Thursday, November 12, 2009

Act of Contrition or Act of Sorrow

Yeah, it's going to be one of the "those" posts....

A Child's Our Father
Dear Dad, up in Heaven, your name is holy. We want your way in Heaven to be done on earth too. Please give us what we need today. Please forgive anything we might have done wrong and help us to forgive others. Keep us from hurting you too. Amen.

A Child's Hail Mary
Hi Mary, special woman, God bless you. You are a very special woman and your child is very special too. Mary, mother of Jesus, would you pray for us now and when we are getting ready to go to Heaven? Amen.

If you think those are great, you should probably stop reading and bask in your special-ness and click on the Coffee link. The rest of you may keep reading, especially if felt repulsed by the above prayers.

I can't imagine even the most wishy-washy parent or religion teacher teaching these prayers. Yet, this sort of thing is done all of the time with the Act of Contrition. Principals and DRE's tell us that the Act of Sorrow is taught until the student is old enough to really understand the words of the Act of Contrition. But rarely does this ever happen and it is really a waste of time. What teacher in their right mind would ever have a student memorize one of the above prayers only to leave another teacher to undo the work and have them memorize another "adult" form. Would anyone tolerate that if it was done with the Pledge of Allegiance?

Yes, I firmly believe that little Joe, who knows every inch of the Halo (computer video game)landscape by heart, can memorize the Act of Contrition. I firmly believe that little Brittany, who knows every word of Lady Gaga's latest hit, can memorize the Act of Contrition. My 5 year-old knows the Act of Contrition for crying out loud! And he should, then as we move toward First Reconciliation, we can expand on the meanings of the words.

I have had parents become angry when they learn that their child is learning an adult form of the Act of Contrition. Why aren't they angry about them learning the Our Father, Hail Mary, or Apostles Creed.

Some may think that I had too much coffee this morning and that it's not a big deal. I believe it is. Of course there are different "adult" versions of the Act of Contrition and I am not concerned with those. I am concerned by the constant desire of certain catechetical leaders to continually "dumb-down" the Catholic Faith. When this is done, more often, the Faith is watered down. Words have power and when these words are directly related to the Faith or to a Sacrament, they have even more power. Prayers, in fact, were at one time the main mode of catechesis. To change those prayers or worse, to water them down, changes the catechesis. Let's look at the "Act of Sorrow" and "Act of Contrition".

Act of Sorrow
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all of my heart,
in choosing to do wrong and failing to do good.
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Amen.

Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You. I detest all of my sins because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, Who are deserving of all of my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all of my heart, in choosing to do wrong and failing to do good. The beginning is nearly the same as saying, "I am heartily sorry" which is easier and can be explained as "being sorry for my sins with all of my heart." "Choosing to do wrong and failing to do good," is sin, redundant.

It is at this point where there is a crucial difference between the Act of Contrition and the Act of Sorrow. Unlike the Act of Contrition, the Act of Sorrow makes no mention of detesting sins or recognition of punishment deserved. The Act of Contrition is just that and it addresses both types of contrition - imperfect (out of fear of punishment) and perfect (out of love of God). In our modern state of catechesis, the reality of punishment (eternal or temporal) is usually left out. This coincides with the lack of discipline in families today.

Some other words that alarm me and in my estimation have similar yet different meanings - (resolve vs intend), (your grace vs your help).

I am not so old as to be labeled old-fashioned. However, I am a firm believer in handing on the traditions that were handed on to me either written or by word of mouth without taking it upon myself to translate or interpret. Rather, I believe in the power of words and the ability of the human mind, even at a young age, to grasp the beauty and power of the Faith without dumbing things down. Our Father has a much different meaning than Dear Dad and Hail Mary has much different meaning than Hi Mary. Let us therefore, cease the dumbing-down of the Faith and begin teaching through the power of proper prayers.


Joshua Facemyer said...

I always liked the version which says "because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell" better than "Your just punishments"...sounds more foreboding to me...keeps me in line better...

scmom (Barbara) said...

Amen. Amen.

And I'm going to remember that bit about video games when my seventh grade son says he can't do his math. He's busted. Thanks. ;-)

Mother's Day Weekend.