I wondered if somebody could explain to me why it is necessary to perform satisfaction when it comes to penance? Sometimes it would be easier for the priest to say, “Go and sin no more.”
Well, the idea coming out of Penance should be to ‘go and sin no more’. But sometimes satisfaction must be made. Why? Imagine if you broke someones window, go to Confession and come back. Your guilt has been removed, but the window is still broken. It is your responsibility to restore what you have taken. How would you like it if someone stole everything you had, said ‘I’m sorry’, but kept all of your goods. I imagine you wouldn’t be to keen on that.
A little history might help… In the early Church, satisfaction came before absolution was granted. This is in line with the words of John the Baptist to the Pharisees:
Give some evidence that you mean to reform. (Matthew 3:8)
Maybe we should define ourselves. There is a difference between satisfaction and penance.
Satisfaction is restoring something that you lost (fix a broken window, denounce your gossip, return stolen goods, etc.), it is making amends with our neighbors.
Penance is to make atonement and an amends to God.
And yes, in the Early Church penance usually did come before absolution - sometimes years of penance would be required before absolution would be granted.