The other day, Jack and I were driving along, having an absolutely wonderful time, when the words to the “Act of Contrition” came barreling into my head. Where did that come from?! was my first thought, and then I asked Jack if he remembered it (since he was also raised Catholic). He did not, but I was made to memorize this “prayer” and repeat it when I did something wrong. I learned it when I was 7, but had not consciously thought about it in years. It goes like this:
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance,and to amend my life. Amen”
Holy mackerel! How many “detestable sins” could I have committed before I was 8 years old?…. The idea that we can feel bad enough; guilty, angry at ourselves, disappointed in our actions, to change, or that we can make another feel bad enough to become good, is an old and a false idea. It represents the worst in religion, education and society.
I cannot do anything about the fact that I was taught to think this way about myself, or my relationship to God, when I was a child, but I can do something about it now. I can re-train my subconscious mind (affirmations again!) to let go of the images of a sinful self (always trying to be good but never quite making it) and of a God that gets offended by my mistakes..let go of the idea that I can somehow miss out on heaven and return to the beautiful words….”the kingdom of heaven is within…within me…within you”.
The Loving God version of the Act of Contrition
“Oh my God, I am heartily grateful for being born in your image and likeness, and I accept all of my ‘sins’ because detesting a thing does not change it, and I love the thought of heaven being found within, and hell being just a state of mind where I have forgotten this, but most of all, I am so grateful that You are Love itself and that I can never be separated from this love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace to love more, forgive myself and others sooner, and enjoy this life. Amen!”