What's the difference between repentance versus penance?


#1

I have a question concerning the words repentance and penance. In all Bibles except the Douay-Rheims, they use the words ‘repent’ and ‘repentance’, while the DRB uses the terms ‘penance’ and ‘doing penance.’ Looking the words up in my Webster’s New World College Dictionary, I find that they both come from Latin words meaning ‘penitent.’ Both words indicate a person’s sorrowful attitude towards wrongdoing. However, ‘repentance’ refers more towards remorse and contrition, while penance is more of an action taken to atone for the wrongdoing. My question is, is there a real difference between them?


#2

Dear RN,

You just gave the real difference. Doing penance gives credibility to our repentance. Otherwise our penitential attitude can ring hollow. Talk is cheap. Anyone can say that he is sorry. Integrity is proven by what we are willing to do about it.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.


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