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PREFACEThis little book is as valuable as lengthy treatises,as much for the sovereign importance of thesubject that it discusses (a subject, sadly, very littleknown by most Christians) as for the abundance ofdoctrines and the interest of its practical applications. “The Great Means of Salvation,” such is thetitle that St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori gave to a tract onprayer published with many other works from hispen. And so great was his confidence in the efficacyand the power of prayer to assure the salvation ofsouls, that he would have wished, said he, to see hislittle book in the hands of everyone. About the exercise of the love of God and of perfect contrition,we can say, with just as much truth, that they are “thegreat means of salvation,” because between an act ofcharity or perfect contrition and the acquisition ofeternal life, the connection is more intimate and evencloser than between prayer and salvation.Consequently, I would like to see this little work,like St. Alphonsus’ own, in the hands of everyone,convinced as I am that the careful reading of it andputting into practice its teachings would open thegates of heaven to a multitude of souls in danger ofeternal damnation without it, and it would increase,in a marvelous way, the grace of God in those whohave been faithful since their baptism.—1—

Every Christian ought to be soundly instructedabout the capital importance of the act of perfectcontrition and of charity on account of the inestimable services that such knowledge can render usat the hour of our death and allow us to render atthe deathbed of a dying person, to whom Providencemight lead us. No one, even in good health,should forget this truth. But it is desirable overallthat every-one cherish it deeply engraved in hisheart for the hours of infirmity and the perils ofdeath.May it please God that this pamphlet be distributed as far and wide as possible. There is no doubtthat its reading will be accompanied by abundantblessings.Father Agustine Lehmkuhl, S.J.FOREWORDThis succinct little work was providentially foundin a decrepit seventy-five-year-old copy publishedin French. It is unquestionably the most importantmatter a Catholic, or anyone for that matter, could everread—the key to heaven indeed. Knowledge of perfectcontrition is more important today than ever before,the sacrament of penance having been all but beenobliterated by enemies within the Church and trueconfessors ever fewer and farther between.See, on reading this booklet, how perfect contrition is even for those not baptized, nothing less thenbaptism of desire (in voto). In the words of the—2—

prophet, one cannot but exclaim that “the Lord yourGod. . . is gracious and merciful, patient. . . and readyto repent of evil” ( Joel 2, 13). Where perfect contrition is, there is charity, and where charity is, there issanctifying grace. This grace, as the Angelic DoctorSt. Thomas Aquinas teaches, is not limited to thesacraments, the visible signs and causes of grace. Andwhoever dies in the state of grace is saved, as surelyas those who die without it are lost.The pamphlet, however, has no polemical intent,but is solely for those who, for ignorance of perfectcontrition, stand to despair of forgiveness at the hourof death.It is our prayer that everyone who reads this booklet will procure a supply for himself and give copiesto all his family and friends, that a translator for it maybe found in every language, and that it may reach tothe ends of the earth. Indeed, may its propagation become a veritable apostolate for every true Catholic.How many souls stand thereby to be saved, and whata rich reward for oneself in such an apostolate! “Charity covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4, 8).—The Most Reverend Robert F. McKenna, O.P.INTRODUCTIONUpon seeing the little book The Golden Key toParadise, you will, dear reader, experience, I surmise, the curiosity of seeing whether the content—3—

matches the title.Perhaps some mistrust will inspire you, and youwill ask with misgiving if you are dealing with oneof those so-called sensational and foolproof piecesof mass-marketing literature.Well then, dear reader, no, it is a genuine and tangible key, and certainly, easy to handle: it is perfectcontrition. It can open heaven for you, every day, atevery moment, if you have had the misfortune toclose it through mortal sin, and especially if, at thehour of death, you do not have by your side a priest,the dispenser of divine mercy. Perfect contrition willbe the last key that, with the grace of God, will openheaven for you.However, to do so, you must have gained thehabit of employing it effectively during your life.How many souls, thanks to perfect contrition, havebeen assured of heaven, who without it would havebeen irremediably lost! “If I were able to traverse thecountryside preaching the divine word,” said thelearned and pious Cardinal Franzelin, “my favoritesermon topic would be perfect contrition.”—4—

What is contrition?Contrition is a pain of the soul and a hatredfor sins committed. It must be accompaniedby a good purpose, that is to say, a firm resolution to correct oneself and to sin no more.In order for contrition to be real, it is necessary that it be interior, that it come from thedepths of the heart; it must not then be a simpleformula uttered without reflection. It is not necessary to show it either by sighs or tears etc. Allthose displays may be an indicator, but they arenot the essence of contrition. That resides in thesoul and in the will determined to flee from sinand return to God.Beyond that, contrition must be universal,that is to say, it must be understood of all sinscommitted—at least of all mortal sins. Finally,it must be supernatural and not purely natural,for that has no use.This is why contrition, like every other goodthing, must come from God and from Hisgrace. Only the grace of God can engender it inus. However, God always grants us the necessary grace provided that we ask it of Him, provided that we possess good will and a sincere—5—

and supernatural repentance.If our repentance is based on a motive of interest, or for a purely natural reason (i.e. temporal evils, shame, or illness), we shall have onlynatural contrition without merit. However, if itis based on some truth of the faith (i.e. hell, purgatory, heaven, God, etc.), then we will trulypossess a supernatural contrition.This supernatural contrition can be, in turn,perfect or imperfect and here we are come to ourtopic of perfect contrition.What, then, is perfect contrition?In a few words, perfect contrition is contritionbased on the motive of love, and imperfect contrition is that which is based on the fear of God.Perfect contrition is that which flows fromthe perfect love of God. Now, our love of God isperfect if we love Him because He is infinitelyperfect, infinitely beautiful, and infinitely good(love of benevolence) or because He has shownus His love in such an admirable way (love ofgratitude).Our love of God is imperfect, if we love Himbecause we expect something from Him.Accordingly, in imperfect love, we thinkabove all about the favors received, and in perfectlove, we think above all of the goodness of the—6—

Perfect contrition is that which flowsfrom the perfect love of God.One who bestows these favors. Imperfect lovemakes us preferably love the favor itself, whereasperfect love makes us love the Author of thesefavors, and that less for His gifts than for the loveand the goodness that these gifts manifest.From love, contrition flows. As a result, ourcontrition will be perfect, if we repent of oursins for the sake of the perfect love of God,whether from benevolence or from gratitude.It will be imperfect, if we repent of our faultsowing to the fear of God, whether because sinhas made us lose the reward that we have beenpromised, viz., heaven; or because we haveearned the punishment imposed on the sinner,viz., hell or purgatory.In imperfect contrition, we think particularlyabout ourselves and about the evils that sinbrings to us, according to the light of faith. Inperfect contrition, we especially think of God,His greatness, His beauty, His love, and Hisgoodness; we consider sin an offense and thatit has been the cause of the many sufferings endured to redeem us. We wish not only our own—7—

good, but that of God.An example will help us grasp it better.When St. Peter had denied our Savior, “he wentforth and wept bitterly.” Why did he weep? Wasit for the shame that he was going to endure infront of the other Apostles?In such a circumstance, it would have been apurely natural pain and without merit. Is it because his divine Master is perhaps going to striphim of his dignity as an Apostle and SupremePastor, or drive him from His kingdom? In thiscase, the contrition would be good, but imperfect. No indeed! He repents, he weeps becausehe has offended his beloved Master, so good, soholy, and so worthy of love. He weeps becausehe has responded to that immense love withbase ingratitude, and that is perfect contrition.Now, don’t you, too, dear reader, have thesame motive as St. Peter to detest your sins, forthe sake of love, for the sake of perfect love, and forthe sake of gratitude?Without any doubt, God’s favors are morenumerous than the hairs on your head and everyone of them should make you repeat the wordsof St. John: “Let us love God, because He firstloved us” (1 John, 4, 19).And how has He loved you?—8—

“I have loved thee,” says God Himself, “withan everlasting love, I have had pity on thee andI have drawn thee to me” ( Jer. 31, 3).“With an everlasting love I have loved thee.”From all eternity, before there was even atrace of you upon the earth, He cast upon youthis look of love that penetrates everything. Heprepared for you a soul and a body, heaven andearth, with all the tenderness of a mother whoprepares to welcome the child who is going tocome into the world. It is God Who has givenyou life and health; it is He Who gives you thegood things of nature every day.This idea was sufficient for the pagans themselves to bring them to the knowledge and theperfect love of God. For a greater reason, itshould bring you there—you a Christian whopossesses the love and the supernatural goodness of God for you. Through the prophet Hesays, “I have had pity on you.”You were condemned like all men as a resultof original sin; God sent His only Son who became your Savior and redeemed you with Hisblood by dying on the cross.It was of you that He lovingly thought in Hisagony in the Garden of Olives, when He shedHis blood under the whips and the thorns,—9—

when He followed, carrying His cross, the longand painful path of Calvary; when, nailed uponthe cross, He expired in the midst of ghastlytorments, it was of you that He thought, with atender love, as if you had been the only personin the world. What shall we make of that? “Letus love God, because He loved us first.”Moreover, God drew you to Himself by baptism, which is the first and chief grace of life,and by the Church, in whose bosom you werethen incorporated. How many men have beenable to attain the true faith only through thestrength of effort and sufferings! But to you,God gave it to you from the cradle, out of purelove. He drew you to Himself, He draws youevery day by means of the sacraments and bynumberless graces, interior and exterior, withwhich He showers you.You are, as it were, submerged in an ocean,the ocean of goodness and divine love, and Hewishes again to crown all these graces by placingyou near Him and making you eternally happy.What will you give Him for such love?He drew you to Himself, He draws you every dayby means of the sacraments and by numberless graces,interior and exterior, with which He showers you.—10—

Isn’t it true that you must make a return forthese advances? Then let us love our God, sinceHe loved us first.Let us come to the point: How have you responded to the love of a God so lovable and sogood? Without doubt, by your ingratitude andby your sins. But do you repent of this ingratitude? Ah, yes, without any doubt, and you burnwith a desire to make amends for it by a limitless love. Well, then, if that is so, you have at thismoment perfect contrition, that which is basedon the love of God and which is called contrition of love or of charity.But in contrition of charity itself, there is adegree, more elevated yet, that consists in purelyloving God, because He is infinitely glorious,infinitely perfect, and worthy of being loved, theabstraction of His mercy for us. Let us make acomparison. There are, in the firmament, anumber of stars so distant from us that we cannot perceive them, and yet they are all as largeand as bright as the sun that so freely impartsto us warmth and life.Likewise, suppose that man had never beenin possession of this eternal star that is God’slove. Suppose that God had created neither theworld nor any creature: He would be no less—11—

great, no less beautiful, no less glorious, no lessworthy of being loved, for He is Himself and inregard to Himself the greatest good, the mostperfect, and me most lovable.Such is the sense of the formula: I amheartily sorry. . . because You are infinitely lovable and You deplore sin. Reflect a moment andconsider God’s love; especially contemplate theSavior’s bitter sufferings. In this light, you willeasily understand, and it will pierce your heartthrough.Here, then, are the practical means to achieveperfect contrition.How do you obtain perfect contrition?You must recall first of all that perfect contrition is a grace, and a great grace, fromthe mercy of God. You must ask it of Himearnestly. Ask it of Him, not only at the moment when you wish to make an act of contrition, but frequently. It should be the object ofour most ardent desires. Therefore, repeat often,“My God, gra