... I've heard rumors of a time once when penance was given to suit the severity of the sin. The more grave the sin the stern the consequences. I know there are still priests out there who ascribe to this formula; however, they are not the majority. At least from my experience.
Without getting into the personal nature of my sins and transgressions, let's just say there are times when I feel like short of murdering some one I will never get more than the standard three Hail Mary's and one Our Father.
I've actually wondered how far I could go. What does one have to do to get an entire rosary as penance?! I'm going to completely honest here, but the pansy penance's are not going to keep from wanting to sin again. It's my developed sense of Catholic conscience that keeps me from the really horrible stuff.
On a sillier note; sometimes I think about the penance's I would give if I were a priest. I'm speaking hypothetically here, not heretically. I know I wouldn't be able to resist having a bit of fun with it... for the person who was a glutton their penance would be to serve meals at a local homeless shelter. The vain woman would have to go to work for a week without make up and jewelry; her only accessory being a pair of Birkenstocks. Or make some one stand around holding one of those "Free Hugs" sings, or attend a charismatic tambourine mass... the possibilities are endless.
My point, the standard 3 Hail Mary's seems a bit uncreative and uninspired is all. I'm sure there's more to it that I am missing. Maybe there's some prescribed rule of penance one of my good priestly readers can inform me of... but admit it, haven't you wanted to tell some one, just once, that they need to wear a hair shirt and whip themselves.