Why light penances after confession?


#1

In the early church, penances for your sins were heavy, it took even years of doing some kind of sacrifice! Now, after we confess, is like "pray 3 Our Fathers"... I think we should bring a middle ground, such as pray a full rosary, because that way would make people realise more the gravity of sin, no?


#2

Hello. :)

Generally, penance is made light so it doesn't interfere with a person's job or other daily life. Normally, penance should be made so it can be accomplished right there in the church, before you go home.


#3

I wish that confessors would give heavier penances out too.

Just curious: any pre-Vat. II people here that can tell me if penances were heavier before Vatican II? Thanks!

We must pray for our priests daily!


#4

You can always ASK for something stiffer. I have. And there was absolute silence on the other side of the screen. This priest had never been asked that before. But, he gave it to me. I've heard that penances that are given in confession have more weight than the exact same thing that we do on our own.


#5

You receive the forgiveness of Christ in confession. Is this not enough???

In all honesty, I don't understand this kind of thinking at all.


#6

Having a penance of an Our Father or Hail Mary makes it clear to us that we're not in any way earning our forgiveness. It is a gift that we should be thankful for. Having some heavy penance might give the opposite impression, that we have somehow merited our forgiveness through our own actions.


#7

I'm 78, so I was an adult before Vatican II. The penance were the same as now. In the early Church, I believe, Catholics didn't go to Confession as they do now. It was for mortal sins only, such a adultery, murder, adoring pagan idols and such.


#8

Several years ago I went to confess something very serious and very mortal in nature. At the conclusion I was given a penance that was similar to what I received regularly when I was a child before Vatican II after I had confessed to disobeying my parents. It is not the penance that I feel is as important as the act of confessing and receiving absolution. I think the cleansing and restoring nature of the sacrament of contrition does not need a punishment type of penance but rather a symbolic time of prayer.


#9

[quote="fabio_rocha, post:1, topic:331321"]
In the early church, penances for your sins were heavy, it took even years of doing some kind of sacrifice! Now, after we confess, is like "pray 3 Our Fathers"... I think we should bring a middle ground, such as pray a full rosary, because that way would make people realise more the gravity of sin, no?

[/quote]

Well, after your ordination, you can always impose more. :D

Until then, let us rejoice in this great sacrament of the Church!

Isn't the point that a contrite heart yearns for God's forgiveness? And isn't that given to our priests by God?

I commend you for your desire to hold yourself to a high standard, in all seriousness. But doesn't what you wish, in effect, say that God's Church and God's sacrament, the Rite of Reconciliation, is not enough?

If you think that your penance is too light, what is preventing your from doing more for the sake of your love for God and contrition of heart? Perhaps good works for Christ? Alms to the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned? Clothe the naked? Feed the hungry? Give water to those that thirst?:)

But don't do these things out of the idea that what the priest told you to do is insufficient.

He has fulfilled his office, so isn't it up to you to accept it? :thumbsup:


#10

In "light" penances, we experience God's mercy. If we impose severe (or additional) penances upon ourselves, we risk causing offense to the very Lord Who forgave our sins in the first place. His word, through the Priest, is final.


#11

[quote="SuscipeMeDomine, post:6, topic:331321"]
Having a penance of an Our Father or Hail Mary makes it clear to us that we're not in any way earning our forgiveness. It is a gift that we should be thankful for. Having some heavy penance might give the opposite impression, that we have somehow merited our forgiveness through our own actions.

[/quote]

Well stated :thumbsup:


#12

[quote="holyfamily1, post:3, topic:331321"]
I wish that confessors would give heavier penances out too.

Just curious: any pre-Vat. II people here that can tell me if penances were heavier before Vatican II? Thanks!

We must pray for our priests daily!

[/quote]

No, they actually seemed to be lighter, consisting mostly of something like 3 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys back then. Today, there seems to be a trend toward giving penances that requires more than just saying prayers, such as performing acts of charity, or doing some Bible reading, etc. And I usually go to several different parishes for Confession depending on my schedule, and have found this to be so at all I have been to, although some priests still give the standard prayers.

I don't think giving heavier penances is going to make any difference in people's sorrow for their sins. That is a matter of the heart. I think what giving heavy penances might accomplish is making people sorry they went to Confession to that priest in the first place.

We also have to be careful not to wish to impose burdens on others just because we think people need it. That is really not our place. We have to think with the mind of the Church.


#13

[quote="holyfamily1, post:3, topic:331321"]
I wish that confessors would give heavier penances out too.

Just curious: any pre-Vat. II people here that can tell me if penances were heavier before Vatican II? Thanks!

We must pray for our priests daily!

[/quote]

No, they actually seemed to be lighter, consisting mostly of something like 3 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys back then. Today, there seems to be a trend toward giving penances that requires more than just saying prayers, such as performing acts of charity, or doing some Bible reading, etc. And I usually go to several different parishes for Confession depending on my schedule, and have found this to be so at all I have been to, although some priests still give the standard prayers.


#14

hairshirts not good enough anymore?


#15

I privately had this same thought some time back. Then at the next confession, the priest told be to read Augustine's Confessions. Not a "quickie" penance, I must say. I was sure he must have read my mind. Careful what you wish for. :)


#16

[quote="Fairwinds, post:14, topic:331321"]
hairshirts not good enough anymore?

[/quote]

I think what must have been worse than the hair shirts would have been the fleas that lived in them in past times. :eek:


#17

[quote="CB_Catholic, post:16, topic:331321"]
I think what must have been worse than the hair shirts would have been the fleas that lived in them in past times. :eek:

[/quote]

nothing like the plague to darken one's day.


#18

[quote="Fairwinds, post:14, topic:331321"]
hairshirts not good enough anymore?

[/quote]

I think what must have been worse than the hair shirts would have been the fleas that lived in them in past times. :eek:


#19

[quote="fabio_rocha, post:1, topic:331321"]
In the early church, penances for your sins were heavy, it took even years of doing some kind of sacrifice! Now, after we confess, is like "pray 3 Our Fathers"... I think we should bring a middle ground, such as pray a full rosary, because that way would make people realise more the gravity of sin, no?

[/quote]

I do agree that a harder penance may move our hearts more. Some confessors give stricter penances.

But it is not how hard you strike the flesh, but how sincerely you turn your heart away from sin and towards Christ. Do not despise the little sacrifices, for of such is made the little way of holiness. It was indeed written:

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.

go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'

"The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?" says the Lord. ...] For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The penance is not commensurate to the gravity, and is not given as a means of absolution, but as a means to diminish our temporal punishment due to sin. Do you have the slightest idea of how great an injury to the All Holy is even the lightest of all sins? No, God does not absolve us in return for our penance, but because of our contrition and love. It took an offering of infinite value to merit forgiveness, namely the Lord's. Indeed Scripture says:

The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. ...] I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more ...] I, even I, am he that blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins.

Finally, I think we do not fully realize the great merit that the prayer once uttered by the Lord can attain if recited devoutly, as any prayer that has been on the lips of the saints throughout history. Indeed the Church Father Clement of Alexandria wrote:

though [the Christian] pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]


#20

Frankly, if my assigned penances get any heavier I won't have time for anything else besides confessing my sins in the first place. My former confessor either gave light penance or none at all. Desiring more help overcoming my habitual sins, I sought a new confessor. As dave said, be careful what you wish for.


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