One way to prepare properly for the coming of Christ in this Advent Season is to serve time in the penitentiary. I use the word “penitentiary” in its original sense, not in its present sense. For a long time in the life of the Church there was a strong emphasis on the need for repentance. A person who was working on repentance in his or her life, was given some form of penance to perform. It might have been a fast for two or three days, or a lengthy period of prayer. It was understood that it would be difficult for a penitent to perform the penance within the context of his or her usual routine. Consequently, every Church was equipped with a special room where penitents could be apart from their usual business and concentrate totally on the business of repentance. The room provided for this purpose was called the “penitentiary.” It is obvious how our modern use of the word evolved. Perhaps we…
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