I read this newspaper article which quotes someone saying:

I must do the penance that lacerates me.

What does this mean? 'Lacerate' means to tear, so I don't see the connection. Did the speaker mean 'liberate'?

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Figuratively, lacerate means to hurt deeply. Obviously being physically lacerated (which literally implies not just a cut, but a deep cut) would hurt deeply physically, and in figurative use it is applied to deep emotional, psychological or spiritual pain.


The author is saying he did something so wrong, so sinful, that he felt the need to go perform the Catholic sacrament of confession. You have probably seen it in a movie, but you go to a little booth with a screen that separates you from a booth where a priest sits. The priest listens to your confession of your sins then asks you to repent and show God a sign of your repentance by making a penance. The author is saying that in order to show his true repentance feels he needs to do a penance that cuts and wounds him as deeply as his actions have wounded God and others.
Kind of like the saying "Give 'til it hurts." Yes it won't physically hurt to give money, but if you truly believe in something you will make a sacrifice for the cause.

Penance- A voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.

  • There is no reference to any religious context based on the quote given. Nor is any religious context given in the sourced article. In fact, from the source, it states that the penance is "...[that which] that lacerates me. I am therefore offering to recuse myself from the editorship of Tehelka, and from the Tehelka office, for the next six months." – Doc Nov 22 '13 at 19:59
  • @Doc, I'm pretty sure Tarun J Tejpal is Hindi. If nothing else, he did refer to the Mahabharata as the greatest book ever written. Anyway, the idea of the sacrament of Penance as lacerating would be pretty strongly against most Catholic ideas of that sacrament. – Jon Hanna Nov 22 '13 at 22:24
  • @JonHanna Sorry, are you supporting my statement? I must assume so, given the rest of the comment (though the linking of me makes it somewhat ambiguous). – Doc Nov 22 '13 at 22:28
  • @Doc, yes, or rather, I intended to add to your objection. I also intended to make it a bit clearer that that was what I was doing. – Jon Hanna Nov 22 '13 at 22:35

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