What is penance?
Penance is an act of love for God out of sorrow for our sins and the sins of the world.
“Oh happy penance, which merited for me so great glory” -St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church
There are three ways the word penance is used in Christianity which are:
- Confession: The sacrament of penance — an act of repentance (stating sorrow/regret for sinning) and contrition (having sorrow in ones heart for sinning with a desire to never commit the offence again) in which, grace is delivered to help us amend our ways, grow in contrition and if our contrition is true, to receive forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:);
- Atonement/Making Satisfaction: something we do to make right our wrongs, from having sorrow for our sins, to make up for what is lacking in our bodies (send additional grace), to help us atone (pay the price) for our sins committed after baptism and/or to console God for all sins committed against Him (Colossians 1:24);
- Punishment: action we must perform or consequence given that is delivered to us by ourselves, others, our confessor (the priest hearing our confession) or even God to motivate/move us to stop a sin and move towards godliness. This punishment can be used to atone for our sins. However, not all “punishment” can be used as a penance to pay the price for our sin (atone) as I explain in this article. (John 5:14).
“Penance–The MEDICINE for the soul” –Baltimore Catechism #379
All penance is done in an attempt to repair the damage of sin–even though without accepting Christ’s sacrifice, we could never be able to fully repair the damage of even the smallest single sin because the smallest sin is of infinite injury to God. Therefore, “[the Father] sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
But a heart that has true sorrow for sinning wants to do penance for their great offences committed against God instead of living a life of seeking pleasure.
“The thirst for pleasure that thrives in a man…one who seeks refined food, rich clothing, and lustful satisfaction. It is not only wrong to consent to these things willfully; it is also wrong not to shun them at their very first appeal.”
–St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church
This life of penance is The Way of the Cross and is most wonderful if done from a heart of great love for God and sorrow for our sins.
Thirst for Penance
When someone is with a saving faith of true contrition for all of our sins or even has true contrition for just one sin, we have a thirst for penance…all three forms of penance.
There is no desire to live a life of pleasure…just the cross to atone for our and others great atrocities committed against God.
There is a girl of 16 years in age who murdered her father. She went to prison for her crime and when the media went to visit her for an interview, the prison staff said she was a model inmate full of remorse. She always volunteered to do the most deplorable tasks and wouldn’t even allow herself basic comforts. When asked why she didn’t that, she said, “I don’t deserve any better…but I will be alright.”
This young lady is the model of a truly penitent (sorry) sinner, what we all want to be like. But we don’t just want to have this contrition for our large sins but for ALL of them.
All of our sins, even the least of them, are horrible offences against Perfect Goodness, whom we should be loving. We should be so sorry for sinning, we seek a like of penance for all our crimes and the sins of the world, since we understand we don’t deserve anything for our life of offences against Our Lord. But must don’t have a horror for sin, since we thinking lightly of most of our trespasses against God.
We clearly see what a horrible atrocity sin is against God and the horrific punishment even one sin deserves, when all humanity now suffers horrible consequences and deserves death over Adam and Eve’s one act of prideful disobedience. We should know the effects of sin.
Yet, to obtain this kind of desire for penance–true contrition–which accepts God’s saving forgiving mercy, only comes from God. It is a gift. But seeing how much we need it should cause us to run to God for the grace we need to obtain it. Hopefully, from this article and the others on this web-site, we are gaining ears that can hear and seek out Our Savior, with all of our hearts, for the grace we need to be saved.
The Blessed Mother’s Guidance to a Life of Penance
God sends us so much help to guide us to Heaven. From His Word, His Church, His saints, and His Mother, we have very specific directions on what to do. But the devil makes us stupid; he gets us to think we are the ones’ with the wisdom, and then we ignore the guidance and warnings from God’s chosen ones.
In Fatima, Portugal, in the early 1900’s when the Mother of God appeared to three children giving them guidance on how to find a saving faith. An angel came and taught the children to “ALWAYS give to the Most High prayers and penance.”
Lucia (one of the visionary children) asked, “How must we do penance?” The Angel answered: “Do penance out of ALL what you will be able [in everything you can do], give a sacrifice [self-denial] to God in act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and of plea for the conversion of sinners.”
Then a couple of months later Our Lady reiterated the need for penance saying, “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say often to Jesus, especially whenever you do penance [giving up something to atone for our sins]: “O Jesus, it [my sacrifice] is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation of the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Yes, our offences against her Son affect God’s mother too.
Then again the Blessed Mothers said, “
Sadly, even after so many years since the Mother of God’s guidance and help, we ignore her plea. But she came to help save our souls. Why are we deaf to her cry? We need to repent and change and listen to her. She wants to guide us to Life. Don’t live a life of pleasure, live a life of suffering.
Penance, since it sends much grace, is also repeatedly performed for a continuous interior conversion, so we and others may grow in holiness to gain a:
- Saving faith: to gain enough grace to come to have a continuous truly humble contrite heart that hates all sins so much we would rather suffer death than commit a single sin again against God, whom we should be loving;
- Sanctity: to grow in wonderful love of God so much so we accept enough of God’s grace to remove our punishment which was due for each sin committed after baptism;
- Perfection: to accept the fullness of God’s grace so Our Lord’s love continuously fills us with His complete love making us unable to chose sin.
“Having lost paradise [from sin]…[there is] no other way to enter Heaven except a way of penance and tears [for our sins].”
–St. Anthony Mary Claret
Since we are riddled with sin from Adam and Eve’s sin and our own personal sins, we need penance to Live.
Performing penances throughout one’s life is a beautiful act of love for God and most beneficial, if not absolutely necessary, for salvation. Since we are constantly rejecting so much grace, I don’t see how anyone can obtain enough grace to grow from just a weak faith into a mature saving faith with true contrition for all of our sins–to make our last confession/our last penance at our death with a sincere humble contrite heart that accepts God’s complete forgiveness (becomes justified)–without partaking in all three types of penance during one’s life.
Yet, from the devil’s deception, today, penance–all of its forms–is practically lost.
“Practice a suitable medicine of penance, that a soul for which Christ died may not (which God forbid) die in sin.”
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church
Penance — Make Right Our Wrongs
When we do something wrong, and we are really sorry, not just in thought or word alone, but if we have true contrition, we naturally want to make our wrongs right…as best as we can. We want to take responsibility for our errors and correct them.
For example: Lets say your child saved his money to buy himself a new video game player, and you weren’t careful enough and spilled your drink right onto his player ruining it. Wouldn’t anyone (even an athiest) who cared about their error and their child more than him self, want to repair the damage they have made? Nobody with a heart of real love for another would just say, “sorry” and then do nothing more.
If we are really sorry and really care about God, and the great offences we have committed against Him, we will most certainly want to make right our wrongs too. We will want to do penance (all forms of penance).
“Since You allow me time to repair the evil which I have done, behold me, Lord, ready to perform whatever You require of me, whatever You please.”
–St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church
Our nation even does this with its judicial system. Sadly, most of the time, we have to force people to take responsibility for their wrongs so to correct the damage they have done. But if we are truly sorry for our wrongs, we shouldn’t have to be forced to repair whatever damage our sins have made, we will want to do it.
This is what someone does, who has a real heart of sorrow for our sins against God. We don’t just “say” sorry to God and then go on as if we did nothing wrong…doing nothing to try to repair the damage our sins have made. We will humble ourselves, use our energy, make the time and do what is needed…we will embrace God’s forgiveness and seek to repair the damage to God and man.
“We are not exempt from the obligation of doing penance, even after our sins are forgiven.”
–St. John Vienney
But, we can clearly see, the evil one has snuck into our lives and convinced us, that by just saying a prayer or having some feeling of sorrow, we have true love for God and true sorrow for our sins, when by our actions (lack of penances), we have proven, we clearly don’t have that kind of saving faith yet.
No wonder the saints performed such great penances…their sorrow for sin and love for God was great.
“We should not desire any pleasure in this present, mortal and physical life but rather to mourn, bewail and lament our offence, faults, and sins without ceasing.”
–St. Albert the Great
The Consequences of Sin
“What damage do our sins cause to God,” we might ask, as many have been deceived into thinking our sins can’t harm our invincible God. Yet, our sins harm us, others and God so very greatly; we simply can’t even comprehend this reality.
“We shall never, during this life, be able fully to comprehend the entire malice even of a [single] venial sin.”
–St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church
God isn’t just some heartless deity. No, He is all love. He created us in His image with the same heart of love, which has emotions and can most certainly be injured, even in Heaven. Unlike us though, His Sacred Heart is of infinite love, so the injury a single sin causes God is of infinite malice (in different degrees based on the severity of the sin).
“I am more deeply wounded by the small imperfections of chosen souls than by the sins of those living in the world.” –Jesus to St. Faustina
The problem is we have allowed the devil to hardened our hearts, and we don’t understand sin. Now, we have such little love for God and little, if any, fear of sin. When in reality, each and every sin has great effects upon all humanity and Our Creator.
The Consequences of Each Sin:
- Crushes God’s Sacred Heart of Love in Heaven,
- Caused additional suffering for Our Savior at His crucifixion,
- Rejects God’s Way to holiness/Heaven–and chooses evil instead,
- Pushes away God’s love–rejects His grace–hurts our relationship with Him,
- Gains or keeps us in blindness, to The Way, from a lack of grace,
- Keeps us from properly loving/serving God and our neighbor, since from our lack of grace (the means to do good), we can’t properly love or serve God or others,
- Rejects some, if not all, of God’s help in this life,
- Causes untold suffering on Earth, in Purgatory (for the few who obtain a saving faith), and in Hell (for the unfortunate majority),
- Damns us, if we don’t obtain enough grace to grow in faith to gain TRUE sorrow for each and every sin (don’t gain a saving faith).
“God heals the wounds of sin through penance.”
–Pope St. John Paul II
Without growing in faith to obtain true love for God and true sorrow for all of our sins, the effects of sin are unfathomable.
Penance, being done out of, at least, some sorrow and love or even fear of suffering from our sins (desire to stop sinning), delivers much help (grace) so we can desire to leave our attachments and sins of this world and grow into perfect love of God, perfect sorrow and perfect atonement for all of our sins.
“Bear fruits [do penance] worthy of repentance.” (Luke 3:8)
Types of Penances
There are different ways we can perform acts of penance such as:
- Works of Charity
For any of these to become a means to atone for our sins or to grow in faith so we can one day be able to atone for our sins, they all must be done from having sorrow for our sins (wanting to stop sinning) out of love or fear.
“By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands. Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 5:8)
To walk towards the Path of Life, penance must be done from a conscious intention of either desiring to love of God (finial fear) or from fear of suffering from God’s just punishments (servile fear) driving our actions.
Penance can also be done to come to know God, to need His help or to obey the Church, but we must desire to stop sinning if we are to hope for grace to be sent to help us at all. However, if we want to be walking towards Life, it must be driven from Fear of the Lord (finial or servile fear). To learn more please read “What is Fear of the Lord).
When driven by Fear of the Lord and our love for God is great enough, our sins are atoned for based on the degree of our love for God.
There are different kinds and degrees of penances we can perform, out of sorrow and love or even fear, to help make right our wrongs. We can do something so simple as pray a prayer or seek great mortification (punishment of our bodies). The saints, who understood well the horror of sin, knew a simple prayer wasn’t satisfactory to atone for their (or others) life time of sins and sought great penances, even though merit comes from our great love for God not necessarily the “act” of penance its self, and that can be from even the least act of charity, if it is done from a heart with great love. But those of great love for God want to suffer greatly, like Jesus did for us, to send much grace, from our act of love, for others salvation.
First Interior Conversion
However, performing great or any penances means nothing to God if we haven’t converted in our heart. Frankly, great outward penances are a mockery to God if our hearts don’t truly want to stop sinning. So one MUST focus on obtaining a heart that desperately wants to love God–to sin no more–before we can even expect to receive any grace from penance.
“Jesus’ call to conversion and penance…does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such [outward] penances remain sterile and false.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1430)
Our first penance must be the conversion of the will. Our hearts must desire to relent our will for God’s as a first step. If we desire to abandon all that leads us away from God (to stop all sin) and do what God desires, then we have a heart that can profit from all forms of penance. The greater our sorrow for our sins and desire we have to become a perfect saint, the greater our will to follow Christ will be, and the greater penances we will be able to perform with real love for God.
“He, who desires for My sake to mortify his body with many penances, and not his own will, did not give Me much pleasure.”
–God the Father to St. Catherine of Sienna
Saving Faith is Needed to Atone for Sin
If we haven’t grown wonderfully in our faith from some faith into a saving faith, from successfully removing sin after sin, growing in fantastic love of God from having a great horror for sin, then from our lack of true love for God, our penances won’t yet send the grace to atone for any sins. To learn more please read, “How to Become a Saint.”
However, our acts of penance are very much needed and will send wonderful, much needed, grace depending upon God’s will, our desire and our willingness to accept the grace. This merciful grace is a gift from God, which is meant to help move us towards a saving faith, sanctity and then perfection.
Sacrament of Penance –Confession
The sacrament of penance, also known as the sacrament of reconciliation (confession), is the main sacrament God gave us to help us to “sin no more” (John 8:11). This sacrament provides us with so much grace that a magnitude of saints such as: St. Pope John Paul II, St. John of the Cross, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Borgia, St. Charles Borromeo, and St. Alphonsus, to name a few, partook in confession daily to receive its blessings.
I’m not suggesting all of us run to the sacrament daily as most don’t have such contrition and awareness of our sins to even benefit from daily confession. However, it is a magnificent gift from God to assist us in the steps we must take to find the Path of Life and grow in holiness.
“It is called the sacrament of Penance [confession], since it consecrates [makes] the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial [the body of faith’s] steps of conversion, penance [to atone], and satisfaction [made into a saint]” (CCC #1423).
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, this conversion everyone needs to undertake in order to gain satisfaction–forgiveness of all of our sins–is accomplished through advancing in holiness through PENANCE–seeking the forgiveness and atonement of our sins.
The sacrament of reconciliation sends us, who are open to receive God’s grace, wonderful help to obtain a saving faith, and then moves us into sanctity and then perfection like the other acts of penance. However, this act is the most valuable of them all.
Confession is so wonderful, Jesus told St. Faustina, as noted in her Diary #1448, that “the greatest miracles” occur in this sacrament. Wow! The transformation from death to life of a soul, can occur in the sacrament of reconciliation, which is the greatest of all miracles. We don’t want to miss out on God’s blessings from penance/confession as they are fantastic and just the medicine we need to heal our brokenness.
However, the sacrament of penance won’t do us much good if we partake in it improperly.To learn more please read the article “How Can I Make A Good Confession.” Properly partaking in confession is how we gain “knowledge of [how to obtain] salvation” since when we are successfully using the grace from confession to remove sin after sin. We are removing the veil that keeps us from understanding The Way by obtaining the “forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77). Thenwe gain the knowledge we need to seek a saving faith and sanctification.
However, sadly most and I truly mean most of us…even the faithful, don’t partake in the sacrament correctly. To learn how we don’t properly participate in confession please read the article “How Can Bad Confession Damn Us” so we can begin to understand where we are going wrong, change and receive the grace God wants to give us in this most merciful sacrament.
“Be converted, do penance, return to me, live, why dost thou die.”
–Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden
We Love Our Will
If we want to see how little we really love God and His will, all we need to do is look into how we seek pleasure (our will) and not the cross (God’s will) in our life.
If we only understood our misery and the consequence of sin, we would greatly desire punishment–the cross–for our crimes against God. We wouldn’t dare seek to indulge in the world’s pleasures…wanting a yummy meal, a great vacation or even to watch a fun sporting event, etc…oh, the pleasures of the flesh we desire, they are great–who can count them all!
Yet, we deserve nothing. How can we want all of those pleasures if we have so greatly offended Our Beloved Lord? Even our perfect/sinless Lord didn’t chose that kind of self-indulging life. He chose a life of poverty and self-denial to give us an example of how we are to live to sanctify ourselves. We are supposed to follow Him.
However, we don’t need to crucify ourselves greater than He suffered, but we must crucify ourselves from the desires of sin and the world like He did. Our poverty doesn’t need to be greater than His, but we do need to deny ourselves of the worlds comforts and pleasures for the cross like Our Lord did. He gave us the example to follow…follow Him.
“The Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Luke 9:58)
If we truly had “fear of the Lord” we wouldn’t desire anything of pleasure, not the most comfy pillow or bed–just the cross of Christ…only what we truly need…not what our appetite for comfort wants.
Desire to Atone
We deserve nothing, but coming to this level of faith–to understanding of our misery and truly desiring to atone for our sins and the sins of the world–is a blessing for only a few. Yet, we want to be with the few.
To receive enough grace to seek to atone for our crimes against God (pay the price for our sins committed after baptism), we need to grow in much love of God and in horror for our sins. This is done by examining our conscience, confessing our sins and contemplating God’s passion while praying very much so to gain a burning “fear of the Lord.” The devotion the Precious Blood of Jesus can also assist in gaining such a faith.
“Once I [St. Faustina] was summoned to the judgment [seat] of God. I stood alone before the Lord. Jesus appeared such as we know Him during His Passion. After a moment, His wounds disappeared except for five, those in His hands, His feet and His side.
Suddenly I saw the complete condition of my soul as God sees it. I could clearly see all that is displeasing to God. I did not know that even the smallest transgressions will have to be accounted for. What a moment! Who can describe it? To stand before the Thrice-Holy God!
Jesus asked me, Who are you? I answered, ‘I am Your servant, Lord.’ ‘You are guilty of one day of fire in purgatory [because your heart hasn’t grown enough in love to atone for all of your sins].’
I wanted to throw myself immediately into the flames of purgatory, but Jesus stopped me and said, ‘Which do you prefer, suffer now for one day in purgatory or for a short while on earth?’
I replied, ‘Jesus, I want to suffer in purgatory, and I want to suffer also the greatest pains on earth, even if it were until the end of the world.’
Jesus said, ‘One [of the two] is enough; you will go back to earth, and there you will suffer much, but not for long; you will accomplish My will and My desires, and a faithful servant of Mine will help you to do this. Now, rest your head on My bosom, on My heart, and draw from its strength and power for these sufferings because you will find neither relief nor help nor comfort anywhere else.
Know that you will have much, much to suffer, but don’t let this frighten you; I am with you'” –Jesus to St. Faustina
Will to Suffer
Desiring penance–seeking a punishment, which we deserve, in an attempt to make right the wrong we or others have made against Perfect Goodness–is a grace from God.
We see many saints, like St. Faustina, who performed great penances for their and even others sins committed against Our Lord, but for most of us, we simply don’t have the grace to want to do that…but we need to want that desire and seek God to obtain it.
St. Margreat Mary Alacorque in her autobiography declared that she was “naturally drawn to the love of pleasure and amusement.” To guilt St. Margret Mary into rejecting pleasure to love God–to bring upon sorrow for her life of indulgence–Our Lord told her, “Wouldst thou take this pleasure, whereas I never had any and delivered Myself up to every kind of bitterness for the love of thee and to win thy heart?”
How can we indulge? Are we worthy of such a life? Our Lord, whom we are to follow, chose a life of no pleasure. Oh, how many countless pleasures do we desire and partake in instead of rejecting them to return love to God? Oh, we of little love.
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
The more our heart of love grows in real love with God, the greater our desire for penance will be. We will understand the cross and desire it. When we finally decide we don’t want to live for the world any longer, that we truly want to become a saint.
Then with our efforts to leave the world, we will accept more and more of God’s grace and grow in strength to surrender pleasure for the cross–one pleasure at a time until we don’t desire any of them any more and only desire God. To learn more please read “How to Reject the World and Live for Heaven” (link at bottom of article).
Truly we will hate our life in this world and have a thirst to love God; we want to make right any wrong done against Him, and we know the Cross–which paid the price for our wrongs–is the way to Christ’s Heart of Love.
“To love one’s life in this world means to surrender oneself to bodily pleasure and sin…To hate one’s life means to practice (dutiful) mortification [penance] generously, to deny one’s self-will, to hunt contempt [look for the cross] (when to do so is in accord with duty,) to return good for evil.”
–St. Anthony Mary Claret
Those who truly love God will want to suffer and serve Him with every morsel of our being and are drawn to give their all to God and suffer great crosses.
As we grow in faith and gain more comprehension of the atrocity of sin–and more fully understand the true injury it causes to God’s Tender Heart of Love and the pains of His crucifixion–to show Him our love and console Him for all of the crimes committed against Perfect Goodness, we will seek greater and greater suffering bearing it all with joy.
“What a joy to suffer for Him who loves us” (St. Theresa of Lisieux)
Save Souls Through the Cross–Penance
This act of suffering (act of love) not only loves God and consoles Him, but just like Christ’s sacrifice did for us–God uses our sacrifice to send grace to others–the grace they need to grow in faith for the salvation of their soul.
This is how we save souls–through the cross of Christ. Therefore, penance (mortification)–leaving the world’s pleasures to desire God alone–is necessary for salvation since it moves us to true and then perfect love for God.
Without the suffering of God’s saints, countless souls would never obtain the grace they need at the moment of death to truly hate their sins and would be lost. It is through love (the way Christ loved us)–suffering for our neighbor–that so many souls are saved.
We can do penance for our sin and the sins of the world, from our love, God sends grace to help assist us in our exile so we can move toward the gates of Heaven. Most penance is in the form of a sacrifice/self-denial done for the love of God but it can even be in the form of physical discomfort or even corporal punishment too.
Some people are all confused and prefer some act of physical punishment to their bodies or great fast and think they are pleasing God, when they are’t even living their earthly duties or obeying God’s Word correctly because they don’t want to sacrificing doing what they want to obey God (they love their will)…oh, how foolish these people are. This isn’t want God desires. For some, corporal punishment or some great fast might be a beautiful act of love, but not if they haven’t even disciplined and trained their bodies in love of God through obedience. That penance would be a mockery of sorts and merit no benefit from God. How can we truly love God if we aren’t even trying to surrender our will to perfectly obey Him?
The penance which we all must do is to let go of our will and choose the cross (avoid worldly pleasures when it’s God’s will) from obedience out of love for God and our neighbor. That is a great penance. It is removing our laziness and self-will and choosing to live the “fulfillment of one’s own duty [performing our daily responsibilities correctly] and the observance of my law [obeying the entire Word], here is the penance for which I ask and for which I demand now“ (Jesus to Sister Lucia of Fatima). And Sister Lucia goes on in saying, “He [Jesus] wishes that we make the souls understand that the real penance which He asks for and demands now consists above all in the sacrifice that each one has to impose oneself to fulfill one’s own religious and material duties.”
We don’t have to go out looking for great penances; God has already provided them to us right in our very lives. We just have to look to see them. Oh, how lazy and neglectful we are in our own calling in life from our daily chores to our prayers. We don’t do everything to our best for God’s honor and glory, and we aren’t trying to improve and love perfectly. We even skip prayers and works and don’t properly care for those God gives us to love. We refuse our penances.
Sadly, we run from the cross and want respect. We want to be cared for from those we are supposed to care for. We are looking for love and comfort, not seeking to give love and serve. Sadly, as a result, we don’t even know what true love really is. We think it is making other “feel” happy and loved, but it is showing them the Way. Oh, we fail in living our life’s duties in so many ways. And don’t even know true love from worldly love any more, from rejecting our penances.
What a life of procrastination we choose, as we run from the things we don’t want to do (our crosses-penances). It is shameful. These are the crosses that are ment to grow us towards great holiness, but we reject them. However, if we can’t sacrifice our will, to serve others, suffer as God has allowed, then what kind of penitent are we? What good would any outward penance of great punishment (great fasting, physical discomfort, etc.) be if we don’t even what to obey God’s Word of love? If we don’t desire to love God by seeking to sin no more in every aspect of our life, there is no benefit from some saintly penance?
“I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).
Truly, without an interior conversion and the grace that delivers, what good is it to greatly fast from food or rest because from a lack of grace, we become horribly grumpy and poorly treat those around us from our hunger or exhaustion? What an abomination of the faith! If we can’t live the faith by loving everyone, even when we are hungry, tired or without something we have become dependent upon, what good will fasting do? We need the faith first. Without God’s grace, we will act so outside of the faith when discomforted, we will disgrace God’s name.
We must want to obey. Fasting plays no benefit for the soul that doesn’t want to discipline their bodies to truly live the Word: that of true love no matter what is occurring in life…especially if we are being mistreated by others. We need to reduce our fast and do something that keeps us living the faith. Then receive the grace from that (what we can do) and then little by little, after much grace is received, grow to perform great fasts out of true love for God and neighbor.
“Bodily penance, without obedience [striving to be perfect according to God’s will], is a most imperfect thing; beginners practice it out of a desire for it…[but] because they herein do their own will, they grow in vice [they will grow in sin from their penance], rather than in virtue” (St. John of the Cross).
Even if we believe we are filling God’s will in our life and obeying His Word then we must know, if we wish to be God’s disciples and follow Him to Heaven, as the Word says, we “must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24), which really means God is calling us to a LIFE OF PENANCE. We are called to live our entire life–every moment–with some form of self-denial, as the Mother of God and the Word tells us.
Hidden Treasures from Penance
Penance doesn’t atone for our sins until we gain a continuous saving faith, prior to that there are hidden treasures given to us through penance.
These treasures God gives us can be a great surprise. Penance, when done from a heart of real faith, can send bountiful grace to remove habitual sins. Sins we have progressed with removing but still have some remaining desire in our hearts, acts of penance such as fasting, self-denial, etc. God can use to enter deep in our souls to strip us of all liking for the sin…even sinful personalities we have had our entire lives….God can use various penance to bring us to our nothingness for the removal of those sins.
Penance (Punishment for our Sins After Confession)
Technically all penance is a “punishment” for our sins. It is something we must do because of our sins…a consequence.
After we confess our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation, the priest is supposed to give us a penance: something we are to do to help make right our wrongs and help us from committing the sin again.
“These [who have arrived at the attainment of general light] feed their souls at the table of penance, and are good and perfect, if their penance be illuminated by discretion, and founded on Me, if , that is to say, they act with true knowledge of themselves and of Me, with great humility, and wholly conformed to the judgement of My Will and not to that of the will of man” –God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena
“Penance should be but the means to increase virtue according to the needs of the individual, and according to what the souls sees she can do in the measure of her own possibility” –God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena
“However, no one should judge that he has greater perfection, because he “performs great penances” –God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena
“You see all this penance [Catherine of Cordova], but verily I esteem your obedience [to your Confessor] as a yet greater virtue” Jesus to St. Teresa of Avila
“Oh, what peril attaches to sin willfully committed! For it is so difficult for man to bring himself to penance, and without penitence guilt remains and will ever remain, so long as man retains unchanged the will to sin, or is intent uponcommiting it. ” –St. Catherine of Genova
“I shall inflict a penance upon you that you will not speedily forget” God to St. Catherine of Genova
“Almsgiving [donating money] atones for sins” (Sirach 3:30)
“For godly grief [guilt/sorrow] produces a repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
more coming soon