Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition
When we learn our catechism, we are taught our basic prayers. In fact, a portion of the catechism is based upon the Apostle's Creed. Pull out your catechism and you will find several prayers provided for us to learn. These include the Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition.
Study these prayers as laid out in the basic catechism. (Note various editions will vary slightly, and prayer books will also have their own versions.) Now take time to consider each prayer and take it to heart through meditation. The words are not as important as taking the principles of each act to heart. By taking these principles to heart, we will make our life easier.
Let us consider the Act of Faith.
ACT OF FAITH
O MY GOD, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I believe that Thy Divine Son became Man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.
The basic principle is that we make an act of Faith in what God reveals to us through His holy Church. The only reason we study is to find out what God has taught us. We are not studying to reason out our Faith, but to conform our way of living to the doctrines God has given us. Many today study the Faith to decide if they find it reasonable. By making the Act of Faith in our heart, we already believe that everything God teaches is reasonable, because how can God be unreasonable. When a question arises, our only question is what does God teach on the subject, for we have already accepted God's teaching.
Father Leonard Goffine asks the question: “When should we make an act of hope?” And he answers: "As soon as we come to the use of reason and are sufficiently instructed concerning this virtue and its motives; in time of trouble or of severe temptation against this virtue; when receiving the holy Sacraments; every morning and evening, and especially at the hour of death. (The same thing is to be observed in regard to the acts of Faith and Charity.)”
Now in reading this, many are tempted to rattle off a set of prayers morning and night. This practice can be useful, but we need to stop and mean what we say, not merely say it.
Now in the act of Hope....
ACT OF HOPE
O MY GOD, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I
hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and Life Everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.
We hope for all that we need to obtain our true home in Heaven, knowing that God is always faithful to His promises.
And then we make the Act of Charity.
ACT OF CHARITY
O MY GOD, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.
Study I Corinthians chapter 13.
We will immediately see that throughout the day we will have many opportunities to make an Act of Charity in the way we act towards our neighbor. Let us consider one point here:
“Charity seeks not her own.” (I Cor 13:5)
Here will see the contrast between selfishness and selflessness. And yes, we are called to be totally selfless, because we should never seek what we want, but rather give in to the will of others. The only time we do not give into the will of another, is when a higher calling, such as the Will of God tells us to do otherwise. Spend some time in studying I Corinthians 13 and taking these holy maxims to heart.
And finally we come to the Act of Contrition.
ACT OF CONTRITION
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 art 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.
We need to repent of our sins and be truly sorry we committed them. How many of us are truly sorry? Can we say that we are truly sorry for our sins, when we make no effort to heed our Lord's advice:
“Go now and sin no more”? (John 8:11)
There are three evils in the world.
- Mortal sin,
- Deliberate venial sin
- In-deliberate venial sin.
Sin is the only evil in the world, and we need to take this to heart. Now we should be sorry for all of our sins and work to eliminate sin from our lives. From our catechism, we know that all it takes to condemn our self to hell for all eternity is one unrepented mortal sin.
We also know that if we commit a million deliberate venial sins, we will not go to hell for them. And this is our problem. We will work to eliminate mortal sin, but find excuses to keep our venially sinful habits. We will excuse these bad habits as just venial sins, as if taking a mild poison is not taking poison. And we should treat all sin as we would a deadly poison. Although venial sin, of itself, does not condemn us, each venial sin weakens the soul. We can compare this to a mild poison, which slowly weakens the body. And then the major battle with some major disease comes along and the body dies. The same is true of venial sin. A soul weakened by habitual venial sin becomes weakened, so that when a larger temptation comes along resistance is more difficult.
What is the difference between deliberate venial sin and mortal sin? We commit both deliberately. The only difference is that a venial sin is a light matter, where as a mortal sin is a serious matter. In both cases we deliberately choose to go against the Will of God, Who said:
“If you love Me, keep My Commandments.” (John 14:15)
If we deliberately sin, can we truly say that we have made the Act of Charity?
Our problem is that we can find excuses for our sins. There is no excuse for sin.
We look at this Scripture and say to ourselves, “I can't truly overcome all sin.” This verse applies to in-deliberate venial sin. We should work to overcome this as well, but be prepared because we shall fall.
“For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again;” (Proverbs 24:16)
And here is the key. Every time we fall into sin, the moment we realize it we must rise again. We cannot wait.
And so, let us take to heart the Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition. The words are not important, the attitude is.
Michael by the grace of God, Pope.
Link for I Corinthians 13 http://www.drbo.org/chapter/53013.htm