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85. Penance as a Virtue

1. Penance as a sacrament is an outward signinstituted by Christ to take away sins and give grace. Penance as avirtue is a lasting disposition of soul (that is, aspiritual habit) to grieve for past sins, to makesatisfaction for them, and to avoid committing them anew. Anact of penance is any work or action, internal orexternal, by which the virtue of penance is exercised.{-The word penance is constantly used byCatholics in one of four meanings: penance means a sacrament; itmeans a virtue; it means the work of satisfaction for sins, imposedon the penitent by the confessor; it means any penitential prayeror work piously undertaken, i.e., an act of penance.-}

2. Habits are specified by their acts. If there is aspecial reason requiring an act which normally comes from habit,the special habit for it exists. Hence, penance is a specialvirtue, not merely a general virtue.

3. Penance as a special virtue is a species of justice.Justice seeks to restore and maintain balance and order. The virtueof penance seeks to restore balance and order by removing thedisorder of sins and putting the soul right with God by grace.

4. The subject of a habit, and hence the subject of avirtue, is that power or faculty in which the habit resides or isproperly said to be situated. Now, the virtue of penance is a habitwhich consists in the steady will to repent and make amends.Therefore, the will is the subject of the virtue ofpenance.

5. Penance as a supernatural virtue is infused into thesoul by almighty God; the soul, by God's grace, cooperates byacts which dispose it to receive this virtue. The soul is firststirred by a servile fear of punishment due to its sins;from this, the soul advances to a loving filial fear ofGod; thus it is rendered fit and ready to receive from God thesupernatural virtue of penance.

6. Penance is not the first of virtues in the order of thenature of virtue. Faith, hope, and charity, come before it. But inthe order of time, penance may be regarded as the first virtue, inthe sense that sinful man must first turn to God, and he does thisby the virtue of penance.

"Men should often renew their good resolutions, and not lose heart because they are tempted against them."
St Philip Neri

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"O Lord, my God, who will seek you with simple and pure love, and not find that you are all one can desire, for you show yourself first and go out to meet those who seek you? "
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"Lord, here burn, here cut, and dry up in me all that hinders me from going to You, that You may spare me in eternity."
St Louis Bertrand

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