BibleBeltCatholics | Sharing quotes and writings of the Early Church Fathers with our separated Christian brethren in the South!
Home 1st-2nd Century 3rd-4th Century 5th-8th Century The Catechism Today About this site

The Catholic Church and
the term Catholic
Peter and the Papacy
The Sacraments
Mother?of?God Baptism
Immaclate?Conception Confession
Virgin?Birth   Penance
Immaclate?Conception Eucharist
    The Mass
Virgin?Birth   The Real Presence
Virgin?Birth   Clerical celibacy
  Anointing of the Sick
Other Church Teaching
The Word of God
Heaven, Purgatory and Hell

<<  Fifth through the Eighth CenturiesSpacer>>

The Early Church Fathers on Penance, also known as making satisfaction for ones sins.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    Salvian, (A.D. c.400-c.484)
    St. Peter Chrysologus, (A.D. 406 - 450)
St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

"Implore mercy, but lose not sight of justice; it is mercy to pardon the sinner, justice to punish the sin. What, then? Dost thou seek for mercy, and shall sin remain unpunished? Let David answer, let the lapsed answer, let them answer with David, that they may deserve mercy like David, and let them say: "No, Lord, my sin shall not be unpunished; I know His justice, whose mercy I seek; it shall not be unpunished, but therefore do I seek that Thou punish me not, because I punish my own sin; therefore do I ask Thee to forgive, because I forget not."

T. iv. in Ps. 1, n. 7, col 661.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 126

"A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and humble heart God does not despise." Not only, therefore, did he offer up with devotion, but also, by saying this, he shows what ought to be offered. For it is not enough to reform our manners, and to withdraw from evil deeds, if we do not, for those things which have been done, satisfy God by the sorrow of penitence, by the grieving of humility, by the sacriiice of a contrite heart, alms co-operating."

T. v. Serm. cccli. n. 12, col. 2019.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 126

"Care must indeed be taken that no one fancy that those infamous crimes, which are such that they who do such things shall not possess the kingdom of God, may be daily committed, and daily redeemed by alms. For the life must be reformed, and God must be propitiated by alms for past sins; not bought over, in a kind of way, for this end that a man may always have license to commit them with impunity. For, "To no one has He given license to sin, (Ecclesiastes 15), although He may, in His mercy, if a congruous satisfaction be not neglected, blot out sins already committed. But, as regards daily, momentary, light sins, without which this life is not passed, the daily prayer of the faithful satisfies. It is for those who have already been regenerated, to such a Father, by water and the spirit to say: "Our Father who art in Heaven." This prayer utterly blots out the smallest, and the daily sins."

T. vi. Enchirid. de Fide, &c. n. 19 (al. 70-71), col. 382-3.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 126-127

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

"Be converted to me with all your heart". (Joel 2:12). Cast away the past, and let what has gone by be utterly in oblivion, and show forth in yourselves better things. Mitigate (the anger) of God by other things, by fasting and labor, weeping and lamentation. For the effect of engaging in these things shall be the enjoyment thenceforward of happiness and gladness. For, as prosperity ends, and the sinking into pleasures terminates in sighs and punishment, so, goodness and penitential labors eventuate in happiness. It is therefore profitable to weep over sin, and to be sorrowful according to God. For, as Paul writes, "The sorrow that is according to God worketh penitence steadfast unto salvation." Furthermore, it is necessary carefully to consider this,— how great the efficacy of fasting is. It appeases the Lord; it mitigates His wrath; it averts punishment. For, subjecting ourselves to stripes, we readily appease the wrath of God well-nigh enkindled and inflamed against us, and we easily turn aside the hand that smites us."

T. iii. Com, in Joel. p. 218.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 33-34

Salvian, (A.D. c.400-c.484), a Christian priest and writer of Gaul, who appeared to have a special background in law. He died at Marseilles in 484.

"This writer saw that, even in those who are called penitents, there was rather the name, than the fruits of penitence. For many, yea, almost all penitents, even the wealthy, and men conscious of their crimes and enormities, not only will not condescend to redeem what they have been guilty of by confession and satisfaction, but not even, which is a very easy thing, by donations at least and acts of mercy."

Ep. ad Solon. T.x. Galland, p. 56.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 103-104

St. Peter Chrysologus, (A.D. 406 - 450), deacon, bishop of Imola and Ravenna, and Doctor of the Church, his piety and zeal won for him universal admiration, and his oratory merited for him the name Chrysologus, meaning: golden-worded or golden mouth.

"Opportunely, during this time of fasting, has blessed John, the teacher of penitence, come unto us, a teacher in word and deed, a true master; what his word proclaims, his example sets forth. . . . We, therefore, have need of a greater penitence (than the Jews), and the nature of the remedy is to be proportioned to the nature of the wound. Let us, therefore, be penitent, my brethren, let us be penitent speedily, . . . the presence of the judgment already excludes us from the opportunity of satisfaction, . . . and we who have not, of our own will, sought for merit, let us acquire virtue, at least by compulsion; that we may not be judged, let us be our own judges; we owe penitence to ourselves, that we may avert the sentence from ourselves. It is the highest happiness to enjoy the unvarying security of innocence; to preserve a holiness of body and of mind that never has been violated. . . . but if our mind should happen to have been pierced by any arrow of sin ... then let the medicine of penitence bring relief to the ailing, though not to the sound; let the knife of compunction be used, the cautery of sorrow applied, the fomentations of sighs be had recourse to, let the glowing heat of the swollen conscience evaporate, let the ulcers of guilt be washed with tears, let hair-cloth wipe away the uncleanness of the body. Let him who would not preserve his health as became him, endure the bitter observance of penitence. . . . And the same John had his garment of camel's hair (Matthew 3.), ... in such a garment it behooved the teacher of penitence to be clothed, that they who had turned aside from the discipline of righteousness, and rendered themselves all deformed by various kinds of sins, might be subjected to the weighty burdens of penitence, and to the severe sufferings of satisfaction: that made straight and attenuated like a needle by passing through the narrow way of penitence, they may enter into the wide fields of forgiveness, and the Lord's saying be fulfilled, that "a camel can pass through the eye of a needle."

Serm. clxvii. pp. 232-33.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 34-35



Though no creature can make condign penance, either for the guilt of sin, or for the pain eternal due to it this satisfaction being proper to Christ our Saviour, the penitent sinner may, as members of Christ, make in some measure satisfy, by prayer, fasting, alms-deeds, and other works of piety, for the temporal pain, which, in the order of the Divine justice, sometimes remains due, after the guilt of sin and the pain eternal have been remitted. Such penitential works though, are not satisfactory of they are not joined and applied to that satisfaction which Jesus made upon the cross in virtue of which alone all our good works find a grateful acceptance in the sight of God.


As the fathers teach baptism frees us from all sin, yet if the baptized fell into grievous sin, after baptism, they were subjected to a long course of penance in the early church, the nature and terms of which were settled by what are known as the penitential canons. Over time, those penitential satisfactions were indeed relaxed through indulgences. Nevertheless, they are only further proofs of the rigor of the primitive church in requiring a satisfaction or penance for sins absolved in Confession.



The Church's Scriptures that support the Penance portion of Confession are:

Dave fasts and does penance hoping the Lord will spare Bathsheba's child.

13 David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die. 15 Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became sick.16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in and lay all night upon the ground. 17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. . . . 21 Then his servants said to him, "What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while it was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food." 22 He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said,
"Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?'"

2 Samuel 12:13-18, 21-22

Dave does Penance for his sin.

10 But David's heart smote him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, I pray thee, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly." 11 And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, 12 "Go and say to David, `Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you." 13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, "Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me." 14 Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man." 15 So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; and there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men. 16 And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented of the evil, and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, "It is enough; now stay your hand."

2 Samuel 24:10-16

Repent for the Kingdom.

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."


Matthew 4:17

The Sign of Jonah

41 The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.


Matthew 12:41-42

Jesus tells us to bear the fruit of repentance.

8 Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.


Luke 3:8

Adam and Christ

12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned


Romans 5:12

Life in the Spirit

16 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.


Romans 8:16-17

A Worker approved by God.

24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one, an apt teacher, forbearing, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 26 and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

St. Paul takes joy in doing penance for his sins and the sins of the Church.

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, 25 of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.

Colossians 1:24-25

See also:

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
Untitled Document