I had a protestant ask me how a priest determines one’s penance. For example, the priest says say “one our father, 10 Hail Mary’s”, etc. For the most part we need to say more Hail Mary’s (at least in my experience it has been like that) than anything else. So I’ve been asked why we invoke Mary’s assistance so much (implied that the Our Father prayer would be more effective and 1 Hail Mary would do). I’ve also been asked how saying those particular prayers would help someone rather than using one’s own words, a personal prayer if you would?
It varies with priests. Some give the same penance all the time. There is a monk that I go to confession with who always asks for an act of faith, hope, and charity as my penance, and for God to increase those virtues in my life. I think he is on to something with that penance, as I have gone to confession with him the last couple times, and it seems to touch me a little different every time with that penance.
Some priests just relate the penance to the confession. My penance once was to go somewhere where I could relax, and have a converstion with God, thanking him for everything in my life.
So how does saying our fathers and hail mary’s help us? Next time you get the chance, sit down, and slowly recite the Our Father. Slowly recite the Hail Mary. Center your mind on those words, and do this a little bit every day. You will soon find out why those prayers are used so much.
For me, my personal prayer comes before I go into the confessional as well as after. Most Catholics do what is called an examination of conscience, asking God to convict them of any sin they have done. Ususually, this leads to some heart felt I’m sorry’s before I even step into the confessional. The Our Father and Hail Mary’s are a starting point for further prayer not the ending point, for me.
As for asking Mary for assistance, the Bible tells about Christians asking other Christians to pray for them. That is all we are doing, except we don’t have to go anywhere or give any details that may be asked for. I know I can use all the prayer I can get!
And frequently, the penance I receive is to pray more for others, not specific prayers.
One priest gave me a Rosary as penance…I APPRECIATED that! Another gives out the SAME penance ALWAYS…whether I commit grave sin or not… I call him “Father 2 times”…he always says…“say 2 Our Fathers and 2 Hail Marys”… I ALWAYS offer up more prayers as additional penance when I get “Father 2 Times”…
I’ve had penances that varied from “Sit in front of the tabernacle for a few minutes and talk to Jesus” to saying a Rosary in front of the tabernacle. But I guess one of the best (most helpful, that is) penances I’ve had was every time I had any slight problem during the week, I was to thank God for it and for the chance to offer is as a penance.
I’ve also had priests who give the same penance to everybody no matter what they confessed. But most have tried to adjust to penance to either the sins involved or to my spiritual growth.
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