4 April 2014 - District Superior's Letter

As we enter Holy Week, we once again have the opportunity to contemplate the infinite Love of God; sending His only begotten Son to suffer and die for our salvation. As we do so we cannot help but be moved to sorrow; for it is our sins that have caused this suffering. Indeed, if we desire the forgiveness of our sins and hope for salvation, we must have this sorrow, we must have this contrition.

Dear friends and benefactors of the Society of St. Pius X

As we enter Holy Week, we once again have the opportunity to contemplate the infinite Love of God; sending His only begotten Son to suffer and die for our salvation. As we do so we cannot help but be moved to sorrow; for it is our sins that have caused this suffering. Indeed, if we desire the forgiveness of our sins and hope for salvation, we must have this sorrow, we must have this contrition.

The Council of Trent declares: “Contrition…is a profound sorrow and detestation for sin committed, with a resolution of sinning no more.” Thus contrition is a deliberate sorrow for our sins, which includes the purpose of confessing and of making satisfaction for them.

One can be sorry for sin on several grounds. There may be a natural sorrow or remorse based on some worldly motive, e.g. the disgrace or natural evil effects due to sin. This type of sorrow is not sufficient for the sacrament of penance.

What is necessary for the sacrament of penance is a supernatural sorrow which is based on some motive of faith of which there are two types. The first is perfect contrition, which is a sorrow based on the love of God. The second is imperfect contrition or attrition – which is a sorrow based on some lesser supernatural motive, e.g., fear of hell.

Theologians generally teach that the contrition or attrition required for penance must have four qualities. The first is that there must be true and formal sorrow, not merely external and pretended, imagined or implicit. Next it must be supernatural, i.e. motivated by some consideration known by the light of faith as explained above. It must also be supreme-in the sense that the penitent must regard sin as the greatest evil, and must be prepared to endure any evil rather than lapse into it again. This does not require an intense feeling of sorrow, but rather a conviction of the evil of sin. Finally it must be universal; extending to all mortal sins without exception which the penitent has committed.

What is implied in all true contrition is the purpose of amendment, which is not merely a wish to avoid sin nor a promise or vow never to sin again but a firm, efficacious and universal resolve not to sin again. It must be firm regarding the present determination of the will, even though it may be weak regarding the future. It must be efficacious; that is, it must include the sincere will to employ the ordinary safeguards against sin, e.g., prayer and caution. It must also include the will to avoid the free, proximate occasions of sin and the will to repair the damage done by sin, as far as this is possible. Finally it must be universal in its resolve to avoid all mortal sins.

In cases where a penitent confesses only venial sins or even mortal sins previously absolved, the purpose of amendment is as essential for the validity of the sacrament as is true sorrow. In fact there can be no true sorrow without this purpose of amendment. Most often the reason why we are unable to overcome habits of venial sin is because of a lack of due attention to this purpose of amendment. In these cases we should have the resolve to avoid or at least decrease all venial sin or at least resolve to avoid or correct one kind of venial sin. 

As we celebrate the mysteries of Christ’s passion let us do so with true contrition. Remember that any sin whatsoever can be blotted out in penance if only we are truly sorry in seeking forgiveness. Thus in seeking forgiveness we will be seeking out the Redeemer from sin and finding Him we will have the opportunity to one day enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven.

May our Lord grant you an abundance of grace as you reflect on His sufferings during this Passiontide so that your contrition may be perfect and bring you true joy at Easter.

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Fr. John Fullerton
District Superior