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To Suffer With

...all prescriptions of penance are to be accompanied with prayers and tears...

So also no priest or pontiff can treat the wounds of sinners or take away the sins from their souls unless in view of the pressing necessity he brings solicitude and prayers and tears.

- The Tripartite Penitential of Gall, (Irish, 9th century)

If one member suffers, all suffer together...

- 1 Corinthians 12.26

You can get the impression, reading these medieval handbooks of penance, that those imposing penance on the guilty might have taken a kind of grim satisfaction in meting out their judgments concerning steps necessary to correct a fault. Undoubtedly there was some of that.

But Gall, a disciple of Columbanus, and like him, a missionary from Bangor, understood that the true soul friend and the true physician of the soul took no joy in having to correct the wayward. He wrote that all prescriptions of penance are to be accompanied with prayers and tears - compassion for the weaker brother and earnest longing for him to be healed.

We do not gloat over the failings of our fellow believers, or when their sins are discovered and they are humbled before the eyes of men. We weep, and we seek the Lord for healing and full restoration, that the healing of this member of the Body of Christ may bring with it healing to the whole.

This is what love requires: Confront the sin; correct the sin; comfort the sinner; and guard our own lives against failings (1 Cor. 10.13). There is enough unacknowledged sin in the Church today to fill all the waking moments of every one of us with tears and prayers. Surely we can spare a few of those moments each day to plead with the Lord for revival, renewal, and the healing of the Body of Christ and its members?

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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