Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fr. Robert Barron on the Discipline

Fr. Barron comments on the controversy surrounding the revelation that Pope John Paul II frequently took the discipline and the subject of mortification and redemptive suffering.

In the light of Da Vinci Code mania, the practice of mortifying the flesh in any fashion has been highly misunderstood. In fact, as Fr. Barron states, mortification has been a treasured part of Catholic spiritual practice for centuries. This is certainly true of St. Dominic and the Dominicans -- it is one of the treasured Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic, as related in early manuscripts about St. Dominic based on testimonies of his contemporaries:
AT THE END of the prayer which has just been described, Saint Dominic would rise from the ground and give himself the discipline with an iron chain, saying, "Thy discipline has corrected me unto the end" [Ps. 17:36]. This is why the Order decreed, in memory of his example, that all the brethren should receive the discipline with wooden switches upon their shoulders as they were bowing down in worship and reciting the psalm "Miserere" or "De Profundis" after Compline on ferial days. This is performed for their own faults or for those of others whose alms they receive and rely upon. No matter how sinless he may be, no one is to desist from this holy example which is shown in the drawing.
Extreme cases such as this are rare today, and taking the discipline, even with a lightweight rope like the one Fr. Barron describes (which is also what the numeraries of Opus Dei utilize), should be done in full consultation with a spiritual director. Now, it has to be acknowledged that there are many ways to embrace suffering and mortification. Denying the physical urges and keeping them in check can be as simple as getting up on time in the morning, foregoing that next helping of food at dinner, or skipping dessert. Otherwise our passions can easily enslave us.

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