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THE DISCIPLINE

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The Discipline

by Father Columkille Regan, C.P.

The "Discipline" is an ancient ascetical instrument. It is used to inflict a modicum of pain on "brother ass." As used by the Passionists it is/was a whip with five braided thongs. These disciplines were handmade by the novices, in their "crafts" periods, along with rosaries, birettas, sandals, and [Passionist] "signs". A medium weight cord was used. Recently, such instruments of asceticism have received a modicum of publicity with the publication of The Da Vinci Code and disclosures about some of the inner workings of Opus Dei.

Such instruments of mortification have been in vogue since the early days of Christianity. Hermits, desert fathers and mothers, penitential all have resorted to them: hair shirts, whips, arm & leg spiked chains, cold showers, rolling in brambles, etc. They were all used over the centuries to control wayward concupiscence.

Our founder, St. Paul of the Cross used several of these instruments himself. He even used the discipline in the pulpit, whipping himself over the shoulders and upper back. Privately he would take the discipline "to blood"; which in later years he forbade to his religious.

In my time, after we were introduced to this hidden mystery, we took the disciplines standing out on the choir floor after Matins. We did this two or three times a week. After the chanting of matins and lauds was concluded, the non-initiated were asked to return to their rooms (Postulants, visitors, retreatants). The rest of us left our places in the choir lecterns, went onto the floor area, spaced adequately. Then all the lights were extinguished, the hebdomadary [the leader of prayer] began chanting the "Miserere"...our underpants were dropped, habits thrown over the shoulder and rhythmic smacking began. On several occasions, once in Pittsburgh and the other in Jamaica, a retreatant coming late for Matins opened the door into the choir sending a shaft of light on these exposed moons. I can only imagine his horror at this cultic flagellation.

What did we think of this? Well, like so many practices that we were introduced to—eating on the floor, prostrating outside the refectory door, making culpa etc.—we didn't question, just figured this is the road we had to walk. It never crossed our minds, until some years later, that there was anything masochistic, sadistic, or sexual to it. For us it was just a pain in the butt, literally.

Today—with the exception of Opus Dei—a holistic asceticism and spirituality has taken over, without any Manichean remnant. We don't look upon the body as separate cause of sin. Modern means of restraint, and penance, regard the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, worthy of respect and disciplined reverence.

Columkille Regan, C.P. 
June 2, 2006

 

 

 

 

 

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deusluxmea
On 2/22/2017 at 5:22 PM, graciandelamadrededios said:

For us it was just a pain in the butt, literally.

 

 

 

:o:P

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vee

I've never used one of those but I think there are far more mortifying and penitential things just living in community than hitting yourself with that! 

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Graciela

I knew an elderly Discalced Carmelite nun who entered right out of high school in the 1940's. When asked about taking the discipline said that her only reaction to it was that she wanted to be a Carmelite nun, and if that included using the discipline, she would do it without question.   

As a person who grew up after the Shoah and Watergate, such willingness to go along without question disturbed me!  Columkille Regan, CP above hints at the heretical theology that lurks in such mind-body dualism, but young Carmelites entering discalced cloisters in the mid-20th century could not be expected to have knowledge of that. 

And lastly, Vee is spot on correct about the penitential dimensions of living in community.  It is a much more penitential matter to remain gracious, charitable, and generous in community life than whacking yourself with knotting cords.  

 

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LittleDiana

I don't think this kind of corporal mortification is on and of itself a manichean thing. The discipline was not only a way of training oneself on self mastery but of doing penance for sin (one's sins and the sins of others).

However I don't think it's a healthy thing to make of the discipline a communal and standarized practice.

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Indwelling Trinity

I am wary about the tone of debasing  I think I may hear in this topic. 

As a Missionary of Charity,St. Teresa of Calcutta were introduced as postulants to using the discipline daily except  on Sundays. They were placed on the altar and blessed with Holy  water. Mother then  gave us an explanation of its use, the reasons for doing so but also she clearly stated that if it became a source of temptation to anyone to stop using using it and then ask your superior for some other form of penance. 

The same goes for the arm and waist chains. But every thing was done  in moderation as to how many strikes according to what stage in religious life a sister may be in. The waist and arm chain were limited to one hour daily except Sunday's. 

I know if one instance that we made one  for Our then Holy Father,  St. John Paul II. If it was good for the Saints not in the middle ages but of the recent past who were no lightweights then I think we should respect its use. It is not an end in itself but only one small piece of a decidedly penitentiary life style. 

For some of you this may be a stumbling block. 

Personally I did not findtaking t the discipline particularly helpful for myself but I still did it most of the time given the realization that religious life is not all about me and perhaps it is aiding the souls in purgatory, or perhaps here on earth. 

The arm chain I did find very helpful it reminded me to pray especially for those with mental illnesses, and those addicted to the great sinfulness of those who corrupt others as well as themselves especially through sins of the flesh. :shocking:

But again  everything in moderation and done within the constraints of obedience out of love for others. 

Normally we do not speak o of these things as they involve the soul alone with God. 

Only my first Carmel Practiced these, as for the others communal penance now is praying the miserere with arms outstretched. 

My penance now is to live with my multiple sclerosis, gastric paralysis among other things.  I would much prefer a discipline than this. It is a slow crucifixion 24/7 so painful on every level of my being that I am often tempted to suicide. I now understand what Therese felt as she was dying. 

There are so many things I wish to share with you that pop up from my prayer and solitude. 

Do everything you can to prepare yourselves practice bringing souls home to Jesus  and the blessed Trinity, look t to our mother Mary  and Saint Joseph. Get tough pray,  pray,  pray, so that you may be one  and ask God for the gift of contemplation and understanding so that you may become one with God and if the spirit moves you bring what you have learned to others. 

Be generous with God and hold nothing back. The road to God is narrow... Perdition is wide and easy. Choose wisely, fear no:dance6:thing Give lovingly and rejoice at being  called by your spouse to share his life. 

Even without knowing many of you I can still embrace you all in love. And feel so excited for you as you put on your sandals,  gird your waists and carry the banner of Mercy preaching God's Love  Mercy to all whether in word or in deed. 

Big hug

It :paperbag:

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chrysostom

Without any intention of introducing a note of debate, I'd like to observe that cold showers are amesome.

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Antigonos

IT, it is always so good to hear from you, and I pray you may be granted a remission, even a temporary one.

Whenever the use of any form of discipline is mentioned, I remember what the Reverend Mother said in "The Nun's Story": that it is a symbol.

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Indwelling Trinity
On 3/14/2018 at 5:18 PM, chrysostom said:

Without any intention of introducing a note of debate, I'd like to observe that cold showers are amesome.

Laughing... Cold showers can be really nasty please don't give any newbies any ideas  lol! 

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Indwelling Trinity
On 3/15/2018 at 3:25 AM, Antigonos said:

IT, it is always so good to hear from you, and I pray you may be granted a remission, even a temporary one.

Whenever the use of any form of discipline is mentioned, I remember what the Reverend Mother said in "The Nun's Story": that it is a symbol.

Yes, Antigonos:)!

I am not saying these things are for every one or necessarily a means of sanctification, that if you don't do these things it means you are in the slow lane on the road to sanctity.  J just as you said they are reminders meant to focus our attention on God  or on some other need. 

On the other hand, I don't think any one should be ashamed because  that may be part of the practice of the community they intend to enter.

Moderation in everything except FOR LOVE the one thing that will bring us to a wondrous eternity deep within the mystery God, safe in his loving embrace.

Hugs 

IT :P

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John Paul
On 3/14/2018 at 7:18 PM, chrysostom said:

Without any intention of introducing a note of debate, I'd like to observe that cold showers are amesome.

I am doing cold showers as one of my lenten practices/penances and have to disagree about cold showers being amesome. :) ...can't wait for Easter!

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Totally Franciscan

When I was in Carmel, we did not have these disciplines, but one day at table, during Lent, one of the sisters brought up the Black Fast (no dairy products) asking the Sister's opinion.  She also told Reverend Mother that they have way more penance living in community than the Black Fast affords.  Mother decided to do away with the Black Fast.

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Lea

I'm not sure, but I think physical violence is of no spiritual worth und also forbidden in most areas. 

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Francis Clare

In re to Frank.....there is NO PLACE on this board for people advocating others to try spanking to see how it works for them.  Very inappropriate IMHO

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