Unrelated Penance

I went to confession today and was assigned penance that seems completely unrelated to my sins. I’ve had this happen several times in the past. Every time if feels like the priest has a prayer list of his own and is checking requests off by assigning them as penance.

Is penance suppose to be related to the confessed sins?

I don’t think there are any rules or regulations that state the penance must deal with the confessed sins or be inline with them. The penance is whatever the priest deems necessary or assigns to you, preferably within your ability to do the penance of course. He may very well be having you say a prayer or prayers from a prayer list, perhaps for the sick of the parish, for peace in the community, for parish familes or a fellow priest or sister who need prayer. There could be any number of reasons. Next time ask the priest why he assigned you the penance he did. Maybe he has a very good reason for doing so.:slight_smile:

I don’t think there is any stipulation that it be “related” to the sins.

One priest that I used to go to ALWAYS gave one Our Father as a penance. Our current pastor often gives penances that are “related”, but sometimes I wonder, “what did I do to get THAT?” Nonetheless, they all have value, and I go with what I’m given - trusting that someone higher than me knows the real value.

Your penance is not the same as restitution. Even after having been forgiven and absolved there may still be natural consequences of our sin that we have to deal with (ie, spouse is still upset about you getting angry and yelling at them).

Your penance is showing your contrition to God, as such it doesn’t have to be related to your sins. Unless you priests ask you to do something very unusual or difficult, I would ask him to explain the penance, simply do it. Obedience in matters like that show humility and love for God.

You do not question the penance that a priest gives you, unless it’s something sinful. Otherwise you are becoming the law giver instead of the observer of the law. In confession the priest speaks in the person of Christ. End of story.

What you do to fix the damage that you have done is separate from the penance. That’s reparation as Sister Sally has stated. The priest can even ask you to pray for him. It’s his judgment call. He is the judge in the confessional, because Christ is the judge and jury.

Take the penance, do it and relax. It’s OK if it’s not related to your sins.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Typed too fast. Should read “would NOT ask him to explain the penance”

If you want a counselling session–and it is OK to feel you need one–ask for one. If you need one on a regular basis, find a spiritual director to give it to you. Otherwise, you should accept the amount of counselling and the type of penance that the priest sees fit to give.

Getting a penance that has nothing to do with you is a great pretext for reflecting upon the fact that the world does not revolve around you, too, not to mention the fact that our sins are the only part of us that is trite, boring, and not reflective of our uniqueness. Looked at that way, having a penance that has as little as possible to do with your sins can be a good thing.

If you feel as if you should do something having to do the with the sins, some kind of amendment, then do that, too. Assigned penance is like assigned reading. It is not only OK to do more than assigned, but is desirable. What is assigned is the minimum.

*I love what the **Blessed Holy St. Benedict **. . . teaches in this regard . . . in the first two paragraphs of the Prologue of The Holy Rule of St. Benedict . . . *it gives a complete and full answer to your question . . .

:coffeeread: "**[size=]L[/size]**isten, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart . . . :heart: . . . Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labor of OBEDIENCE you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

Heartfelt obedience is the key to gaining holy and helpful, strengthening spiritual fruit from a penitent action . . . the particular penance given is always of secondary importance to the . . . **humble obedient action of the will of the soul of God’s child **. . . by God’s Grace . . . in obeying his spiritual “superior” . . . in this case your priest . . .

“His mother saith to the waiters:
Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.

John 2:5

*God bless . . . *
[RIGHT]. . . all for Jesus+
. . . thank You Blessed Lord+
. . . thank you Blessed Holy Mother Church+

Thank you everyone for your words of wisdom.

I will of course be obedient to Christ’s representative - I would never think to not do the penance assigned to me.

The world not revolving around me and so my penance having nothing to do with my sins is a good point. I always sort of thought of penance as a way to feel sorry for sins through direct punishment but confession isn’t about remorse it is about reconciliation with God through obedience.

I’m a convert to the Church (five years now!) and still am not comfortable with confession. Admittedly this time was worse because my regular priest is out of town and it was someone I’m not familiar with (it probably doesn’t help that I’m tracking the priest impersonators thread :p) This forum has proved a useful place to learn and ask questions.

Is it okay to ask for explanation if I don’t understand what the penance is? For instance I once had a priest say decade weird and I think I about drove him crazy asking him to repeat it until he asked if I even knew what the Rosary was (I felt like a complete idiot).

LOL Yes, of course you can ask for an explanation. I am sure that especially priests who are not-native speakers or who might have a speech impediment of some kind are used to it. And if the priest asks you to do something unusual you should be sure you understand what he means.

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