Tuesday 17 February 2015

Flagellation, Hairshirts and Repayments of Debts.

 God loved us so much that He gave us His only Son to die for us.

Christ’s was the ultimate sacrifice, to lay down His life to redeem us and to re-build our relationship with God which sin had destroyed.

There is nothing we can do to repay that sacrifice. Not a million candles lit in church, not a million flowers, or a million Rosaries. Nothing we do will repay what Christ did for us.

That is not to say that we should stop doing these things. We do them out of reverence, love and respect for our Creator and not as an act of repayment. I have lit many a candle in my time and will continue to do so.

Fasting and abstinence are also similar forms of sacrifices which we do out of reverence rather than as an act of repayment.

And then … we come to the wearing of hairshirts, flagellations and similar bodily punishments practiced by the faithfuls since times long past.

Saint Francis of Assisi suffered severe self-afflicted penances like flagellations and the use of a hairshirt.

Saint Catherine of Sienna used to undergo extreme fasting for long periods, wore sackcloth and scourged herself three times a day.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola practiced severe mortifications. He wore a hair shirt and heavy iron chain, and was in the habit of wearing a cord tied below the knee.

Saint Thomas More, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque, and many other Saints and elders of the Church practiced mortification and self-punishments.

Even Pope John Paul II, I understand practiced self-flagellation and fasting before important events.

I’m sure you can name other Saints and prominent members of our Church who did the same.

I understand the need for such extreme sacrifices originate from many quotations from the Bible, but mainly from the words of Jesus when He asked us to take up our Cross and follow Him.

I wonder and ask:

Did He really mean that we should inflict pain and mutilation on our bodies to gain forgiveness for our sins and that of others?

Or did He say that this world is full of suffering, some of which will come our way, and that we should accept it as best we can in Faith and trust that it is His will and that it will turn out for the good? And that He will not allow more suffering to come our way than we can possibly endure?

Does self-inflicted bodily harm have a place in our lives today and does it buy us any favors with God?

Christ’s Commandment to us was to love Our God and to love one another. No where can I find Him saying that we should punish ourselves in order to gain entrance to Heaven.


  1. Very good post Victor #1

    So true that Jesus only told us (usual sinners) to carry our cross but then again there are some who would say that somewhere Jesus also said to sell all we have and give it to the poor then follow Him.

    Go Figure Christians nowadays

    From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust, the good Lord does want us so what's the rush?

    God Bless

    1. We follow Him each according to our ability.

      God bless.

  2. So true.



    Thanks for your continued prayers

  3. Argh. Aimee pressed the wrong button and her comment vanished into cyberspace. Let me try again.
    I don't think God asks us to practice anything that would hurt our bodies for two reasons. First, because our bodies, as believers, are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to treat them as such at all times (even though Aimee loves chocolate way too much). Secondly, I don't see that this was a practice of Jesus or the Disciples (am I missing it?).
    That being said, I do believe that, if health permits, fasting (denial of good and other wordly things) can be valuable in times of intercession for others and drawing closer to God. Sometimes it seems like we have to remove ourselves from the things of this world that may hold our "love" a bit too much. Also, by denial of our passions, it may help us in feeling more empathy for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. I know, they surely need our prayers right now :( I don't believe fasting "buys" answers to prayer, but I do believe that it may help us see more clearly God's will and it is helpful in other ways too. I know that God promises to hear our fervent prayers (intentions) and will answer them according to His perfect love, knowledge and will.
    As for candle lighting. I am a Protestant who has attended Mass more than just a few times and I always saw it as a visible sign of my prayer ascending heavenward to God just as the incense/smoke of Old Testament times. It held deep meaning for me.
    May I thank you again for your thoughtful posts Victor.
    God bless,
    PS: Hope this makes sense, I am watching a special on C. S Lewis and science :)

    1. Aimee, I agree with you 100%. Christ never asked for us to undergo physical pain such as flagellation. We fast, and make sacrifices because we love Him and, as you say, to remind us of others less fortunate than ourselves.

      Candles, flowers and incense are a visible sign of our prayers. I like the way you put this.

      Thank you Aimee and God bless you and your family always.

  4. It really is overwhelming when we think of what Christ did for us. Our sacrifices are so small, in comparison.

    A very blessed Lent to you and yours.

    1. Well said Hand-Maid. A Blessed Lent to you and your family too. God bless.

  5. Hi Victor! I read something really interesting today about Lenten mortification. We are supposed to get rid of something that blocks us from God, not do something that points to 'me'. That clarifies it all a bit.

    If I decide to hurt myself, as Christ was hurt, that is my decision to make myself look more like him. But what does it do except point to myself? I think it's much better to remove a block, like a habit or routine that takes me away from spending time with the Lord. Creating that time and space to pray, to talk to God and leave behind something of 'the world' is the point.

    It's really made me rethink my Lenten promises. The Pope said in his list of 10 things to do for Lent, that whatever I do 'should hurt'. But I don't think he means physically. I think he means in letting go of something I think I can't do without. Like worry, doubt, procrastination...
    I hope this makes sense?

    1. I think it does make sense Ceil. Our priest today at the Ashes Mass said we should give up a bad habit we rely on like a walking stick throughout our lives. For example unnecessary worrying, or focusing on ourselves instead of others. Christ would want us to make sacrifices, even if they hurt but not in the physical sense, if as a result that sacrifice would benefit someone else. For example: we give up a favorite food or wine for Lent and give the money saved to charity. Giving something up is not enough. We need to give the money to charity as well as (not instead of) the fasting/abstinence.

      God bless you Ceil. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  6. ((( It's really made me rethink my Lenten promises. The Pope said in his list of 10 things to do for Lent, that whatever I do 'should hurt'.)))

    Thank you Ceil and I must say that what our Papa said is very good advice and at this moment, there's only one thing that I know would really hurt little old me and I'm not sure if my brain cell flesh will succeed although my spirit is willing to try "IT"...lol

    Thanks Victor #1 for again putting UP with this often silly sinner... I was wondering if during Lent you might have your imaginary priest create a post as to explain what we might want to hold on to for Lent as far as the reading below:

    2 Cor. 5:20-21.6:1-2.
    Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
    For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
    Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
    For He says: "In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

    Happy Blessed Lent

    1. I think my imaginary priest, Father Ignatius, would say:

      This is the time when people try to give up something for Lent - which is good. But let's remember first of all that there is nothing we can do which would repay the great sacrifice Christ made for us on the Cross. Not a million prayers, a million candles, or a million flowers ... God does not need any of these "gifts" or sacrifices as repayment for His love for us. He is in no way diminished, lacking in any way, if we stop doing these things.

      But we do them all the same. We do them as a sign of reverence, love, and respect. And I repeat - this is good.

      Here's a short list of things we could do during Lent.

      1 Give up something (chocolates) and give the proceeds to charity.

      2 Do someone a good turn or a kindness.

      3 Pray for someone without them knowing it. Just anyone, not only your loved ones. If you see an old person struggling as they shuffle along in the street, or you hear of someone with a problem or difficulty; just pray for them without their knowledge. Prayer is the greatest gift we can give and receive.

      4 Give up TV (or music or other entertainment) for ten minutes (or more) and spend the time reading the Bible.

      5 Finally a DON'T. Many people decide to give up their Christian Blog or website during Lent. I urge you not to. Whatever we write to spread the Good News on our Blogs is often the only opportunity for someone to read about God. Don't stop God's message during Lent or ever. 



God bless you.