Sorrow for Sin

Jesus and the Samaritan by Étienne Parrocel

Padre Quadrupani teaches that, since contrition is an act of the will, “sighs, tears, sensible sorrow are not necessary elements of true contrition.” Nevertheless, some degree of sorrow more often than not accompanies contrition and repentance. But good and useful sorrow carried to an immoderate extreme ceases to be salutary and can even become counterproductive to the health of the soul. St. Francis de Sales says: “Evil things must not be desired at all, nor good things immoderately.” And elsewhere: “I entreat of you, love nothing too ardently, not even the virtues, for these we sometimes forfeit by exceeding the bounds of moderation.”

Mindful of the human propensity for immoderation, Padre Quadrupani puts sorrow for sin in perspective. He writes: “You say you would wish to have contrition but cannot succeed in feeling it. Saint Francis de Sales replies: ‘The ability to wish is a great power with God, and you thus have contrition by the simple fact that you wish to have it. You do not feel it indeed at the moment, but neither do you see nor feel a fire covered with ashes, nevertheless the fire exists.'”

Quadrupani explains: “The immoderate desire of sensible sorrow comes from self-love and self-complacency.” Sadly, this is often the case: “A sorrow that satisfies only God is not sufficient for us, we wish it to satisfy us also; we like to find in our sensibility a flattering and reassuring testimony of our love of good.”

“If God does not grant you the enjoyment of sensible sorrow, it is in order that you may gain the merit of obedience, which should suffice to reassure you as to your perfect reconciliation. Believe therefore with humility, obey with courage, and you will earn a twofold reward. The greatest saints have at times believed they had neither contrition nor love, but in the midst of this darkness of the understanding, their will followed the torch of obedience with heroic submission.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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