Need help with a penance



Yesterday I went to confession to my priest whom I’m trying to confess to on a regular basis. I confessed a couple of venial sins which my priest seemed to, well, yawn at. In fact, after confessing one “sin,” which I was reluctant to admit, he asked me, “When are you going to start being Catholic and enjoy life?”

He’s a very smart man and I trust what he says. If anyone is in persona Christi, it is this man.

My penance is to enjoy life (within the boundaries of doing God’s will and commandments) and thank God for my sexuality (because I confessed some things regarding lust and subsequent nocturnal emissions). I’m confused by this penance because I try everyday to be more saintly by praying often, doing charitable works, while also trying to make others happy, all the while admitting that I am sinful and being sorrowful for my sins. I confessed the sins that I did because it had been almost a month since my last confession and I felt I needed to get some of these things off my conscience – but now it seems I’ve created this impression that I don’t enjoy life. Maybe I don’t because it seems that I am a very penitential person who almost always begin a prayer with, “Lord, forgive me for my sins,” but never forgetting His love, mercy and grace. I laugh a lot, I enjoy the company of other people, but I also just want to make sure that I, for one, never forget God’s good graces so that I don’t fall into pride or worse thinking that having all sorts of fun is perfectly acceptable.

I’m confused by this penance. I thought that I did enjoy life? And is it wrong to confess *what you think *you did wrong even if it objectively isn’t? :confused:


From what I read on other thread you created, I could see that you were thinking about yourself - life being near 30 with other things such as paying cars, debt, and vocation… Perhaps, the priest sensed that you were being worried. Therefore, he asked you to start to enjoy life. Enjoying life actually can be part of the penance where one starts to look at all the blessings of the Lord being given to him/her. With this awareness, one can be more confident in the Divine Providence. Maybe you can write out 30 things that you know God has blessed you with?


Two thoughts come to mind. 1) Jesus usually speaks to us through other people and things, so maybe putting your focus on your blessings and His Divine Mercy (continually) will help you to avoid the sins you confessed, and 2) unfortunately many priests these days prefer not to think in terms of anything but the most obvious mortal sins and others get jaded by hearing so many mortal sins that they think of anyone confessing a venial sin as scrupulous. Oh, and 3) maybe there is a bit of scrupulosity in you to be ferreted out. At any rate, #1 is one that wouldn’t hurt any of us. In fact, I probably need more of that.:thumbsup:


I will do this.

And maybe he sensed that I was worried, but I take my relationship with Christ very seriously. I don’t think of God as some overbearing task master, but I do understand him to be just and merciful as in the Old Testament. I don’t want to even think that I haven’t committed any sins, much less do I want feel some sort of spiritual pride that I don’t need confession this month or next month, so I examined my conscience, realized there were some things that continue to bother me, and so I confessed them. By the grace of God, I have not committed any mortal sins, and it is hard to remember all the venial sins I commit during a three week period, so I tried remembering those that seemed somehow prominent and especially egregious in my mind. I also try to take confession very seriously as I want to express my wholehearted contrition for such sins, but it’s not like I go in and out weeping from the confessional!

This is why I’m confused. It’s like I finally get some idea of who I am and how I feel comfortable approaching Christ and the sacraments, and the next thing you know such an understanding is being pulled out from under me!

I mean, I am worried about my debts, my vocation, and other things, and I try not to enforce upon myself any more crosses than are already present, and I try to enjoy life in ways that may seem acceptable to the Lord…but now, again, I just don’t know…


That’s good that you have started to know more about yourself.

How do you think so? maybe you keep asking God to help you know more about yourself, then the understanding that you have might not be what you think it is.


Maybe I’m dim today, but I don’t understand what you’re saying here.:o Could you state that another way, please? Thanks.


Try this. You know that Christ is within you, yes? Practice radiating Christ Jesus’ love outward from within you. This is more than just doing good things and favors for people. Really radiate that love that is inside you.

Here’s a tip to help: practice looking INTO people’s eyes as you converse with them, pass them or observe them. Look INTO them, not AT them.

Learn to radiate this love and you will find your priest’s meaning of “enjoying life”.


Maybe your understanding of what is acceptable is a little narrow. Do you know the short poem of Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc that comments on the Catholic life:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine
Is music and laughter and good red wine
At least I have always found it so
Benedicamus Domino!



I’ve gotten the same kind of penance before, but mine was after confessing impure acts with no impure thoughts…I was still very down on myself. I guess based on the circumstances in my life he feels that it’s not a deliberate free-will choice, and my penance was just that…to be happy and to rejoice in my blessings and not worry if I happen to fall into this act again…but also not to be so soft on myself that I make this act a hobby!


I had teeth cleaned today too. :smiley: I was asking the OP about his understanding being pulled out from him? I was trying to say that sometimes we think we understand things but we don’t. Therefore, by asking the OP, I might understand his understanding.


I prayed about this today, and it seems that I may be going about things in a totally wrong manner. It seems that I’m not allowing God to be God, which sort of stings after thinking and feeling as if my relationship with Christ was growing stronger. It seems that I’m afraid of more than I would like to admit – afraid of sin, afraid of sinning, afraid to miss praying, afraid to miss praying the rosary, afraid about my financial future, afraid about my vocation, etc. I could almost hear the Holy Spirit asking me why I was afraid of so much and why I thought I had control over it all and why I thought it all mattered so much. It’s true – I can’t save my own soul, and it’s only by the grace of God that I receive what I do. I’m afraid of living life, though, because I tried that once before and I lost control of myself, wound up in bars and strip clubs, and I’ve come back to Christ wanting to love him – but it seems the best way to love him is to trust him and give him control.

It’s a hard reality, and I’m a bit depressed now.


Welcome to my world, brother!


:eek: Seems a scary thing to do (very shy, here). Well, I clearly need to pray for more fortitude! (Also, it seems as if staring at people that way might be awfully off-putting to them. I know I’d wonder if there was something criminal intended.) But maybe I’m reading what you posted wrong.:blush:

Originally posted by Epistemes
I prayed about this today, and it seems that I may be going about things in a totally wrong manner. It seems that I’m not allowing God to be God, which sort of stings after thinking and feeling as if my relationship with Christ was growing stronger. It seems that I’m afraid of more than I would like to admit – afraid of sin, afraid of sinning, afraid to miss praying, afraid to miss praying the rosary, afraid about my financial future, afraid about my vocation, etc.

I think you can plan on this still happening when your 90. Just when we think we’ve got it figured out, we get shown how wrong we are.:rolleyes:


Hi brother, I’ve been there before and it is not something I have overcomed. It is part of our life. First, I would say that being afraid of what you were listing above is better than not being afraid and worst that one enjoys his life without thinking of his soul. However, over being afraid can really hinder God from working in us. We could take all these worries to Him and praise for the grace to live day by day and moment by moment. This is hard to do but if that is the goal we set for ourselves, we can find God’s peace in our hearts. When struggling, put yourself in the presence of God in the chapel or Eucharistic Adoration, you’ll find peace in Him.

When I was worried, a priest recommended this book “Abandonment to Divine Providence” - I put it off for at least 2 months before I realized that his advice is from God. I purchased the book, prayed and read it. It was a source of peace for him; through this book, I learn more in dealing with our daily life.

You might want to try this book yourself.


Got it. Thanks.


Right now I’m reading the life of St. Gemma Galgani because…well…I sort of believe the Holy Spirit wants me to! You see, Monday was the feast day of St. Paul of the Cross, and it just so happened that after Mass on Monday, I called the little local Catholic bookstore nearby asking if they wouldn’t mind ordering me a copy of St. Gemma’s biography because it had recently occurred to me that I should read this book in order to hopefully imitate such a pious saint. When I called the bookstore, no one answered so I left a message. I called back the next day (Tuesday) asking the lady who works there is she received my message, and she said she had, but that she hadn’t gotten around to looking to see if a copy was available in the store, which it turned out that there wasn’t. She said she would order me a copy, I thanked her, and I figured that would be it until at least a week or so when my order arrived. However! However, not even 15 minutes later, she called me back, saying, “You’ll never believe it! A man walked in here with a stack of books saying that we could use these books more than him, and the third book in the stack was “The Life of St. Gemma”! I believe this is your book!”

So, you see, it seems the Holy Spirit wants me to read this book.

I have been reading this book, and it also has me confused. St. Gemma, and many other saints, are presented as if they hardly enjoyed life. St. Gemma appears to have avoided excessive affection, to have avoided most social interaction, and appears to have been depressed later in her life.

My only response to all of this is just to shake my head and shrug my shoulders hoping that it will all be made clear to me someday soon.


But St. Teresa prayed “deliver me from gloomy saints” and also made sure that her nuns laughed and danced during recreation. St. Therese was a clown and made jokes all the time, according to others who lived with her - in her autobiography no mention of this is made. When reading the Carmelite rules and constitutions I didn’t notice any addition of this sort, so I doubt this is only a Carmelite thing. I think that generally it was not considered “seemly” to write down these things about yourself.
(By the way, I think St. Gemma’s wonderful. Maybe another that didn’t write down these things about herself and others may not have either.)


I’m only repeating myself at this point, but I too like to laugh, I too like to make jokes and humorous observations about life, and I too find happiness in the smaller things in life. It’s something I do quite often – so often that I can’t help but wonder how it affects others’ perception of me as somebody who is trustworthy, serious, and down-to-earth. And to have someone in persona Christi say, “Enjoy life!” My automatic response is: “What *else *can I do??” :confused:

I’ve already commented that I don’t trust God enough, that I have some worries, and that I take my relationship with Christ seriously, but I’m not a depressive person.

This is one of the most difficult, impossible penances I’ve ever been given.


I think that you discerned well there and I hope the book will help you. Yes, you will understand clearer someday.


I wouldn’t worry about it excessively. Since I don’t trust Him near enough, I’ve realized that to truly enjoy life (and appreciate all His blessings) that it takes trusting Him much more than I do, at least. Does this feel like it might help you, too?:shrug:
Trust Him to lead you (after, of course, praising Him, praying for Him to lead you and doing what you know to do). I don’t seem to be able to “let go” much, tho’.:rolleyes:

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