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The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today on Penance, also known as making satisfaction for ones sins.


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Satisfaction [or Penance]


1459 Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. (cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1712) Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance."


1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent's personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him." (Romans 8:17; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690)

The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of "him who strengthens" us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ . . . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth "fruits that befit repentance." These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.


(Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Philippians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14; Luke 3:8)

In Brief


1494 The confessor proposes the performance of certain acts of "satisfaction" or "penance" to be performed by the penitent in order to repair the harm caused by sin and to re-establish habits befitting a disciple of Christ.


1495 Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ.


1496 The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Penance are:

      • reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;
      • reconciliation with the Church;
      • remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;
      • remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;
      • peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;
      • an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle.



  1. St. Hermas, (A.D. c.40-100)
    Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
    St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258)
    Lactantius, (A.D. 240-c.330)
    St. Pacian of Barcelona, (A.D. c.310-375)
    St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420)
    St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407)
    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. Hermas, (A.D. c.40-100), author of the book called "The Shepherd" (A.D. c.90-c.150): a work which had great authority in ancient times, considered a valuable book by many Christians.

"But, sir, behold, they also now do penitence with all their hearts." "I know," says he, "that they do penitence with all their hearts. But dost thou therefore think that their offences, who do penitence, are immediately blotted out? No, they are not presently; but it is necessary that he who does penitence afflict his soul, and show himself humble in spirit in all his affairs, and undergo many and divers vexations; and when he shall have suffered all things which were appointed for him, then, perhaps. He that made him, and formed all things, will be moved with compassion towards him and afford him some remedy: and that so, if he shall perceive his heart, who does penitence, pure from every evil work."

L. iii. Simil. vii. n. i. Coteler. PP. Ap. t. i.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 116-117

Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218), North African; ecclesiastical writer, Christian apologist and lawyer, son of a centurion and contemporary of St. Irenæus, a native and citizen of Carthage. The zeal and ability with which he defended the Christian cause, and vindicated its faith and discipline, have immortalized his name, though it has suffered by his adoption, around the year A.D. 200, of some of the Montanist's errors, whose cause he is thought to have supported until his death. His works are numerous, and are written with great ability and erudition, but in an harsh style.

"On the fast and stations, no prayer must be observed without kneeling, and the other modes of humiliation. For we are not only praying, but deprecating, and making satisfaction unto God our Lord."

De Oratione. From Muratori's l. iii. Anecdot.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 117

"It is the duty of those who are about to enter upon baptism, to pray with frequent prayers, fasts, bowings of the knee, and long watchings, and with the confession of all their past sins, so as to show forth even the baptism of John: "They were baptized, says he, confessing their sins." We may congratulate ourselves, if we do not publicly confess our iniquities, or our defilements. For, by the afflicting of the flesh and of the spirit, we at the same time, both satisfy for things past, and build up beforehand a barrier against temptations to come."

De Baptismo, n. 20, p. 232. See also De Jejuniis, n. 3, p. 546.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 117

"What then is the working of patience in the body? In the first place, the afflicting of the flesh, an offering propitiating the Lord by the sacrifice of humiliation, when it offers up to the Lord filthy garments with scantiness of food, being content with simple victuals, and a pure draught of water; when with this it joins fasting, when it grows familiar with ashes and sackcloth. This patience of the body commends our prayers, strengthens our entreaties for mercy; this opens the ears of Christ our God, scatters abroad His severity, draws forth His mercy. So, that king of Babylon, when, having offended God, he lived deprived of the form of a man, in filthiness and dirt, for seven years, as soon as he had offered as a sacrifice the patience of his body, he both recovered the kingdom, and, which is more to be desired for a man, made satisfaction to God."

"Who, when he has inquired, does not join us? When he has joined us does not desire to suffer, that he may purchase (redimat) the whole grace of God; that he may gain from Him perfect forgiveness at the price (compensatione) of his own blood? For all crimes are pardoned to this work."

De Patientia, n. 13, p. 147.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 117-118

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"The Lord is merciful and long suffering, and "wills not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live" (Ezekiel 33) By being penitent, by weeping, by making satisfaction, let him blot out what he has been guilty of."

T. ii. Hom. vi. in Exod. n. 9, p. 150.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 118

"Wherefore if any one be conscious to himself that he has within him a mortal sin, and that he has not cast it off from himself, through a penitence of the fullest satisfaction, let him not hope that Christ will enter into his soul."

T. ii. Hom. xii. in Levit. n. 3, p. 251.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 118

St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258), North African; bishop; biblical scholar, martyr.

"Whilst the way to pardon is open, let us deprecate God by complete satisfactions."

In the Anonymi Tractat. ad Novat. Galland. t. iii. p. 376,
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 120

"Reading, therefore, (these sentences of Scripture) and holding this, we are of opinion that no one is to be expelled from the fruit of satisfaction, and the hope of peace; since we know, according to the faith of the divine Scriptures, God Himself being the author and exhorter, that sinners are both brought back to do penitence, and that pardon and forgiveness are not denied the penitent. And, Oh! mockery of a deluded brotherhood! Oh, treacherous deception of wretched mourners! Oh, ineffectual and vain tradition of heretical institution! to exhort to the penitence of satisfaction, and to take away from satisfaction its medicinal quality: to say to our brethren, shed tears and groan day and night; work liberally and perseveringly to wash and purge away thy sin, but after all these thou shalt die "without" the Church; whatever things pertain to peace shalt thou do, but thou shalt not receive the peace which thou seekest."

Ep. lii. ad Antonianum, p. 158.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 118-119

"In often held council, we have, not merely by our common consent, but also with menaces, decreed, that the (lapsed) brethren should do penitence; that, to those not doing penitence, none should have the rashness to grant peace. But these men, sacrilegious against God, reckless with impious rage against the priests of God, forsaking the Church, and against the Church lifting parricidal weapons, strive that they may consummate their work with the malice of the devil to prevent the divine clemency from curing within the Church the wounded; by the deceitfulness of their falsehoods they vitiate the penitence of these wretched men, that satisfaction may not be made to an angry God. . . . Pains are taken that sins may not be redeemed by satisfaction and just lamentations, that wounds may not be washed clean by tears."

Ep. lv. ad Cornel, p. 181.
Similar expressions occur "passim" in St. Cyprian's Letters.3
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 119

"The harmful and poisoned persuasion of such men deals worse death than persecution. In this there still is left penitence which may make satisfaction; whilst they who take away penitence for sin, shut up the way of satisfaction. . . .As we have sinned greatly, let us weep greatly. To a deep wound let not a diligent and long course of medicine be wanting. Let not the penitence be less than the crime. Thinkest thou that the Lord can quickly be appeased, when thou hast with perfidious words denied Him? . . . Men must pray and entreat more earnestly, pass the day in grief, spend nights in vigils and tears, employ their whole time in sorrowing lamentations, lie stretched on the ground, prostrate themselves amongst ashes, sackcloth, and dust; after Christ's raiment lost, wish for no other clothing; after the devil's food, of choice must fast; apply themselves to just works, whereby sins are purged away; give abundant alms, whereby souls are freed from death. . . . God can show indulgence; He can turn aside His sentence. To the man who is penitent, who does good works, who entreats, He can graciously give pardon: He can impute whatever, for such, martyrs may pray and priests perform. Or if any one move Him yet further by His own satisfactions, if he appease His wrath, the displeasure of an angered God, by worthy supplication, He grants weapons again, wherewith the conquered may be armed; recruits and invigorates that strength, whereby faith refreshed may be quickened. The soldier will return to his warfare, will renew the fight, will challenge the enemy, by his sufferings only made stronger for the conflict. He who has thus made satisfaction to God, who by penitence for what he has done, by shame for his sin, has gained for himself an increase both of virtue and faith from the very suffering which his fall occasions, heard and helped by the Lord, will give gladness to the Church which he had lately grieved, and merit not only God s pardon now, but a crown also."

De Lapsis pp. 384-6.
Similar expressions are repeated in various parts of this Treatise.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 119-120

Lactantius, (A.D. 240-c.330), was an early Christian author, the goal of his writings was to present Christianity in a form that would be attractive to philosophical pagans.

"The malice of persecutors is also laid bare in this, that they think they have utterly overthrown God's religion, whom they have defiled a man; whereas there is room to make satisfaction to God, and there is no worshipper of God so wicked as not, when the opportunity offers, to return to appease God, yea, with greater devotedness."

Div. Inst. L. v. c. 13.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 121

St. Pacian of Barcelona, (A.D. c.310-375), bishop of Barcelona, Jerome praises his eloquence, learning, chastity, and holiness of life. He is also remembered from a phrase from one of his letters: "My name is Christian, my surname is Catholic.".

"Let me now address myself to those who, under the name of penitence, confessing well arid wisely their wounds, neither know what penitence is, nor what is the remedy to be applied to wounds. These are like persons who lay bare their sores and swellings, and acknowledge them to the physicians who attend them, but though instructed, neglect the prescribed application, and loath what is ordered to be taken. ... As a consequence the evil increases, and the patient is tormented with a most grievous gangrene. What shall I do now, the priest that am required to effect a cure? It is late for such a case. Still, if you can bear the knife and the caustic, I can yet cure. Here is the prophetic knife, "Be converted to the Lord your God, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning, and rend your hearts." (Joel. 2:12,13) Be not afraid, dearly beloved, of this cutting. David bore it; he lay in filthy ashes, and was disfigured by a robe of mean sackcloth.... I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the faith of the Church, by my solicitude for you ... let not shame over come you in this work; let it not be irksome to you to make your own the seasonable remedies of salvation; to humble your minds with sorrow; to put on sackcloth; to strew yourselves with ashes; to wear yourselves with fasting and with grief; and to obtain the help of others' prayers. In proportion as you have not been sparing in punishing yourselves, in that same measure will God spare you. . . . Here is my promise and pledge, that if you return to your Father by a true satisfaction, by going astray no more, by not adding to your former sins, by uttering also words of humility and of plaintiveness, "Father we have sinned before thee, we are not now worthy to be called thy sons, (Luke 15), at once the unclean herd will leave you, and the foul husks their food. He will at once clothe the returning sinner with his robe, honor him with a ring, and receive him again to a father's embrace. Lo! it is He who says, "I will not the death of a sinner,"

Paraen. ad Paenit. n. 9, 12, Galland. T. vii. pp. 272-3.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 122-123

St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379), Cappadocian; bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 369, theologian, monk. Studied in Palestine, Constantinople, and Athens. Many of the subsequent years of his life were spent in the deserts of Egypt and Libya. His character and works have gained for him the surname of "the great".

In the works of this father there are three letters to St. Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, in which are given eighty-four canons touching various regulations of the Church, and especially the canonical penances affixed to various crimes; penances extending over many years, as fornication, punished with seven years, canon 59; adultery, with fifteen years of penance, canon 58; apostasy, with penance to the end of life, canon 73; and so, with various degrees of severity, of other crimes and offences.

In the last of those canons he says: "All these things do we write, that thereby the fruits of penitence may be examined into. For we do not, after all, judge of these things by time, but we attend to the mode of penitence. If there be who are with difficulty withdrawn from their own habits, and who choose rather to serve the pleasures of the flesh, than to serve God, and who engage not in that life which is according to the Gospel, there is no common ground between us and such. . . . But we ought, night and day, publicly and privately to utter our testimony to them, but not to suffer ourselves to be dragged along with them into their wickedness; our prayer above all things being to gain them, and to snatch them from the snares of the wicked one; but if we cannot do this, let us study at least to save our own souls from eternal condemnation."

Ep. Can. Tertia, Canon 84, T. iii. P. ii. pp. 478-9.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 121-122

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

"For a grievous wound there needs a searching and protracted cure. A grievous crime requires a grievous satisfaction. For there is no doubt that the crime is less where one voluntarily confesses, and is penitent for, his sin; whereas, where one conceals his evils, is despite his will detected, and against his will is exposed publicly, there the crime is graver. That this has been thy case [he is addressing a fallen virgin] thou canst not deny."

T. ii. De Lapsu Virg. n. 37, p. 315.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 123

"He that does penitence ought to offer himself for punishment, that he may be punished by the Lord here, and not reserved to everlasting torments; not to wait for, but to meet, the divine indignation."

T. i. Enarr. in Ps. xxxvii. n. 13, p. 820.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 123

"Others too there are, who, if they abstain from the heavenly sacraments, account this penitence. Such are judges too severe upon themselves; they prescribe to themselves a punishment, but they decline the remedy; and their duty is to be grieved at their very punishment, seeing themselves robbed of the heavenly grace."

T. ii. De Paenit. L. ii. c. ix. n. 89, p. 435.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 123

"I have more easily found those who have preserved their innocence, than those who have done penitence in a befitting manner. Does any one think there is a penitence there, where there is ambitious seeking after dignity, free indulgence in wine, where even the marital rights are not abandoned? The world is to be renounced; sleep less indulged in than nature demands; disturb it with groans, interrupt it with sighs, set it aside for prayers; a man must so live as to die to the uses of this life; he must deny himself, and be entirely changed."

T. ii. L. ii. De Pwnit. c. x. n. 96, pp. 436-7. 1
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 123-124

"This seems to be expressed, if we first of all, by the sacrifice of purification, and by the mystery of baptism, wash away the defilements of our sins, and also redeem our sins (crimina redimamus) by good works, by the price of faith, and by works of mercy."

The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 124

St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420), Dalmatian; born in Strido; priest, hermit, abbot, biblical scholar, translator and Doctor of the Church. In an age distinguished by men of the greatest eloquence and learning, St. Jerome, especially in all matters connected with the Sacred Scriptures, was then preeminent, and has probably never since been equalled.

"Gird yourselves and lament. (Joel 1:13) He that is a sinner, and whom his own conscience reproves, let him gird himself with sackcloth, and lament both his own sins, and those of the people, and enter into the Church, which he had left on account of his sins, and let him lie, or sleep in sackcloth, that he may, by austerity of life, compensate for the past pleasures whereby he had offended God."

T. vi. Comm. in c.i. Joel, col. 184.
See also Ep. xxvii. ad Eustoch.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 124

St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407), Syrian; archbishop, Doctor of the Church. Born at Antioch in 344; he was ordained priest in A.D. 383, and raised to the see of Constantinople in the year A.D. 398. His eloquence gained him the title of Chrysostom, or the mouth of gold. His expositions of Scripture, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, are very valuable. This illustrious prelate died on his road to exile, in A.D. 407.

"If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." (1 Corinthians 11:31) In order then that we may not be punished then, that we may not undergo chastisement then, let each one enter into his own conscience, and having laid bare his life, and gone through with accuracy all his transgressions, let him condemn the soul that has done those things, punish those thoughts, afflict and harrow his mind, exact punishment of himself by the most exact penitence, by tears, by confession, by fasting and alms, by contiuency and love, in order that, having put aside our sins by every means in our power, we may depart thither with great confidence."

T. i. De Lazaro, Concio iv. n. 7, p. 933.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 124-125

"Bring forth fruits worthy of penitence. But how shall we bring them forth? If we do the opposite things; as, for instance, hast thou seized with violence the goods of others? henceforth give away even thine own. Hast thou been long a fornicator? abstain even from thy own wife on certain appointed days: exercise continence. Hast thou insulted and stricken the passers by? henceforth bless them that insult thee, and do good to them that strike thee. For it suffices not for our health to have drawn out the dart only; but we must also apply remedies to the wound. Hast thou been feasted and been drunken in times past? fast and drink water."

T. vii. Hom. x. in Matt. n. 6, pp. 169-70.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 125

"Let us not account it a grievous thing to be punished, but to sin. For even if He were not to punish us, we ought to exact punishment from ourselves, who have been so ungrateful towards our benefactor.... I make a declaration, strange, astonishing, and to many perhaps incredible; it will, to one that has enkindled His wrath that so loved him, be a greater consolation, if he have sense, and love the Lord, to be punished than not to be punished. . . . Let us then, when we sin against Him whom we ought not to offend, exact punishment from ourselves.... If any love Christ as He ought to be loved — he understands what I say, — how, even though He have pardoned him, He will not endure not to be punished; laboring indeed under the greatest punishment in that he has angered Him. And I know well that I may be saying things incredible to the many, but nevertheless it is as I have said. If, then, we love Christ as we ought, we shall punish ourselves when we have sinned."

T. x. Hom. xii. in Ep. ii. ad Cor. n.3,4, pp. 609-10.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 125

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:

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