The “Prayer of the Penitent” (known formerly as the “Act of Contrition”) has two purposes. First, the prayer expresses sorrow or contrition for the sins one has confessed. Second, the prayer expresses a penitent’s resolve, with the essential assistance of God’s grace, to lead a new life. Both of these purposes are expressed through a penitent’s prayerful plea to God the Father for His forgiveness.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn – Return of the Prodigal Son (Public Domain)

There is no one and only one “Prayer of the Penitent” (“Act of Contrition”). The Church, in fact, provides numerous options to choose in the official Order of Penance. The following is taken from the Order of Penance, 85-92.

O my God,
I am sorry and repent with all my heart
for all the wrong I have done
and for the good I have failed to do,
because by sinning I have offended You
Who are all good and worthy to be loved above all things.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Your Grace,
to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid the occasions of sin.
Through the merits of the Passion of our Savior Jesus Christ,
Lord, have mercy.

Remember, Lord, the compassion and
mercy you showed long ago.
Do not recall my sins and failings.
In your mercy remember me, Lord,
because of your goodness.
Psalm 25:6-7

Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and
cleanse me from my sin.
I acknowledge my offense;
my sin is before me always.
Psalm 51:4-5

Father, I have sinned against You
and I am not worthy to be called Your son.
Be merciful to me, a sinner.
Luke 15:18, 18:13

O God, most merciful Father,
like the Prodigal Son, I turn to you and say:
I have sinned against you;
I am no longer worthy
to be called your child.
O Jesus Christ, Savior of the world,
like the thief to whom you opened the gates of paradise, I beg you:
Lord, remember me in your Kingdom.
O Holy Spirit, fount of love,
with trust I call upon you:
Purify me; make me walk
as a child of the light.

Lord Jesus,
who opened the eyes of the blind,
healed the sick, forgave the sinful woman,
and, after his denial,
confirmed Peter in your love,
hear my plea: forgive all my sins,
renew me in your love,
and grant that I may live
in perfect communion
with my brothers and sisters
and so proclaim your salvation to all.

Lord Jesus,
who chose to be called the friend of sinners,
through the mystery of
Your Death and Resurrection,
free me from my sins.
May your peace grow strong in me,
that I may bear the fruits of
charity, justice, and truth.

Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God,
who take away the sin of the world,
through the grace of the Holy Spirit
be pleased to reconcile me with your Father;
cleanse me in your Blood from every fault
and make me fully alive
to the praise of your glory.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your merciful love;
turn your face from my sins
and blot out all my guilt;
create a pure heart in me, O God,
renew an upright spirit deep within me.

Lord Jesus, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.

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

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