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Penance – Navigating the Interior Life Spiritual Dictionary

PENANCE: The virtue or disposition of heart by which one repents of one's own sins and is converted to God. Also the punishment by which one atones for sins committed, either by oneself or by others. And finally the sacrament of penance, where confessed sins committed after baptism are absolved by a priest in the name of God.

This Spiritual Dictionary Term is an excerpt from the Glossary of Dan’s book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. To learn more, click here


What is spiritual direction and my spiritual direction? What are my “blind spots” and how can I uncover them? What keeps me from all the spiritual riches Christ has for me? How can I better understand where I am in my spiritual progress?

Daniel Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life will give you the tools you need to understand how and why we grow and die in the spiritual life and what we can do about it.

Most of us have questions about spiritual direction. What is it? Is it for me? What if I can’t find a spiritual director? These questions and more are well answered in Dan Burke’s book. The Lord is clearly calling all Catholics into a deeper union with him. This book, in a style which is both inspiring and practical, provides some of the Church’s most important wisdom about how to respond to this call.

Ralph Martin, PhD, president, Renewal Ministries
and author of ‘The Fulfillment of All Desire'
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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • The Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation is certainly crucial to the entire Salvation Mystery. This is attested by the fact that Jesus instituted it on His very First appearance to His Apostles after His Resurrection. Without this Sacrament, His Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection would have left His Sacrifice for our sins consummated but we would have no route to gain Heaven since man continues to sin after Baptism. When contemplating this Sacrament, one realizes our Salvation hinges on it. How could we ever have hope of Eternal Life if Jesus did not ensure He will continue to forgive us our sins? Truly this reinforces the Catholic Church’s Teaching that Mercy is the Greatest Attribute of God.

    • Ramanie

      Hi Mary,I wonder where human beings would be if Our Lord did not give us this wonderfu sacrament. Thank God for His mercy.

  • abandon56

    We have a mission of saving souls through suffering . . . can the suffering that is the just reward of our sins be offered as well?

    • Dear Friend – anything can be offered. God’s redemptive power will have its way as we pray and offer whatever we have.

  • hazcompat

    God will not refuse a humble and contrite heart. (Psalm?)


    • LizEst

      “A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.” (Psalm 51:19b) ; )

  • Linda

    Could you discuss the different types of meditation? e.g.: discursive, contemplation, etc.

    • Dear Linda – I put it in our queue…

  • I struggle with the sacrament of reconciliation. I really want to draw closer to God but my sins seem so repetitive and even trite. I am praying for humility I am well aware of my struggle with pride. One issue that is confusing is that I work a 12 step program and seem to be healed at a deeper level doing 4th step work. Any suggestions ? It is amazing I just picked up Trustful surrender and here it is in the book club. God bless Janet

  • a new heart

    Sacrament of Reconciliation; the greatest of graces given to us by our Savior. I remember when I was sitting before the Blessed Sacrament; while at daily Mass, I was upset over some ‘nasties’ in the work a day world. Why I said…why can’t they just say ‘we’re sorry’ … it didn’t come audibly…but it seemed to; clear as a bell I heard: ‘when was the last time you said sorry?’ And ‘the pull’ to enter that little box was like nothing ever experienced.
    I went; and when I came out; the lightness was unmistakeable.

    i don’t have to say what I said but it was only 2 simple ‘little’
    items. And the lightness…WOW. (I go to Reconciliation but
    that lightness hasn’t been replicated; does this mean something? or was the lightness just an extra bit of grace
    to my heart to encourage me to keep close to this aspect of our faith?

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