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One of the necessary elements of the sacrament of confession is reciting an act of contrition. A priest will usually prompt the penitent after they confessed their sins by saying such words as “Now say your act of contrition.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a brief explanation of what this is: “Among the penitent’s acts, contrition occupies first place. Contrition is ‘sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.’”
Essentially an act of contrition is a personal proclamation that you abhor the sins you confessed and are resolved to lead a life of virtue, doing all that you can to stop committing those and any other sins in the future.
Strictly speaking, there is no one formula that a penitent must recite. The person may use their own words, or use a traditional act of contrition. The important part is that the individual has a “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”
For those who need a prayer handy in the confessional, here are a few different options that the Church offers to the penitent. Click on the slideshow to discover them.