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Self-Flagellation: What is Wrong with this Practice?

Blessed Henry Suso

Some Filipino Bishops have made public announcements against the practice of self-flagellation, especially during Holy Week, when the practice is very common in their country.

It seems from the article, that their biggest problem with the practice of self-flagellation is that it  “expresses superstitious beliefs and are usually done out of the need for money and for tourism purposes which is totally wrong.”

As far as self-flagellation done for tourism and money-making, I think everyone would be in agreement that if that were done for those reasons, it would always be wrong.  Again, if self-flagellation were done for superstitious beliefs, I think we all could agree, that would be wrong as well.

However, what if someone was self-flagellating for none of those reasons, but was doing it for a legitimate penitential motive?  Would it be wrong in that case?  How about Blessed Henry Suso?  Or the other great saints throughout the history of the Church.  Were they somehow “sinful” for self-flagellation?  If it was proper for saints in the past to practice self-flagellation, why is it wrong now?

I might add that it has recently been reported that Pope John Paul II practice self-flagellation as well.  I think that obviously, self-flagellation would not be for everyone, and could only be done under strict guidelines from a respected spiritual advisor.  But given those conditions, I believe that if the history of our Church is filled with saints who used this practice to enhance their spiritual life, it cannot be a practice that is no longer “needed” or somehow we have “outgrown”.

Catholic’s Becoming Like Protestants?

In a recent article in Christianity Today the author explores the reasons why Pro-Life Protestants ignore the Annunciation.  It is a good question and it seems the answer is that the Annunciation is “too Catholic” .

I think that as a Catholic, we too are falling away from the importance of the Annunciation in our liturgy and theology.  The Annunciation is a Holy Day of Obligation.  It is just not a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States.  One of the many reasons why it is not a Holy Day of Obligation is because it is considered a “Marian Feast”.  Because it is considered a Marian Feast and that it always occurs during Lent, or in the Holy Week, the U.S. Bishops in 1887 decided not to include it as a Holy Day of Obligation.  However, throughout the Universal Church, not only is it a Holy Day of Obligation, it was also considered a Feast of Christ.

In any event, the Annunciation is not widely celebrated in the Catholic Church.  Why?  There are too many answers for that question, so I will pose another.  Why not?  Why not celebrate the Annunciation as if it were a Holy Day of Obligation.  There is little doubt about the powerful affect celebrating this Feast day would have in our Parishes:  Not only would we be celebrating the Paschal mystery of our Lord, but we would also be celebrating and educating our parishioners about the importance of God becoming man, Mary’s “yes” to be a mother unconditionally, and the upfront fact that from the moment of conception, one is a human being and is precious.

So let us start being Catholic, and celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation as if it were a Holy Day!   And maybe even bring a Protestant friend along as well.

Father Bart’s Trip to Cuba: Part I


Father Bart de la Torre

Father Bart de la Torre



Dear Fellow Dominicans, This is part one of four on my recent trip to Cuba. Were I to send it altogether, you may be discouraged from reading it all. With much love and prayers,Fr. Bart, O.P.

To Cuba and Back, 2009, Part I: Indecent Exposure Shocks Nun

Thank you very much for your prayers. My March 9 – April 3 loop through the cities of Guadalajara, Mexico City, Habana, Santiago de Cuba and Cobre (also Cuba), and then back to Mexico City and Mexicali, was one big miracle. There was no way all the good things that happened could have come about without many praying together. “If two or three of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted you by my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 18:19) There were those of you who received my request for prayers by personal contact, and when I got back parishioners told me that our pastor, Fr. David Bello, O.P., included my trip in the Prayer of the Faithful of every Mass.

Here is the background. Mother Teresa of Calcutta for many years had Fr. Emmerich Vogt, a priest of the Western Dominican Province, to which I belong, go to India to give her and the Sisters of the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, their annual spiritual retreat. After she died in 1997, the Missionaries of Charity continued inviting Fr. Emmerich. However, in Jan. of 2007, Fr. Emmerich was elected the Prior Provincial, i.e., was put in charge of the Western Dominican Province. He continues to be invited but sends someone else in his stead. This year he sent me, and it was to the annual seminar and retreat for the Missionaries of Charity in Cuba from March 18 to 31.

Thanks to the generous permission of the aforementioned Fr. David, I flew from Mexicali on Mon., March 9, to Guadalajara, Mexico. There my relatives had a family get-together so I could visit many at one time, and it was a very happy occasion. They are a cheerful lot, and because are all degreed in their various careers they are doing well despite the economic recession.

On Thurs., March 12, I flew to Mexico City, where the Missionaries of Charity met me at the airport and drove me to their convent where I was given a warm welcome, a nice, private room, and delicious meals. They are very well organized, and had asked me if I had a special diet. I told them that because of cholesterol I avoided red meat and shell fish, but could eat the white meat of chicken and turkey and fish. From the first day, I was given every part of the chicken cooked in many ingenious ways, but after some 10 days, I was pretty tired of chicken, and they were feeding me the dark meat of the chicken anyway. I even got chicken on Fri., March 13, and reminded Sister it was a Friday in Lent; they didn’t repeat that mistake.

The convent’s guestroom, in which I stayed, was next to the nursery for abandoned children. One mentally ill 6 y/o girl yelled all night, so I hardly slept.

On Fri., March 13, a lady friend of the Sisters drove me to the Basilica of O.L. of Guadalupe, where I prayed the Rosary before the 477 y/o tilma of St. Juan Diego (1474-1548). During my prayer, 24 priests in black cassock, white surplice and purple stole had a Liturgy of the Word and then processed down into the church and began hearing confessions. All 24 were still busy when my guide and I left the basilica (see, and She then gave me a tour of all the other holy sites in the Guadalupe compound. Though I had visited Our Lady of Guadalupe twice before, there was no way my heart could let me be in Mexico City and not visit the country’s most important religious and civic site. Kneeling before the artistic masterpiece painted by heaven to represent Mary as a Latin American mestiza, a race that did not yet exist, I prayed for all of you. Then we went to a pharmacy where I bought earplugs so that the poor little girl’s wails would not keep me awake this night.

The next morning, one of the Sister Rita, the guest mistress, wanted me to meet the child, so she called out to her. The little girl came out through the curtain stark naked. The shocked Sister tried to get her to go back, but the innocent orphan was so fascinated by the priest-visitor that she did not want to leave. Eventually Sister Rita’s remonstrances intimidated the 9 y/o to disappear back through the curtain.

On Sat., March 14, I visited relatives in Mexico City, and we met at the Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies because it is near the home of my 84 y/o first cousin on my father’s side, Dolores Ruiz Esparza. This large and very popular shrine houses a small image of Mary from Spain, brought over to invoke Mary’s protection by a captain in Hernán Cortez’s army of conquest. In the June 30, 1520, in the battle of the Noche Triste (, as he fled with Cortez’s army, the captain hid the image on a hillock in a small Aztec shrine. The image was found 20 years later, and the present church ( was finished in 1575 to house the statue, which has turned out to be miraculous.

Happy Feast Day of O.L. of Fatima and of Bl. Imelda, O.P.

Fr. Bartholomew de la Torre, O.P.

Western Dominican Mission, Mexicali, B.C., Mexico