At the end of confession, God forgives our sins and the priest gives us a penance. What if I forgot what he told me to do?
Christ, the physician of the soul and body, gives us a new life in the sacraments of Christian initiation. However, this life can be weakened and even lost because of sin. For this reason, the Church continues her work of healing and salvation through the sacraments of healing: confession (also called reconciliation) and anointing of the sick.
Confession and penance
After making a good examination of conscience, feeling sorrow for our sins, and making a firm resolution not to sin again, we make a verbal confession to the priest, who is the minister of this sacrament. After he gives us absolution, forgiving our sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he assigns us a penance. This is the fulfillment of certain acts of penance (prayers or deeds) to repair the damage caused by the sin.
I forgot my penance
However, sometimes we’re distracted or procrastinate, and we could end up forgetting what our confessor told us to do. What do we do in that case?
Aleteia asked Fr. José Luis Solís Rincón, a canonist, and he gave this answer:
In that case, people naturally know that there was a penance, even if they don’t remember what it was. They almost always go to the Blessed Sacrament and pray something. Now, if we know our priests, we already know which asks you to pray a rosary or an Our Father. Usually if we forget something it’s because it’s ordinary.
Go and pray a Hail Mary or an Our Father, and the next time you go to confession, tell the priest that you didn’t remember the penance of your last confession. Tell him what you prayed instead and he will tell you if you need to add something more along with your new penance.
Penance and restitution
Regarding the seriousness of the sin and the penance to be done, Bishop Victor Alejandro Aguilar Ledesma tells Aleteia, “The penance is assigned according to the sin. Don’t pretend that, if you stole $5,000, you only have to pray an Our Father. You must return the money. If you broke a window, you have to pay for it; if you spoke badly of someone, now speak well and pray for that person. Together with prayer there is retribution.”