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athgarvan

PENANCE

Commenting yesterday on the question of sin and forgiveness (mercy), I said that the Catholic Church in the past has spent too much time concentrating on the negative side (sin) of Christian living. This has influenced Catholic life and practice in Ireland very much. "Penance" played a big role in the life of people up to recent times.

One of the most challenging "penances" traditionally practised was the arduous climb of a particular mountain in Co. Mayo called Cruach Phádraig. Some people still do the climb every year in their bare feet! I've never tried it myself.

Here is a little poem on the subject by a local modern poet, John F. Deane:

PENANCE

They leave their shoes, like signatures, below:

above, their God is waiting. Slowly they rise

along the mountainside where rains and winds go

hissing, slithering across. They are hauling up

the bits and pieces of their lives, infractions

of the petty laws, the little trespasses and

sad transgressions. But this bulked mountain

is not disturbed by their passing, by this mere

trafficking of shale, shifting of its smaller stones.

When they come down, feet blistered, and sins

fretted away, their guilt remains, and that black

mountain stands against darkness above them.

Comments

I didn't see anything about penance when I read the Bible. Of course, I might not have been looking for it.
Jesus doesn't prescribe fasting for His followers.

He takes it for granted that we will fast, and prescribes for us what to do then.

So we are, indeed, to mortify ourselves.
Penance is self punishment, as I understand the term. Fasting is self discipline.
Fasting is also penance, as witness that Joel prescribes it -- "Proclaim a holy fast! Call an assembly! Gather the elders, all who dwell in the land, To the house of the LORD, your God, and cry out to the LORD!" -- to repent of sins before destruction overtakes them.
When they come down, feet blistered, and sins

fretted away, their guilt remains, and that black

mountain stands against darkness above them.


Hmmm, and if that is the case, then why climb the mountain at all? If you climb it for penance and don't leave your guilt behind you at the top of the hill, when you turn around and return to the valley below, then did you actually do penance? Or did you take the opportunity to make a public statement but not really release your guilt? At the end of penance, forgiveness is supposed to ensue, right?

- Erulisse (one L)
Penance is an act of devotion designed to show sorrow or repentance for sin.

But one does not achieve salvation by good works but by faith.

Hmmm, well I don't equate salvation and forgiveness either, so I guess we're just walking on different roads.

- Erulisse (one L)
Nah, one achieves salvation by the grace of God.
I so agree!
the nuns told us to go to confession weekly "to gain the grace of the sacrament"
i am embarrassed when i think of the farce i made of the sacrament trying to think up something to say
the priest should have told me to go home and stop wasting his time

all that physical penance- the self mortification - only feeds the ego -"it's all about me - my sin - my penance - my forgiveness" - and "now i'm o so holy"

a glorification of sin by putting the spot light on penance as a grueling exercise - the sinner becomes the hero of the tale

rereading the poem again

oh yes the poet knows


the bits and pieces of their lives, infractions

of the petty laws, the little trespasses and

sad transgressions. But this bulked mountain

is not disturbed by their passing,


thank you for the poem

Edited at 2016-01-31 05:58 (UTC)
How often we ask our friends to forgive our misdemeanours.
How often we say, "Sorry" even when we just bump into one another.
In the Our Father we say: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".
Why should we not ask God to forgive us our many sins and show our atonement in some spiritual and indeed physical
way.
i have no problem with that

it reminds me of something from my past

when i was a Grad student one year we decided to start Lent with a general confession liturgy
we asked our favorite professor to officiate
i don't remember how the service went but for our penance he asked us to be especially kind to someone we habitually criticized or thought ill of

that was very appropriate - BUT - the result was every time you did something nice the other person would say - "oh am i the one you criticize?"
lol - grad students!

penance could well be one of the "corporal works of mercy"
i think it should focus on God's love and not have a "punishment" aspect - the prodigal son was greeted with joy and affection
Ok, I get it....penance, cleansing oneself of sin. But the poem states they still feel guilty afterwards. Is this practice just to cleanse their soul? If that is the case, th....en why would the guilt remain,...... just to make their minds mad? That I don't get. In personal experience, penance did nothing. Still smells of brainwashing to me. If you don't climb the mountain, you are not "worthy" to talk to the highest power, God for example. So that gives priests job security and opportunities to brainwash the congregation. I was raised in such a place....a devout brainwashed home, which resonated of this type of "worship".

Edited at 2016-01-31 15:45 (UTC)
Such a thought-provoking entry. Like the poem immensely and appreciate your perspective on sin, on penance, etc.
Thank you. The situation is often in my thoughts.
I used your thought and the poem in an entry of mine last night. Grateful.
That was sweet. Thank you.