The Soul


#1

I was in a discussion with a dear friend recently, in which we were talking about perfect contrition. I found myself saying that “I hope my soul is perfectly contrite”, and it got me thinking.

  1. Can the soul be perfectly contrite if one acknowledges that part of one’s motivation for repentance is a fear of hell?

  2. Can one know with any certainty how contrite one’s soul is?

The reason I ask is this: I am sorry for my sins because they are wrong (i.e., they offend God), but I am terrified of the prospect of hell, too – as I assume most people are.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

Peace,
Dante


#2

Hi Dante,

No, you can’t really know whether your contrition is perfect or not. That is why God invented Reconciliation. In Reconciliation God forgives you even though your contrition may be imperfect.

Meditating on God’s love,especially as shown in his incarnation, his passion, death and resurrection is a good way to develop perfect contrition.

Devotion to Mary, such as shown in the recitation of the Rosary, can obtain for us the grace of perseverance and help us have perfect contrition should we die without the opportunity to confess.

Verbum


#3

Good answer.:thumbsup:


#4

Sorrow for sins out of fear of hell is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins in Confession. (See CCC #1453)

Nita


#5

I like Verbum’s answer too.

I’d like to be perfectly contrite, but that Damnation business is kind of hard to ignore.

but then there are venial sins, which I sincerely regret and seek to amend, which don’t of themselves bring damnation so there is some hope for me yet.


#6

Dante,

It depends on what you mean by “perfectly contrite”. If you mean perfect contrition so called then:

  1. Yes you can have perfect contrition if part of one’s motivation is fear of hell, so long as it is not the primary motivation. Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin arising primarily from, but not exclusively, out of love of God. Perfect contrition may be an admixture of a primary motive (love of God) and secondary motives (e.g. fear of hell).

Thus if your primary motive for sorrow is love of God, then you by definition have perfect contrition, regardless of your other motivations.

  1. Yes it is theoretically possible to know that one has perfect contrition, since perfect contrition is sorrow for sin arising primarily out of love of God. If your contrition has as its primary motive love of God who you have offended, then you would have a moral certainty* that you have made an act of perfect contrition.

What do you think?
VC

*a certainty that does not exclude every possible doubt, but rather every reasonable doubt, and is sufficient basis for action.


#7

What kind of contrition is it, if you go to confession because you want to go to Holy Communion. ?


#8

Good answers, all – especially the two Verbums! You answered the questions I posed very helpfully.

I think I left out the crux of my questions, however. Let me try again.

I’m a revert who’s working to leave behind a mortally sinful past. Mortal sin does does damage to the soul – not the least of which is manifested in the conditioning of the will to commit such sin.

What I’m asking is this:

I desire – intellectually as well as emotionally – to love God, and I fear hell intellectually as well as emotionally, but I know my will is not yet fully reconditioned. What does that say about my soul’s contrition? Does the intellectual and emotional desire speak to the soul’s desire?

I’m still not quite asking what I want to ask, but this is the best I can do, and I’m tired of backspacing and re-typing.

Thanks!

Peace,
Dante


#9

Hi Techno,

What kind of contrition is it, if you go to confession because you want to go to Holy Communion. ?

Going to confession does not give you a free pass to communion. You have to have some kind of regret for your sins and propose not to sin again, to receive absolution. Being sorry because you have been deprived of God’s friendship and cannot go to communion is is pretty close to perfect contrition, I think.

Verbum


#10

Hi Dante,

I desire – intellectually as well as emotionally – to love God, and I fear hell intellectually as well as emotionally, but I know my will is not yet fully reconditioned. What does that say about my soul’s contrition? Does the intellectual and emotional desire speak to the soul’s desire?

I think a healthy insecurity is good for the soul. Sort of keeps it on its toes, no?

Growing in the love of God is our life’s work as Christians. St. John is the specialist on this, so I suggest you read his epistles again.

1John 3

14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. 16 The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? 18 Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

You will know that you are growing in the love of God is you practice the above.

Verbum


#11

I wonder how these words of St. John relate to your question:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18)


#12

A good point. I think, however, that there’s something more to that quote, because we consider “God-fearing” a positive description of a good Christan, even though it’s somewhat of a misnomer. Further, the fear I have is of hell and God’s wrath, not of God, per se.

Peace,
Dante


closed #13

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