To Be Truly “Penitent”…

Well, it’s Saturday and I’ve been quite busy for the past two days with my friends so I haven’t been able to post anything during those previous days. However, I’m back and, sorry to annoy my detractors out there, but I’ve returned to bust a few more dumb traditions and stupid beliefs that have been drilled into our heads by both our culture and our media. Due to today being Black Saturday, another day of Holy Week, this will be another religion-oriented article so for those out there who are Non-Catholic or Non-Christian, feel free not to read this article.

penitentLet’s begin with an alternate perspective, shall we? After all, I was raised Catholic and so my own views may seem quite biased compared to those with a different faith. Anyway, I have this friend who happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness. We were talking about our up and coming activities for Holy Week and what we would be doing. Being Non-Catholic, she said she would be going to the beach with her family and that her father would be driving and not her because she didn’t want to see the people who were flogging themselves.

“Oh, you mean the penitents?” I asked and she replied that they indeed frightened her. As a young girl of about 7 or 8, she had had the misfortune to see a lot of them in her hometown. While none of them really hurt her or deliberately tried to follow her, she said that the creepy way they rhythmically whipped themselves until they bled gave her nightmares for years to come. She made mention of having a nightmare wherein a procession of penitents would be pursuing her through her town, not really chasing her, but following her wherever she went regardless of where she went, all the while flogging themselves rhythmically. I could only shudder at her nightmare and it gave me ideas for thinking of a good horror story. But that will be a story for another day.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

Anyway, now that I think about it, I wonder what even goes on in the minds of people who participate in these kinds of activities. Those who do, from those who flog themselves, those who kneel on the road while asphyxiating themselves to those who crucify themselves, they will probably tell you that they do it for “religious” purposes. Unfortunately, despite being Catholic (or baseline Catholic, at least), I do not find anything even remotely “religious” about their so-called practice of “penitence”. How can it be penitence when, even if they wear masks during the event (which does seem creepy now that I think about it), are more than willing to flaunt their scars after the event proper and try to impress people with their “devotion”? It is quite clear in the Bible that God does not honor senseless sacrifices, especially when they are done in front a lot of people. By impressing people and just adding more to your name, you forfeit whatever merits you may gain from any acts of penitence or devotion. Finally, where does it say in the Bible that we literally need to hurt ourselves in order to earn some brownie points with God? Indeed, the whole event feels more like a tribute to BDSM fetish than a religious holiday, leading me and my friends to start calling it “BDSM Day” instead of Good Friday.

Look, if you’re a fellow practicing Catholic like me, I got a few better suggestions on what you should do the next time BDSM Day- I mean Good Friday- rolls around and you want to show your devotion and penitence to God. Look, if you really wanna go out and whip, asphyxiate or crucify yourself because you want to repent for your sins, I can respect that. But what I’m trying to offer you here is the idea of what “penitence” really means which I think the common Pinoy has utterly forgotten.

Making a Sincere Apology for your Dickery 

Okay, “penitence” is about reflecting all the wrongs you’ve done and somehow atoning for them. Instead of torturing and mutilating yourself, why don’t you think of a way to apologize to the people you’ve wronged over the years. From stepping on people’s toes to putting a dead fish or shrimp in their desk drawer, why don’t you go out and ask these people for forgiveness?

Also, if there’s someone you love to hate at work or in school and even if you have good reason to, try apologizing to them too. Well, you could say that they’ve also wronged you in the past but surely you’ve probably done something that is equally bad as well. So go on, swallow that pride (it’s actually harder than flogging yourself, as some people might tell you) and say sorry about the many acts of stupidity and cruelty you’ve done over the years.

Try Doing Something Good for Others Without Getting Caught

More often than not, we do favors for people to get in their good graces. However, the Bible teaches us that doing something for nothing is something else entirely. Doing good to gain the favor of someone is something everyone does after all but the teachings of Jesus asks us to go one step further. That is, doing something good for someone but not letting anyone know that it was you.

For instance, why not leave a special trinket or tasty morsel for someone you know without letting them know that it was you. Make them feel good about themselves and let them know that someone cares about them but don’t let them know that it was you who left flowers for them in the office, put a cupcake on their desk or put a copy of Lord of the Rings in their mailbox.

Temporarily Avoiding Excessive Luxuries

Since we’re talking about “penitence” here, we might as well talk about avoiding the hedonism that is so prevalent in this day and age. I’m not saying you should do away with them permanently but, if you’re a Catholic, this should at least give you more time to reflect.

For instance, why not stop taking selfies for just a few days. Keep your phone on of course, you never know when there might be an emergency, but avoid accessing some of its other functions like camera, games and other apps. Try sticking only to what is essential and necessary to your day to day living in observance of Holy Week.

If you manage a day without logging into facebook and posting selfies, playing a game or texting jokes with your friends, I’ll be impressed…

8 Replies to “To Be Truly “Penitent”…”

  1. God may have been “amused” on what these people are doing to gain forgiveness of their “sins”. Flogging themselves, letting themselves be nailed to crosses, etc…and so on…

    I do not mind people doing those crazy things, to themselves. As long as , they do not murder people to gain “favor” from their God. Or , to become a suicide bomber and kill non believers (infidels); and have sex with 72 Virgins in Paradise.

    This is a Crazy world. I am now convinced: we are the “Insane Asylum of the Universe” in our Galaxy.

    Just look around you, and see my point.

  2. Another good article, Grimwald. Keep ’em coming.

    Penitence? No, it’s just more blasphemy and pagan rituals.

  3. Grimwald, you have a good article. Yes, those self flogging penitents are actually going against Catholic doctrine and the Bible. Sonamagan, it is actually total ignorance in full display.

    We are actually asked to measure ourselves against the ten commandments at the minimum, and possibly, the Beatitudes in the Sermon of the Mount, as well as the 3 theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity and the 4 natural virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. In short, they are calling for high standards in humans. Heaven and Earth need saints, not mediocres. Gosh, it is tough to be one, and we will always fall short, but there are sacramental systems that try to help us rise again from every fall or shortcomings. Try and try again is actually a Christian motto, and once you have accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour, you know you can do it. You may not see a change in one year, but look back five years or ten years, you know there has been a change if one has just been faithful (habits are difficult to break)

    It is already difficult to be a good Catholic by itself (so most prefer to stay as Cafeteria Catholics, or just forget being one for it is against any hedonistic lifestyle.) But, then why add all these stupid practices? Are they thinking of a quid pro quo god? A genie in the bottle? Or, are they looking for a McDonaldized system of religion, everything pronto? Or, do they still believe in anitos, anting-anting, etc, just stupid things?

    Hehehe. You are correct. The fast way of getting Heaven’s approval is improving one’s life and taking responsibility. HAPPY EASTER.

  4. Its not about how you show your faith that determines whether you are a good person or not. Its how you apply your faith to yourself in order to become a better person.

    Because personally, I have known people who had themselves nailed to the cross as a sign of faith only to revert to the same ill-tempered drunkards that they were before they took it upon themselves to do that religious act. Most people who do this act of “faith” are no different from the flagellants that dotted Europe during the black plague.

  5. >> Most people who do this act of “faith” are no different from the flagellants that dotted Europe during the black plague.

    Right there, I think, is the point. It’s just the worst kind of superstition, that sort that arises from a complete intellectual disconnect between cause and effect. The flagellants did what they did because they had no idea what was causing the plague. Likewise, the Filipino has no idea that his own actions are responsible for his problems. If it’s not my fault – and it CAN’T POSSIBLY be MY fault, then it must be God’s .. right?

  6. A life which has never been laid open in penitence and faith before God has little permanence in eternity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.