Mere Angelique Arnaud, who at this time put herself under his direction and wished to join the Order of the Visitation, attracted by its humility and sweetness, may be named as the most interesting of his innumerable penitents of this period.
Of the Lenten fast or Quadragesima, the first mention is in the fifth canon of the council of Nicaea (325), and from this time it is frequently referred to, but chiefly as a season of preparation for baptism, of absolution of penitents or of retreat and recollection.
The king and his courtiers joined in the processions in the garb of penitents, and scourged themselves with ostentation.
In 1820 a band of flagellants appeared during a procession at Lisbon; and in the Latin countries, at the season of great festivals, one may still see brotherhoods of penitents flagellating themselves before the assembled faithful.
For example, the priests are not to be chosen by the people; penitents are not to be present at ordinations (lest they should hear the failings of candidates discussed); bishops are to be appointed by the metropolitan and his suffragan; sub-deacons may not distribute the elements of the Eucharist; clerics are forbidden to leave a diocese without the bishop's permission.
The less the Church could expect from its penitents, the more it was driven to trust to the miraculous efficiency of sacramental grace.
As for most penitents, all they cared for was to scrape through by the skin of their teeth.
The fraternity of White Penitents buried the body with great ceremony, and performed a solemn service for the deceased as a martyr; the Franciscans followed their example; and these formalities led to the popular belief in the guilt of the unhappy family.
(3) It became the custom to give the absolution to penitents immediately after their confession and before the penance was performed.
The regulation as to convents seems partly due to a desire to avoid the worry and expenditure of time involved in the discharge of such offices and partly to a conviction that penitents living in enclosure, as all religious persons then were, would be of no effective use to the Society; whereas the founder, against the wishes of several of his companions, laid much stress on the duty of accepting the post of confessor to kings, queens and women of high rank when opportunity presented itself.
The catechumens or unbaptized, together with the penitents, remained in church during the Litany, collect, three lections, two psalms and homily.
The monks were, strictly speaking, penitents wearing the cowl, and not allowed to take a part in church government.
On the morning of the same day the penitents were released from their fast.
He extended his reforms to the collegiate churches (even to the fraternities of penitents and particularly that of St John the Baptist), and to the monasteries.
What would become of the confessional if penitents were allowed to act on what they fondly took to be a heaven-sent inspiration?
They were penitents, and no doubt imbued with the ancient belief that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.
In 441 a synod of sixteen bishops was held at Orange under the presidency of St Hilary of Arles, which adopted thirty canons touching the reconciliation of penitents and heretics; the ecclesiastical right of asylum, diocesan prerogatives of bishops, spiritual privileges of the defective or demoniac, the deportment of catechumens at worship, and clerical celibacy (forbidding married men to be ordained as deacons, and digamists to be advanced beyond the sub-diaconate).
Their subjects are faith, love, fasting, prayer, wars (a somewhat mysterious setting forth of the conflict between Rome and Persia under the imagery of Daniel), the sons of the covenant (monks or ascetics), penitents, the resurrection, humility, pastors.
The ceremony comprised a procession in which the members of the Holy Office, with its familiars and agents, the condemned persons and the penitents took part; a solemn mass; an oath of obedience to the inquisition, taken by the king and all the lay functionaries; a sermon by the Grand Inquisitor; and the reading of the sentences, either of condemnation or acquittal, delivered by the Holy Office.
Indeed, it may be remarked that he, like many other penitents who, in general terms, acknowledge themselves to have been the worst of mankind, fired up, and stood vigorously on his defence, whenever any particular charge was brought against him by others.
The first part of the Instructiones is addressed to the heathens and Jews, and ridicules the divinities of classical mythology; the second contains reflections on Antichrist, the end of the world, the Resurrection, and advice to Christians, penitents and the clergy.
At the beginning of the 4th century a system came into use by which penitents undergoing discipline were divided into four grades, the lowest being the mourners, then the hearers, the kneelers and the consistentes (standing).
In the same century at Rome and at Constantinople we hear of "penitentiaries," that is priests appointed to act for the bishop in hearing the confession of sins, and deciding whether public discipline was necessary and, if it was, on its duration; in other words they prepared the penitents for solemn reconciliation by the bishop. A scandal at Constantinople in 391 led to the suppression in that city not only of the office of penitentiary, but practically of public exomologesis also, and that seemingly in Eastern Christendom generally, so that the individual was left to assess his own penance, and to present himself for communion at his own discretion.
Penitents, therefore (as a rule), were excused the painful ordeal of public humiliation, but performed their penances in secret; only at the end they were publicly reconciled by the bishop. This was at Rome and Milan appointed to be done on the Thursday before Easter, and gradually became a regular practice, the same penitent year after year doing penance during Lent, and being publicly restored to communion in Holy Week.
Towards the end of the 4th century priests began to be allowed to take the bishop's place in the re-admission of penitents and to do it privately.
The full rigour of exomologesis), the extension of the system in which there was nothing public about the penitence except the solemn reconciliation on Maundy Thursday, the allowing of repeated recourse to this reconciliation, the delegation to priests of the power to reconcile penitents in private; such were the successive stages in the development.
Those, then, who had to hear penitents unburden their souls were driven to the use of Roman writers on the subject.