As you know we are required to do penance on Fridays of the year unless a Solemnity take precedence. On Fridays during Lent we are required to abstain from meat, however on other Fridays of the year we are allowed to substitute another penance. I try to abstain from meat on Fridays but sometimes this isn’t possible. Do you have any suggestions for alternate penances? Would praying an extra Rosary for the Holy Souls be considered sufficient?
Saying the Rosary can be a penitential practice. Praying it can also be a work of mercy and a joy. Is it “sufficient”? Sure, I guess so. Why not?
Some people find eschewing the chewing of meat pretty easy, and no penance at all to give up on every day of the week. For some, I suppose giving up a PBJ would be really hard. For others a PBR. Maybe for others … I think I’ll stop with the three letter thing right here.
“Sufficient”. This is a tricky word when it involves penance. For example, when we sin, we open up a chasm between ourselves and God that only God can mend. Hence, even were we to undertake the most brutal penances possible for the rest of our lives, they would not be “sufficient” in light of damage done by sin. So, all penances are rather arbitrary. We have to acknowledge that they are sufficiently insufficient. Or rather insufficiently sufficient.
The same goes for our chosen, not imposed, penances. “Sufficient” for what? This is why the Church gives us guidance through explanations about how indulgences can be gained. What works are sufficient (with the proper attitude and state of grace) to obtain the desired effect?
It seems to me that taking on a voluntary penance ought to involve a measure of sacrifice or discomfort that one doesn’t just brush off. For some people, skipping a meal could be really hard. For others, self-denial of pleasurable and regular activity such as a game or stroll could “suffice”. Of course in all instances, health of self and those in your charge is to be remembered.
Also, note that self-denial of something pleasurable is one thing, but taking on something that is not so is also an option. Going out of your way to do something for a needy person, perhaps someone unpleasant, might be a good penance (along with being a good thing to do).
Take stock of yourself, maybe with a pencil and paper (remember those?) and list some things that you really like and are regular features of life. In another column, think up a few concrete applications of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Work through the lists.
That might “suffice”.
And… GO TO CONFESSION.
The performance of penances or good works are good things to do in themselves, but if you are not in the state of grace they lack any merit they might otherwise have.
GO TO CONFESSION!