The Hardest Type of Penance

If you’re doing it all, what more can you do? That was on the mind of a caller to Father Simon SaysTM this week. She explained that her friend prays a daily Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, she fasts and prays and practices her faith, but wanted to know what more she could do to heed Mary’s call to repentance.

“When the Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima, Rwanda, Japan, wherever, and she said, ‘Penance, penance, penance.’ What does the Blessed Mother mean when she’s asking for penance?” asked Sue Carol.

“The word penance, or repentance, is metanoia, which in Greek means allow God—this is the hardest form of penance, the hardest. I can say Rosaries, I can abstain from food—believe me, I don’t enjoy that at all—but this is the most illusive kind of penance; a true repentance. Metanoia means … have a new mind. In other words, to allow God to completely change my mind,” explained Fr. Simon, host of Father Simon Says.

It’s not about doing all of the things and participating in all of the devotions. While those things can be really great practices, they mean nothing if your heart is not in the right place. “I can say all the prayers I want, but if I can say, God I’m still right and you’re wrong, then that repentance is ridiculous,” reminded Fr. Simon.

It’s about having a teachable spirit, he explained. We must be willing to learn and grow and be open to God working in us. “To truly repent is to make the prayer, ‘Lord, teach me your ways,’ part of the very marrow of your bones. … To allow God to point out when you are wrong.”

As an example of this, Fr. Simon points to the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The two men were praying in the temple. The Pharisee spoke to God about all the wonderful things he had done, but the tax collector simply prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Jesus said in Luke 18:14, “I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

When we make penance, we humble ourselves before the Lord. We open our ears to hear and admit that we are wrong. We open our hearts to know our sins and be truly sorry for them. That is the hardest penance of all.

Listen to the full answer below:


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Lindsey Kettner serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a wife, mother, and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studied journalism and advertising. She writes daily at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.