Prayer of St Augustine

I appear before Thy Holy Face, O my Savior, laden with my sins and the penalties they have brought upon me. What I suffer is far less than I deserve, for although conscious of the justice of my punishment, I cease not on that account to commit fresh sins every day. I sink beneath Thy scourges, yet I do not amend my ways, my heart is full of bitterness, still my obstinacy in evil remains ever the same. My life is spent in misery, and I do not correct myself. When Thou chastisest me, I make Thee great promises, which as soon as Thou liftest up Thy hand, I forget. I come now to make to Thee, O God, a sincere confession of my sins. I declare in Thy presence that if Thou show not Thy mercy to me, I shall surely perish. Grant me, my Savior, what I beg of Thee, since of Thy pure goodness Thou hast drawn me out of nothingness to put me into a state wherein I can pray to Thee. Amen.

This is the prayer of a contrite heart.  During the past week I have meditated on the words of this prayer in preparation for confession, even if parts of the prayer do not apply to me at this time. Every soul who goes to pray this prayer will see themselves in parts of the prayer at certain times, and at other times will see all of themselves in the prayer. Different levels of contrition are needed to match the gravity of the sins committed. While Augustine had a very particular past, and certain souls will not share his sins, no soul can quite exclude themselves from going before the Face of Our Lord, and offering the plea of Augustine, "I declare in Thy presence that if Thou show not Thy mercy to me, I shall surely perish." This is nothing less than a preparation for our judgement after death.

I think the prayer is a good test of contrition. If we pray the prayer of Augustine and admit to feeling a kinship with him, that some or all of the cries from our souls are the same as the cries from his soul, then we may be sufficiently contrite.


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