The sacrament of reconciliation involves contrition for sin, confession of sin, and penance. The English word “penance” comes from the Latin word pænitentia, meaning “feeling regret” or “repentance”. A penance is a penitential act to demonstrate our personal remorse. The Apostle Paul promoted these penitential acts:
“I declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance (Acts 26:20).Here Paul explains that he preaches not only that people should repent, but also that they should “perform deeds worthy of their repentance”. This is the very definition of the word “penance”. However, all Christians should be careful that their performance of “deeds worthy of their repentance” actually corresponds to an inward conversion of heart. Otherwise, such penances become sterile and false (CCC §1430).