Repentance, Penance, and Reparation

Return to the Directory:

Return to Main Page:

Directors Note:

The key to penance and Reparation is repentence from the deeds that we have committed. Always this requires a searching of the Heart. It is sometimes amazing at all the little pets that gather in the corner of our hearts, pets in the form of those things which are not of God. Somtimes dragons are present in the form of unrepentent sin or those things often that we are to ashamed to admit but like to keep doing anyway.

The choices can be hard almost excruciating in booting the dragons and the pets out but bear in mind the pets and dragons keep us separated from God. It goes without saying that the dragons and the Pets are devices of the world and are from the realm of Satan.

There is nothing like the sweet air of freedom and this is what repentence is, the choice of freedom. Making the choice of pleasing God instead of offending him. That firm decision comes first, then the Sacrament of reconcilliation, then penance and finally reparation.

Sin takes away hope and there is no worse death than the end of all hope!

Yours in the Love of Christ:
The Director

Penance and Reparation:
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Penance and reparation are the consequence of sin. Or again, penance and reparation are the price we have to pay for our own and other people's sin. Penance and reparation, finally, are what God requires from sinners as a condition for showing them His mercy.

In order to better understand the meaning of penance and reparation, we have to look for a moment at what happens whenever we sin. Two things happen:

First: we incur guilt before God for the self-will that caused us to sin. We become more or less separated or estranged from God, depending on the gravity of our sin.
Second: We deserve punishment for the disorder we cause by our sinful conduct. We become liable to suffering pain, again more or less pain, depending on how seriously we have done wrong.
Against this background, we can more easily see the meaning of penance and reparation.

Penance is the repentance we must make to remove the guilt, or to reinstate ourselves in God's friendship.
Reparation is the pain we must endure to make up for the harm we brought about by our self-indulgence when we sinned.
What then do penance and reparation have in common? They have this in common, that they are absolutely necessary if the justice of God is to be satisfied after we have offended the divine Majesty. They also have this in common, that God now has a right to demand more of us than He would have required had we not committed sin. The word more is basic to any correct understanding of penance and reparation.

But if penance and reparation have this in common, how do they differ? They differ, as we have seen, in the two different ways that we do wrong whenever we sin. Because we have failed in loving God, we now owe Him more love than He would have required had we not offended Him.

We did wrong by our willful love of self. So now we have to make up by our selfless love of God. This is Penance.

And because we have brought disorder into the world by our sins, we must undergo pain to undo this harm we have caused. This is reparation.

Why Penance and Reparation?

If we ask, why penance and reparation, the first answer is: Because God wants it.

But if we press the question: Why does God want it? Then we must say, because in His mysterious wisdom, His justice requires it. We may legitimately say, without really understanding it, that He has no choice. Having given us a free will, if we abuse liberty, we must use our freedom to repay to God the love we have stolen from Him (which is penance) and repair the damage we have done (which is reparation).

Notice, all along I have been using the first person plural, "we", because penance and reparation are owed to God not only because I have individually sinned, but because we human beings have sinned and are sinning, in our day, on a scale never before conceived in the annals of history.

We know better than Cain after he killed his brother, Abel. We are our brother's keepers. We are mysteriously co-responsible for what other people do wrong. There is a profound sense in which all of us are somehow to do penance and make reparation, not only for our sinful misdeeds, but for the sins of our country and, indeed, for the sins of the whole human race.

We return to our question: Why penance and reparation? Because, in Christ's words, "Unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish".

Is it any wonder that on Pentecost Sunday, after Peter preached his sermon, and rebuked the people for their sins, and they asked him, "what must we do," his first word to the multitude was the imperative verb, "Repent!"

Is it any wonder that Our Lady of Fatima's message to a sinful world in our day, may be summarized in the same imperative, "Do penance."

Indeed, the calamities that we have so far seen in this present century: two world wars with more casualties than in all the previous wars of history, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust that hangs over us like a tornado cloud. All of this is God's warning to do penance and reparation. Why? Because God is not mocked.

You do not offend God with impunity. You do not sin without retribution. You do not ignore the will of the Almighty and expect the Almighty to ignore what you do.

What bears emphasis, however, is that this retribution is either to be paid willingly, with our penance and reparation, or will be paid unwillingly within the divine punishment.

The divine logic is simple, awfully simple, and all we have to do is learn what God is telling us. Either we do penance and reparation because we want to, or we shall suffer (against our will) the consequences of our sins in this life, and in the life to come.

But remember, this penance and reparation is to be done not only for what we have personally done wrong. It is for all the pride and lust, for all the cruelty and greed, for all the envy and laziness and gluttony of a sin-laden human family.

God is merciful and in fact as our Holy Father has told us, Jesus Christ is the Incarnation of divine mercy. But God's mercy is conditional. It is conditional on our practice of penance and reparation.

How to Practice Penance and Reparation

We come to the third and, in a way, most important part of our subject: How?

I say it is the most important because we could talk for hours about the theology of penance and reparation and end up, wiser perhaps, but not holier. We must take the next and final step, and ask ourselves, practically, what am to do about it?

In order to come to the point immediately, let me give you what I call seven rules, three for penance and four for reparation. They can be expressed in seven words, where each word is a divine command as follows:

And forgive! - for penance, to make up for our failure in loving God.
And sacrifice! - in reparation for the punishment that we and others have deserved for our sins.
Suppose we spend a moment on each of these seven rules, and ask Our Lord, to open our hearts
to respond with generosity to His offended Sacred Heart.


Rule #1 - Pray
God expects more of us because we have sinned. And the first more that all of us can put into practice, is more prayer.
Call it giving more time each day to prayer.
Call it attending Mass more often.
Call it reciting the Rosary more frequently.
Call it being more attentive when we pray.
Call it more fervor in our life of prayer.
Call it getting more people to join us when we pray.
No matter, the first rule of salutary penance is more prayer.


Rule #2 - Share
Remember what Christ told us the night before He died. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you." If all sin is a failure in loving God, and we mainly show our love for God by loving one another, then we had better show our love for others by sharing with them what God has given to us.
Again the word more comes in. We are to examine our conscience and ask ourselves, what more can I share with those whom God has placed into my life?

Can I give more of my time to others?
Can I share more of my knowledge with others?
Can I share more of my skill with others?
Can I share more of my money with others?
Can I share more of my Catholic faith with others?
Each of us is different in this matter of sharing because each of us is living a different life with different people whom God's Providence places in our path. The second rule for the practice of penance is more sharing.


Rule #3 - Forgive
Christ could not have been more explicit in urging us to forgive others who offend us. He gave us whole parables on the subject of forgiveness. He warned us that God will be as merciful to us as we are forgiving to others. He placed, in the center of The Lord's Prayer, a frightening invocation, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Once again, it behooves us to look to our practice of forgiveness of injuries, so to be more forgiving in the future than we have been in the past.

Can I be more forgiving by forgetting what others have done to me?
Can I be more forgiving by ignoring the unkindness and thoughtlessness and perhaps meanness that others commit against me?
No two of us are living the same lives. Each of us have different people saying or doing or failing to say or do things that hurt us and, perhaps, crush the very heart of our souls. The third rule of penance is to be more forgiving.


Rule #4 - Work
We now shift from penance to reparation, and our first directive is to work. How is work a form of reparation of sin? It is reparation because our fallen human nature dislikes to exert itself. Work is a form of mortification that all of us can look to see whether we could not work harder than we are doing - in performance of tasks that are part of our state in life.
By nature we are prone to first do what we like, then what is useful, and finally, what is necessary.

I cannot think of a more effective kind of reparation than to set our minds to reversing that order.

We should first do what is necessary, then what is useful, and only then what is pleasant or what we like.

Rule #5 - Endure
In some ways this is the keystone of reparation, the patient endurance of the sufferings and trials that God sends us.
God in His mercy sends us the Cross in order to try our patience that we might save our souls and the souls of many others besides.

The variety of these trials sent us by God defies classification and their intensity depends on a thousand factors that differ with different people. If we are to expiate sin we must resign ourselves to endure pain. But, as we know, there are degrees and degrees to this resignation.

Can we accept misunderstanding from others with greater peace of mind?
Can we be more generous in doing what we know God wants us to do, although doing it is painful?
Can we suffer without pitying ourselves?
Can we put up with discomfort, or distaste, or disability, without becoming bitter about what we are tempted to consider injustice on the part of God?
Yes, God's violations are blessings, and the crosses He sends us are tokens of His love. But how we need the light of faith to see this, and the strength of His grace to do this -- in reparation for sin, as the price we must pay to reach heaven, where every tear will be wiped away and all the past, which is now the present, will have passed away.

Rule #6 - Deprive
Our sixth rule is to practice reparation by depriving ourselves of something we now have that we could, if we wanted to, do without.
It may be some luxury in the home,
Or some delicacy at table,
Or some comfort in our way of living,
Or some trinket, or adult toy that we could just as well do without.
Call it mortification or self-denial; whatever the name, the basic idea is to expiate for sins of self-indulgence by giving up. When we sin we offend God by choosing some creature to which we have no right. When we practice mortification, we make reparation by choosing to deprive ourselves of some creature we have a right to -- why, in order to undo the harm caused by sin and thus propitiate the offended justice of God.

Rule #7 - Sacrifice
I have saved sacrifice for the end because it synthesizes everything we have so far said.
What is sacrifice? Sacrifice is the surrender of something to God.
Sacrifice is the heart of penance and reparation.
When we sacrifice, we let go with our wills of whatever we could legitimately possess and enjoy because we want to make up to God for having stupidly chosen some creature in preference to the Creator.
We return to where we began by stressing that when we sacrifice, we do more than we would have done; we give up more than we would have given up; we surrender more of what we like in order to -- in plain English -- prove to God that we love Him.

There is an episode in the Gospels that perfectly synthesizes this cardinal mystery of sin and penitential reparation.

Remember after the Resurrection when Christ asked Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the others do?" Why the question? Because Peter had sinned; sinned more than the others who had remained faithful to the Master. Peter was expected to love Christ more. Why more? Because he had more to sacrifice in order to expiate more because he had so deeply sinned in denying the Saviour.

As we look into our hearts we must humbly confess that truly, we have sinned, sinned often, sinned deeply, sinned willfully.

But God is good. He gives us the privilege of not only expiating what we have done wrong, but actually becoming more pleasing to Him by our penance and reparation.

It was no pious statement that St. Paul gave us when he said, "Where sin abounded, grace has even more abounded." In other words, in God's providence, He allows us to sin so we might repent and become saints.

Archbishop Sheen



“My sin is always before me,” Ps.50

In the face of spreading agnosticism and relativism, the term 'reparation' is most unusual. Moreover, not only is the term unusual but also is its theology.

We witness today the loss of the meaning of penance, prayer, fasting, confession, and reparation. The modernists call it change when its real name is decay.

 In a culture where sin is no longer considered sin, why should anyone make reparation?

How many today remove the body of Christ from the Crucifix and look only at the empty cross. If we Christians have a Crucifix before us, instead of an empty cross, we cannot forget about sin and reparation. "Paccatum meum contra me est semper." [1]

To understand 'reparation,' we first have to understand what St. Paul was teaching the Colossians about our cooperation in Christ's sufferings. The following is part of what the Church calls the 'paschal mystery.'

Christ's perfect Sacrifice was accomplished when He said, "It is finished." [2] The objective redemption is a 'fait accompli.' However, St. Paul said that there is more to it.

Therefore, here comes the difficult part.

St. Paul explained, "Now I rejoice in my suffering 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...." [3]

What in heaven's sake is St. Paul saying?

St. Alphonsus [4] summarizes this statement as follows:

"Can it be that Christ's passion alone was insufficient to save us? No. It left nothing more to be done; it was more than sufficient to save all men. However, for the merits of the Passion to be applied to us, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, [5] we need to cooperate (subjective redemption) by patiently bearing the trials God sends us, so as to become like our head, Christ."

This is called 'reparation.' It is a theological doctrine of the Catholic Church. Reparation is the foundation of many confraternities and pious associations [6] — to make reparation for our sins and for the sins of mankind.

That infinite merit of Christ's Passion and Sacrifice on Calvary enables us to add our daily prayers, labors, trials, and sufferings to those of our Lord. Thus, we become actually co-redeemers with Christ, sharing in His suffering.

Suffering, more than anything else, makes present in the history of humanity the force of the Redemption. [7]

Why should we make reparation to God? For two reasons: 1) to repair for our own offences against Him, 2) by virtue of the Communion of the Saints, we can also make satisfaction or reparation for the sins of others.

However, we first need to see ourselves as we really are so we can properly intercede for the souls of others. We do this through frequent Confession. [8]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.2412, n.2487, n.2454, n. 2509 teaches that every offense committed entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven.

The greatest offering of reparation is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

So that we might join with Christ, He commanded his disciples at the Last Supper "Do this in memory of me."

Since Holy Mass is the representation of Christ's infinitely perfect Sacrifice of Calvary, it is one of the best means of offering satisfaction or reparation of God's wrath.

In fact, St. Therese of Lisieux said the best reparations she could ever make for sin was attending Holy Mass and worthily receiving Holy Communion.

The past stays with us in our habits, in our consciousness of remembered guilt, in our proclivity to repeat the same sin. Our past experiences are in our blood, our brains, and even in the very expression that we wear.

The future judgment is also with us; it haunts us, causing our anxieties and fears, our dreads and preoccupations, giving us insecurity and uncertainty.

A cow or a horse lives for the present moment, without remorse or anxiety; but man not only drags his past with him, but he is also burdened with worries about his eternal future.

Because the past is with him in the form of remorse or guilt, because the future is with him in his anxiety, it follows that the only way man can escape either burden is by reparation — the making up for the wrong done in the past — and by a firm resolution to avoid such sin in the future.

How do we make reparation? Disposing of the past is the first step to take, and in taking it, the important distinction between forgiveness and reparation for sin should be remembered.

Some who have done wrong mistakenly think that they should only forget it, now that it is past and 'done with.' Others believe, falsely, that once a wrong deed has been forgiven, nothing further needs to be done. However, both of these attitudes are incomplete, as they lack in love.

We all will have to unite our cross with our Lord on the Cross in order to use it to purchase our eternal salvation. About a year ago (circa l970), I was talking to Pope Paul VI and I said to him, "You are well named." He was named Paul.

Paul went from city to city, was stoned from Lystra to Derby to Antioch to Pisidia, and so I said, "You were stoned by your own."

"Yes," he said. "I open my mail at midnight and in almost every letter is a thorn and when I put my head on my pillow an hour or two later, I really lay it down upon a crown of thorns.

"But," he said, "I cannot tell you what ineffable joy I have to suffer."

Then Pope Paul VI quoted to me the twenty-fourth verse of St. Paul's letter to the Colossians:

"Now I rejoice in my suffering 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...." [9]

"I suffer all of this for the sake of the Church," said the Pope.

That is how we use suffering. I think the great tragedy of the world is the suffering that goes to waste. People suffer and they have no one whom they can love to suffer for. Love does not kill the pain but it diminishes it.

Our Lord, in instituting the Sacrament of Penance, made it clear that there is a difference between forgiveness and the undoing of the past. That is why confession is followed by absolution, or forgiveness, and why, when absolution has been given, the confessor says: "For your penance say...."

Then he tells the penitent what payers to say or which good actions to perform to make atonement for his sins.

The high reasonableness of this is apparent if we translate the offence against God into purely human terms.

Suppose that I have stolen your watch. When my conscience finally pricks me, I admit it all to you and say: "Will you forgive me?"

No doubt, you will, but I am sure that you will also say: "Give me back the watch."

Returning the watch is the best proof of the sincerity of my regret. Even children know there must be a restoration of the balance or equilibrium disturbed by sin.

For instance, a boy who breaks a window playing ball often volunteers, "I'll pay for it." Forgiveness alone does not wipe out the offence. It is as if a man, after every sin, was told to drive a nail into a board and, every time he was forgiven, a nail was pulled out. He would soon discover that the board was full of holes, which had not been there in the beginning.

Similarly, we cannot go back to the innocence that our sins have destroyed. When we turned our backs upon God by sinning against Him, we burned our bridges behind us; now they have to be rebuilt with patient labour.

A businessman who has contracted heavy debts will find his credit cut off. Until he has begun to settle the old obligations, he cannot carry on his business. Our old sins must be paid for before we can continue with the business of living.

Reparation is the act of paying for our sins. When that is done, God's pardon is available to us. His pardon means a restoration of the relationship of love, just as if we offended a friend, we do not consider that we are forgiven until the friend loves us again.

God's mercy is always present. His forgiveness is forever ready, but it does not become operative until we show Him that we really value it.

The father of the prodigal son had forgiveness always waiting in his heart; but the prodigal son could not avail himself of it until he had such a change of disposition that he asked to be forgiven and offered to do penance as a servant in his father's house.

So long as we continue our attachment to evil, forgiveness is impossible; it is as simple as the law, which says that living in the deep recesses of a cave makes sunlight unavailable to us. Pardon is not automatic — to receive it, we have to make ourselves pardonable.

The proof of our sorrow over having offended is our readiness to root out the vice that caused the offence. The man who holds a violent grudge against his neighbour and who confesses it in the Sacrament of Penance cannot be forgiven unless he forgives his enemy.

"If you do not forgive, your Father Who is in Heaven will not forgive your transgressions either." (Mk.11:26). [10]


Paccatum meum contra me est semper" in English means "my sin is always before me," from Psalm 50, the 'Miserere.'

Cf. Jn 19:30.

Cf. Col. 1:24; 2 Cor 1:5f; Eph 3:1, 13.

Cf. St. Alphonsus, 'Thoughts on the Passion," n.10.

Cf. Summa theologiae, III, q. 49, ans. 3.

Cf. The Archconfraternity of Reparation for blasphemy and the neglect of the Holy Day of Sunday (founded 1847); excellent prayers available at the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face, of Tours, France (1851); the Archconfraternity of the Mass of Reparation, Parish (1886); Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is another pious association.

Cf. 'Salvifici doloris,' n.27, John Paul II.

It is well known that the Pope John Paul II receives the Sacrament of Penance on a weekly basis.

Cf. Col 1: 24

Source: "Christian life is struggle," by Fulton J. Sheen, from the book "Go to Heaven," published 1949 by Catholic Book Club, 121 Charing Cross Road, London W.C.2.


O God of my soul,
I am sincerely sorry
for not having hitherto loved Thee.
Instead of having loved Thee,
I have, for the sake of my pleasures,
offended and despised Thine infinite goodness:
I have turned my back upon Thee;
in a word, O my God,
I have voluntarily lost Thee.
Lord, I am sorry,
from the bottom of my heart,
for all my sins.
I hate above all things the offenses,
which I have committed against Thee.
I hope Thou hast already cleansed me
from the stain of sin
in the sacrament of penance,
but I desire to become still purer in Thy sight.
Vouchsafe then to wash in Thy Blood this soul,
which Thou dost wish soon to make Thy dwelling place.


O my Saviour!
whom am I that Thou shouldst invite me
to receive Thee for the food of my soul?
Is it possible that Thou,
the God of infinite purity,
shouldst come and dwell in my heart,
which has been so long the abode of Thine enemy,
and the sink of so much sin?
Lord, if Thou wilt,
Thou canst make me clean. Say but the word and my soul shall be healed.
I come then,
O my amiable Saviour,
to receive Thee this morning,
but I come covered with shame
and confusion at the sight of my sins,
but full of confidence in Thy mercy,
and in the love which Thou dost bear to me.


My God,
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against Thee
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with Thine assistance,
to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In His Name, my God, have mercy on me.


Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee,
O Lord: Lord hear my voice.

Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of
my supplication.

If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O
Lord, who shall stand?

But there is forgiveness with Thee:
because of Thy law I wait for Thee, O

My soul waiteth on His word: my soul
hopeth in the Lord.

From the morning watch even until night
let Israel hope in the Lord:

For with the Lord there is mercy, and with
Him is plentiful redemption.

And He shall redeem Israel, from all their

Free Website Translator