In a bible study today a question was brought up on the point of saying a number of Hail Mary's or Our Father's after confession. I honestly didn't know the answer as to why we do this. Can someone help me out as to the reason why, after we confess, the Priest typically gives us a number of prayers to pray afterward?
Penance is turning away from sin and toward God, and this can be accomplished through prayer. I know that many priests seem to have a set penance, no matter what. It might be three “Hail Marys” or one “Our Father”. While that might be the most effective, it does have the affect of turning your heart to God, if undertaken with sincerity. If my confessor assigns prayer as penance, it is usually for a particular intention that is related to a sin with which I’m struggling. It might be “pray one Hail Mary for the intentions of your husband” or “pray one Hail Mary for your children”. I appreciate it that he helps focus it for me, but if your priest does not do that, you can always pray your penance for intentions related to your own sins.
The penance that the priest assigns is like a physician who sees his patient has lost strength from his illness and needs support and healing. So the physician gives a prescription to help with healing and to strengthen up the patient. Also, this penance can be viewed as directed at the temporal consequences of sin.
The priest ought to tailor it as seems needful to the penitent, but most penitents can benefit from prayer, I assume. :)
Penance will take away some of the temporal punishment due to sin. It also helps to discipline us so that repeating the sin is less likely, however, the priests I’ve been to don’t give enough penance to really discipline ourselves not to commit that sin again.
Yeah, my first confession made a few weeks ago (my first in 32 years) I only had to say 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary…boy did he let me off easy. But its ok…I feel miserable enough that i commit the sins in the first place that just feeling horrible about it alone makes me not want to commit them again…
Penance is a corrective action. It's not a punishment or "You're such a horrible person" session. For my last confession I was told to a)thank God for his mercy b)to go forth and glorify God and c)pray [starting with 5 Our Fathers]. I thought I got off easy. Then I started to say the Our Fathers. By the 2nd or 3rd Our Father it turned from "say 5 and I'm good" to "how great God's love and mercy are that He not only forgives me, but has me praying for His help [the Our Father [daily bread, forgive us our sins, etc]." "How can I want to seperate myself from One who has such love for me." I'll sin again, I'll go to confession again, I'll say the 2 or 3 or 5 prayers again, but I won't do this because I'm afraid of a punishment. I'll go to confession and say the prayers because I don't want to the seperation that is caused by sin. Confession and our penance are the means by which to correct this seperation.