Catholicism - Now I Get It!


Study Guide to CHAPTER 12: "Now I Get…..Penance"




What are three forms of penance?

The life, death and Resurrection of Jesus wiped away the eternal punishment of sin for those who have repented. But what role does penance play in wiping away temporary punishment for our sins?

If we are forgiven for our sin when we die, we will be saved. But if we haven't finished repenting for our sins prior to dying, where do we finish up prior to entering heaven?

Jot down the names of 4 to 6 saints. Research to find out what these saints did for penance.

What were the promises made to St. Faustina regarding Divine Mercy Sunday?

What did St. Francis of Assisi and St. Padre Pio have in common? (Hint: It begins with "st")

What are the minimum fasting and abstinence obligations of the Church for Lent?


Suggestions for further reading:

History of Penance by Oscar D. Watkins

Suffering: The Catholic Answer by Hubert Van Zeller


Helpful entries from the online Catholic Encyclopedia.



Tertullian ("On Fasting" by Early Church writer Tertullian)

Alms and Almsgiving  




HELPFUL WEB SITES (Brief History of Lent) (Long History of Lent) (Lent History by Fr. Saunders) (The Forgiveness of Sins)



Mt. 9:15:  And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Mt. 6:16-18  "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Dan. 10:3   In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks.I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks

Luke 9:23-24:  And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.

More Bible verses on Suffering.



Colossians 1:24:  Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church

1 Corinthians 9:27: Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Gal. 6:17:  Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus





1434 The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,31 which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity "which covers a multitude of sins."32

1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,33 by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.34

1436 Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. "It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins."35

1437 Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father - every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins.

1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice.36 These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

1439 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father:37 the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life - pure worthy, and joyful - of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart Of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

For more Catechism on penance, click HERE




St. Augustine:  "When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance" (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [395 A.D.]).

St. Jerome:  "If the serpent, the devil, bites someone secretly, he infects that person with the venom of sin. And if the one who has been bitten keeps silence and does not do penance, and does not want to confess his wound . . . then his brother and his master, who have the word [of absolution] that will cure him, cannot very well assist him" (Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:11 [A.D. 388]).

St. Basil the Great:  "It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles" (Rules Briefly Treated 288 [374 A.D.]).

St. Ignatius of Antioch:  "For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ" (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 [A.D. 110]).



Not everyone is able to sacrifice their lives for the Kingdom like Carmelite nuns and Franciscan friars. But we can at least make little sacrifices for the good of our own souls, the souls of others, and the whole world.

The Bible says we are supposed to take up our cross daily. Jot down a few daily sacrifices we can fit into our days. For example, some ideas might by giving up car radio on the way to work, giving up that cup of mocha latte, putting some extra money in the collection basket at Mass, or meditating over a page of the Bible. Maybe invite a friend to come to Confession with you?

What are some ways to make the next Lent a time of greater spiritual growth? Besides fasting, can you make it to daily Mass, or at least one extra Mass each week?

How often do we examine our conscience? Are we saying an Act of Contrition before we go to bed each night?


Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.




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