Dangers and Health Risks of Penitence during Holy Week

Photo credit: inquirer.net

It is during Lent season when Catholic and Christian faithful perform acts that depict regret and sorrow for wrongdoings. These acts of penance aim for the remission of sins. Some devotees believe that these acts and expressions of repentance will not just cleanse their human and spiritual body but also help cure their illness and even grant their hopes and wishes.

Being one of the largest Catholic nations in the world, the Philippines is home to various activities and traditions performed during the most sacred days of the year—the Holy Week.

Acts of Penitence

How do Filipino devotees reflect during Lenten season? Below are the usual things penitents do to commemorate the life of Jesus on earth:

  • Walking barefoot along the streets while whipping the back even if it is already bloodied
  • Carrying a heavy wooden cross on the back while walking for long stretches
  • Marching for a couple of hours while arms are tied
  • Having one’s hands nailed to a standing cross

All these acts are often done with a crown of wire placed on the head of the penitents and are always done under the heat of the sun. Yes, some Filipino faithful do these all in the name of faith and sacrifice.

Are these extreme rites and acts of remorse salutary? Does Holy Week require a bloody ritual?

Good or Bad?

While there’s nothing wrong with doing penitence during Lent, it is still best to stay healthy and well during this season.

In fact, even Catholic bishops and health experts are against these extreme practices.

During the past years, the CBCP strongly expressed their dislike for the reenactment of crucifixion saying that “Jesus Christ already offered His life to save the people from their sins.”

The Department of Health, for their part, discourages crucifixion and self-flagellation and warns penitents that such practices expose them “to infection and other complications that may arise.” Further, such acts may cause permanent damage to affected body parts, tetanus, severe bleeding, dehydration, and even rabies.

As a Filipino Catholic or Christian, will you still endanger your life just to stay true to your religious vow and devotion?

Bear in mind that there are some other options to remember the sacrifices of Christ— in a non-bloody yet more meaningful and solemn way.


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