Penance and sacrifice: what's the difference?


Is there any? How do you distinguish one from the other?

‘Pray and do penance.’ Good idea.

But as a fairly new Catholic some terms still confuse me. Can anyone help?

Also, someone on another ‘Catholic’ forum told me if a person is mentally impaired (whether due to illness, legitimate medication, drunkenness, or simple lack of sleep), they are in collaboration with Satan? And are guilty of mortal sin? Or that they have mortally sinned and thus caused their illness?

Yeah, I can see that if it’s due to deliberate drunkenness, but otherwise----

I did not think that was a Catholic belief. :confused:

Many thanks.


It’s not. Sounds like that other forum is a place you need to be careful. If there’s a lot of this kind of material, it might be good for you to withdraw from there until you feel more secure in your understanding of legitimate Catholic doctrine and belief. But, you did sniff out this big error - you might be OK there! :slight_smile:



Prayer is a form of penance. Penance is performed to bring about a deeper conversion.
Penance, including all suffering, which is offered to God, is very pleasing to Him. He reciprocates with many graces and consolations.

Penances can also be done as mortificiations that discipline the body, helping us to detach from worldly desires.

That is why the great saints loved to do penance so much. They got so much out of it, spiritually. The more they grew closer to God, the more severe the penances b/c so much spiritual power came from it. God literally did their bidding.

St. Therese of Lisieux had such a close relationship, she felt comfortable enough to say that God was obligated to her to grant her wishes. And He did. Still does. She offered, literally, everything to Him, and dialogued with Him almost continuously, as a person would a soul-mate. She approached the Father much like an indulged child.

This is the closeness God wishes from all of us. Penances are pleasing to Him b/c they empty us of our worldy attachments, and He is able, then, to fill in the emptiness.

Incidentally, complaining, or trying to avoid all suffering/discomfort/inconvenience is very displeasing to Him. I’ve got serious issues in this department, so, go by what I say, not what I do, as my gm used to tell me.


May I add that mental illness and other such impairments (not self chosen) are also crosses that can be used as penances and prayers (rather than being Satan induced). There’s actually a group forum here that does just that with illnesses. One doesn’t need to go looking for penances as Ceil-1 said. Plenty of them naturally occurring. Me too Ceil-1, not to good in the complaining dept! :o



Now what about sacrifices? Shouldn't they be of 'first fruits?' It seems to me at this point that I don't have any first fruits...


Sacrifice is self-denial.

For instance, fasting is sacrifice. One can fast from food, say, abstain from meat. One can fast from sleep, say, get up a half-hour earlier to pray. One can fast from negative comments.

Self-denial can take the form of giving, too. You could go to see a sick friend in the hospital instead of watching NCIS. You could help the church take sandwiches to the homeless. You could take a friend to work whose car is in the shop, and not take money for gas.

Many opportunities for self-denial come naturally, as Bailey pointed out. Not being rude to the person who cuts you off in traffic. Not being irritable to your spouse when they have done something to annoy you. There must be a hundred opportunities per day.

Incidentally, some saints have said that it is these little sacrifices of kindness and self-control that pleases God the most. I think they are the hardest, as well.



I’ve been fasting from sleep since 06. Not by choice.


Your job? Or, insomnia?


[quote="Ceil-1, post:8, topic:178375"]
Your job? Or, insomnia?


More along the lines of insomnia.


In my way of thinking, penance and sacrifice are one and the same. When one does a penance as restitution for sin, he or she is making a sacrifice for the good one’s soul and for the Church. Sacrifice can be a penance for sin, but it is much more, even to the point of sacrificing one’s self for the life of another, as Jesus said. So, whereas penance is a part of sacrifice, sacrifice is much much more.

“Mentally impaired” can mean many things. One can be mentally impaired through medication, alcohol or illegal drugs, or naturally occuring. If one needs the medication, or if one is mentally challenged in some way, there is no collusion with the devil. That is a very incorrect statement. If one has a problem drinking, or is addicted to drugs, the person needs to get professional help. It is not devil-related (but such addictions can attract demons).

To say what was told to you in another area of this forum concerning collusion with the devil in reference to what you stated above is NOT a Catholic teaching.


I concur. The person sounds as though they are scrupulous.


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