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Full Version: Is There a Default Penance?
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In the confessional today, the priest was particularly loquacious to the point of, after absolution, telling me his plans for this evening as I was exiting the box.  Anyway, he never gave me any penance other than cautioning me to be more careful and to "make the Church proud" whenever in public.  Upon returning to my pew, I knelt and prayed the customary "Three Haily Marys," as our old Polish pastor would say.  Does anyone know of a better form or penance to make, or was I off the hook in this instance?  Thanks!
I suppose, technically, you were 'off the hook' once he absolved you, but there's no rule against adding something reasonable to your penance. I got Three Our Fathers for the poor souls last night. I added the Requiem aeternam and a few other prayers for the departed as well.
I usually get like 5 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Mary's or some variation of that.

This week he also asked me to do a charitable work.
For mortal sins the penance must be a grave one, according to the various moral theology books. That is general defined as a Rosary, a penance that takes several days to do or something that the Church would oblige us to do under pain of mortal sin (hear Mass, fast, abstain, go to Communion, go to Confession, etc.)


When a priest does not think the penitent can do the penance, he often will do it for the penitent and assign something less that is doable.

For venial sins there is no default, but most priests I have confessed to have a standard penance they like to default to. Others are highly seasonal. I had a spiritual director once who would give a decade of the Rosary for venial sins unless it was a month where there was a litany that was said. Invariably it was then that litany.

If you're not clear on the penance, though, ask. At least ask him to give you something concrete and doable, so you can be sure you did it.

The obligation of doing your penance is grave if it was for grave sins (omitting it would be a grave sin), and light if for venial sins (it would be a venial sin to omit it). You do not need to do the penance before the next confession, but should never delay in doing it lest you forget and never do it.
That's interesting, I've rarely gotten a priest who gives anything more than a few Hail Mary's or Our Father's. I can probably count on one hand the amount of priests who have told me to pray a full Rosary. 

The ones that I hate the most are penances that aren't concrete. "Think about the blessings in your life" and things of that nature.
(10-01-2018, 12:28 AM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: [ -> ]For mortal sins the penance must be a grave one, according to the various moral theology books. That is general defined as a Rosary, a penance that takes several days to do or something that the Church would oblige us to do under pain of mortal sin (hear Mass, fast, abstain, go to Communion, go to Confession, etc.)

When a priest does not think the penitent can do the penance, he often will do it for the penitent and assign something less that is doable.

Even my most serious sins have only resulted in a penance of three Hail Marys, five Our Fathers, or once in a while a rosary. These aren’t modernist priests either. This makes me suspect they did the rest themselves. I heard an account once where a young priest asked St. John Vianney for advice on assigning penances. I don’t know how accurate this is, because I don’t remember the source, but supposedly St. John Vianney advised the young priest to keep the penances light and then to do the rest himself.
The default penance is enduring the chastisements sent by God by patiently bearing the sufferings and trials in our lives and, when the day comes, serenely facing death (cf. CCC 1473). 

When it comes to voluntary penance, the three traditional forms are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving--almsgiving is fitting satisfaction for sins against neighbor, fasting for sins against self, and prayer for sins against God (so basically always pray).  Those are always options as well.

From what I understand, the penances assigned by priests in recent centuries are not really intended to make full satisfaction--they are mostly symbolic (not completely of course) and help us turn back to God through prayer. Instead, we rely mostly on those involuntary penances I mentioned above, privately chosen acts of penance, the publicly prescribed penitential days of the Church (which are now very few), and of course indulgences.
We can either make up for the effects of our sins now or later, in purgatory. So you can always ask the priest for a tougher penance if you prefer to pay now.
I have mostly received the same types of penance though I've only confessed twice outside of FSSP priests. One of the time was to a Personal Ordinariate of St. Peter priest and he gave me a chapter of James to read! I liked that.
(10-02-2018, 08:52 PM)mpk1987 Wrote: [ -> ]I have mostly received the same types of penance though I've only confessed twice outside of FSSP priests. One of the time was to a Personal Ordinariate of St. Peter priest and he gave me a chapter of James to read! I liked that.

It would be nice if priests gave more scriptural readings as penance. The normal pray 3 Hail Marys and 3 Our Fathers doesn't do much. Reading Scripture can take minimal effort but the right passage may inspire someone to change or try something different to get over their sins.