'America This Week,' February 18, 2015Maureen Tilley, professor of theology and medieval studies at Fordham University, discusses Ash Wednesday, public penance and secret sins.Show Comments (2)Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.Suzanne Gallagher3 years 8 months agoI found the discussion informative as far as it went, but am surprised that there was no mention of the connection of the 40 days with the Catechumens, (soon to become the Elect) and their final preparation for Baptism at the Great Vigil. This part of their journey is known as the period of Purification and Enlightenment and has its roots in the early church. It is (and was) a time of intense prayer, sacrifice and soul searching in order to be fully prepared to affirm their faith and become full members of the Church. Journeying with them was the whole community, who fasted and prayed in solidarity with these Elect. In the era when the catechumenate was not part of church life, the emphasis shifted to the community, which continued its custom of fasting and praying, but without the focus on the about-to-be baptized. Fortunately, Vatican ll restored the Catechumenate, and this coming Sunday, in Churches all over the world, Elect will be called by their Bishop to the Easter sacraments. During the 40 days, they, supported by their parish communities, will experience the great mercy of God in the scrutiny rites, the presentations (of the Creed and Our Father), and the blessing rituals for which the Rites provide.Advertisementmichael baland3 years 7 months agoFor those interested in early church history, Professor Tilley's book Donatist Martyr Stories : the Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa is a must read.