Penal Cross

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I'm sinning as I post this.  I'm coveting penal crosses.  My friend, Marie was showing me her pictures from Belfast, Ireland.  I happened to say that the only souvenir I want is St. Brigid's cross.  She told me that she brought home a penal cross.

"What's that?"

Marie explained that it was a cross made out of wood because that's the only material prisoners had.

My ears perked up at the noun "prisoners." Prisoners made a cross?  You better believe, that once I got home, I googled "Penal Cross."

Marie was wrong.  They are called penal crosses because of the Penal Laws enacted in 1695.  These laws oppressed all religions except the Anglican Church, or as it was known in Ireland--Church of Ireland.

Well, you know what happens when religion is oppressed.

It flourishes all the more.

Catholics just went underground.  They surreptitiously worshiped.  Priests celebrated Masses in safe homes and people hid their devotional objects.  The penal cross was a cross carved out of wood with short arms to allow it to be quickly hid up a sleeve.

Being a Catholic cross, the corpus is carved on top.  Also are symbols, letters, and words depicting the crucifixion.

I still want one.  It represents the history of an era.  I'm humbled by the piety of the Irish people in the seventeenth century.  Imagine practicing your religion when it's forbidden. Would I have the courage to be so devoted?  I shiver at that thought.

Lord, don't ever stop holding my hand!


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