While all priests hope to be able to provide sacraments to their people, in cases of emergency, it may be impossible for a priest to be with you at the moment of death. As such, what can you do when (1) you are in danger of death (or fear the danger of death); (2) you need to receive absolution, because you are in mortal sin; and (3) you are incapable of confessing your sins to a priest?
The Catholic Church, trusting in the infinite mercy of God, realizes that this situation may be very real for many people, and the Church encourages people not to despair in any way. Indeed, the Church teaches that it is possible to make an Act of Perfect Contrition, which can suffice for the forgiveness of mortal sins in emergency situations, as long as the penitent intends to confess his/her sins at the earliest possibility should he/she survive. Of course, such an Act of Perfect Contrition can also help those not in imminent danger of death as well, and if you are in mortal sin, please do not delay in making such an Act of Perfect Contrition. For with regard to the moment of our death, “of that day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36, NAB).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the following regarding Perfect Contrition:
“When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition
is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins;
it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm
resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as
possible” (CCC §1452).
How, then, do we do so? The traditional Act of Contrition provides an excellent example, as in it we tell God that we are sorry “most of all” because we love Him. Please learn this Act of Contrition, or one like it, and pray it regularly:
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they have offended thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.”