Safety of the Cilice

For a while now I have been considering using a cilice in order to enrich my spiritual life. I know the term is a bit vague; specifically, I mean the metal link chain that can go around the waist, thigh or arm as a means of self-mortification.

This is of course a very personal expression of my faith, so I have not been comfortable discussing it with my friends from church or my family. I have not yet brought up the question to my priest.

The information I seek here is mostly of a pragmatic nature, though I certainly welcome any insights you may have into this particular practice.

First of all, is the cilice safe to wear?
Is there a risk of infection?
Is one kind of cilice better than another?
For how long a time is it typically worn?

I am grateful for any insight you can share with me!

Do you have a spiritual director?

No such mortification should take place without the guidance of a spiritual director.

Certainly I would not begin this practice without a spiritual director. I’m just trying to inform myself a bit first on some of the particulars before I bring it before my mentor. Maybe I’m a little embarrassed; I’m not quite sure what I feel. My idea was to know as much as possible so I could broach the topic in an intelligent way.

Bring up the topic of physical mortification with your spiritual director (by the way, a spiritual director is not a mentor).

Then go from there.

Yeah, um … if you aren’t doing it out of obedience to a spiritual director then it is a sin.

Get with the program and cut out the spiritual narcissism shtick.

Consultation with your spiritual director is mandatory before the use of the cilice or equivilent.

1)The cilice is perfectly safe as long as you do not break the skin.

2)The cilice is supposed to be uncomfortable, but not to the point of breaking skin and risking infection. Forget the DI VINCI CODE, that was 100% Hollywood fantasy:tsktsk:

  1. I’ve tried various types of the metal cilicces, but my current “hairshirt” is a vest made from burlap. Hand sewn by a friend in AA:blush:

  2. My spiritual director has limited me to two hours a day maximum, and ONLY when I am home, NEVER outside the apartment. To avoid spiritual pride.:hmmm:

And note my signature below:rolleyes:

holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/guests/michaelgiesler/corporalmortification.asp

Thanks for the info here. It’s nice just to get some information without getting a virtual smack in the face. People jump to some interesting conclusions, but so be it.

As for the Da Vinci Code, I saw the movie once out of boredom when I was already half asleep. I never read any of the books and I have to say the premise turns me right off. My exposure to means of self-mortification has come mostly from reading some early Christian writings and having a general interest in asceticism, as well as from the fact that I have dealt with a painful physical disease for most of my life, so I feel some natural “kinship” to doing penance in this way. I’m not an extremist and…

Disclaimer to the peoplez: Like I said, I would not begin this practice without the guidance of a spiritual director! :signofcross:

This article really explains the history and the good of “rightly used” corporal mortifications

holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/guests/michaelgiesler/corporalmortification.asp

I did not mean to ignore your contribution with my last post, as your link is the most thoughtful bit of writing I have yet discovered online regarding this topic. Thank you for your guidance!

Fair enough but … *you did say *“I have not yet brought up the question to my priest”, so…

With the “yet” part of that implying the intention to eventually do so.

Also, in my second post, I stated, “Certainly I would not begin this practice without a spiritual director.”

And so it stands. I’m sure my spiritual director will dissuade me if he believes that I am acting out of ego. In the meantime, I thank those who have engaged with me a bit here to help broaden my understanding.

St. Francis of Assisi advised St. Clare to accept suffering as it comes, but not to seek it out.:slight_smile:

A Cilice, self-flagellation and the like are the inventions of man, not of God. To me they seem extreme and barbaric.:eek:

What’s wrong with good old-fashioned prayer, meditation and fasting? Why not trust in the Lord?

There’s my :twocents: God bless and keep you.

I don’t mean to disrespect your practice or to try to pull you away from something you are intent on doing, however I invite you to reflect on something: Physical/corporal mortification is something that is comparatively easy to do. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, or even painful, but it does not require a lot of effort.

What is difficult is psychological and spiritual mortification. That is, cutting off bad thoughts, negative emotions, and harmful actions. This is incredibly hard, since it requires a great deal of willpower and an enormous amount of vigilance (for if we fail to watch ourselves for even a minute, discursive thoughts can sneak into our minds). But remember that “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1 Corinthians 3:8), and if you undertake this more difficult type of mortification–spiritual mortification–your reward will certainly be much more worthwhile.

Even Jesus said, “If any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Spiritual mortification is denying ourselves, that is, denying our desires, our anger, our pride, our jealousy, our fears. But it is very difficult.

If you are the type of person who would consider a practice such as wearing a cilice, you obviously have a strong yearning towards holiness. But God is far more interested in having our hearts directed towards Him than He is in watching us undergo physical pain or discomfort, even for His sake. So my recommendation, if you have the inclination towards a deeper, more rigorous spiritual practice, is to direct that energy towards developing a tranquil and loving heart, rather than causing yourself discomfort.

On another note, if the discomfort makes you grumpy or irritable, and you thereafter interact with other people and spread that attitude to them, than you have certainly nullified any good you might have accumulated through use of the cilice, since you are spreading suffering in the world, and I cannot imagine a God who would look favorably upon that.

I don’t mean to preach at you, or to put you on the defensive about this practice, and I apologize if my words have had that effect. But I just think it’s wise to reflect on this issue, and I personally feel that a person’s spiritual inclinations could be directed to far greater ends.

I don’t feel in the least bit preached at, and I thank you for your very thoughtful response. I have read over your words a few times now and I certainly see the need to maintain spiritual mortification as the most fundamental practice, and certainly never to supplant it with the merely physical. I am hoping that I can maintain the two in balance. Nevertheless, I’ll certainly take your words under advisement: I chose Jerome as my confirmation saint, in part because I could identify with his orneriness!

‘Be careful not to admit into your society those delicate and sensitive people who are afraid of the slightest pin-prick, who cry out and complain at the least pain, who know nothing of the hair-shirt, the discipline or other instruments of penance, and who mingle, with their fashionable devotions, a most refined fastidiousness and a most studied lack of mortification.’

St. Louis Marie de Montfort

‘Let us read the lives of the saints; let us consider the penances which they performed, and blush to be so effeminate and so fearful of mortifying our flesh.’

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

He who gives little important to exterior mortifications, claiming that interior mortifications are more perfect, clearly shows that he is not mortified at all, exteriorly nor interiorly.

St. Vincent de Paul

“I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps when I have preached to others I myself should be castaway” (I Cor. 9:27);

“In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, that is the Church.” (Col 1:24)

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‘If a man should have no one to instruct him, God will show him, unless he culpably wishes to remain where he is.’

St. Thomas Aquinas

Thank you for these quotes, especially the above which I found I could greatly relate to. Though I have accepted the society of several people who fit this description, we often come to odds over exactly this point,

I will have a chance to meet with my spiritual director today and open my heart about this topic. I’ll update this thread about the results of that talk. In the last few days, I have been ill at ease and nervous, but now I feel very calm and I know I will receive God’s will and act accordingly.

I have received the go-ahead for very limited use of the cilice on a trial basis. My spiritual director is not convinced that this sort of penance is the best choice for me, but he did say that he thought me “spiritually mature enough” to at least consider its incorporation in my prayer life.

To ensure that this does not become a point of vanity or spiritual pride for me, I will no longer mention my use of the cilice here or bring it up to people in my daily life. However, I thank everyone again for their input and I believe that the knowledge I gained here really did help to direct my intention.

You did this the right way. You had a thought of doing something, you investigated it, and then brought it before your spiritual director and followed what he said. That is a good thing.

The reason you got some negative responses and my response about taking it to your spiritual director is that we have had the case of many users here who seem prideful and doing this for their own personal reasons/issues without even having a spiritual director.

I hope you understand our responses were out of care for you and not in anyway to hurt you.

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