins before God alone at the foot of the Crucifix, they can renew their sorrow for them in their meditations and private devotions, and conceive an inward shame on their account, with sentiments of deep humility and heartfelt compunction, but they ought to forebear mentioning them in Confession, supposing always that the requirements of duty have been complied with, as the inward, not the outward, penitence is now more suitable, more advantageous, and better adapted to insure the pardon of the past (Scaramelli, Vol I, Section i, Article viii, Chap VI).
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– by Rev. P. Ryan
– Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur October 10, 1910
The despising of one’s self in the midst of honors and
riches, and disdain for all glory, should be esteemed more highly than corporal mortification. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Bartoli.
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
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