Faith & Liturgy: Penitential Practices in History
Did you know?
Popular literature: Did you know the Imitation of Christ was once the most-read book next to the Bible?
Hide your holy images! (but not until Passiontide)
Did you ever wonder why blessing eggs at Easter is a tradition? That’s because eggs (and dairy), as well as meat, were once prohibited for all of Lent.
Silent penances: wear a cilice, or hairshirt, under your clothes. And put away those spring clothes: wear dark colors!
These were manuals compiled by medieval priests & bishops prescribing set penances for certain sins. You’ll be grateful for your “five Hail Marys” after reading these:
Have you sworn by the Church, the Gospel, or the relics of the saints, as Christ prohibited? That’s seven or more years of penance for you!
Has your priest ever prescribed fasting, pilgrimages, or scourging as a penance? It used to be more common!
A monk too drunk to complete his prayers or who neglects his work would be deprived of dinner.
A medieval bishop who killed someone would not only be disallowed to continue his ministry, but would have a penance of 12 years, the first 7 subsisting only on bread and water. (One hopes this did not happen often!)
And now, Catholic “Innovation” at its best:
The “Extreme” Way of the Cross, started by a Polish priest over a decade ago, involves walking 40 kilometers or more in a 1-2 day pilgrimage. Pair it with minimal packing and a traditional Stations book! (40 kilometer hike not needed, but several great Stations printables from Saint Alphonsus Liguori here and here, or just read online here.)