A discipline ( Religious Flagellum ) is a small flail (whip) used as ainstrument of penance by members of certain Christian denominations (including Anglicans, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics among others) in the spiritual discipline known as mortification of the flesh.
Many disciplines include seven strings, symbolizing the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues. They also often contain three knots on each cord, representing the number of days Jesus Christ remained in the tomb after bearing the sins of mankind. Those who use the discipline often do so during the penitential season of Lent, but others use it on other occasions, and even daily.
In the Bible, Saint Paul writes: I punish my body and enslave it, that after I have proclaimed to others, I myself shall not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27 NRSV). Christians who use discipline do so as a means of participating in the mortification of the flesh to aid in the process of sanctification; they also inflict agony on themselves to suffer as Christ and the martyrs suffered. In antiquity and the Middle Ages, when Christian monks mortified the flesh as a spiritual discipline, the name of the object they used to practice this also became known as the discipline. By the 11th century, the use of discipline for Christians who sought to practice mortification of the flesh became ubiquitous throughout Christendom. .
In the Roman Catholic Church, discipline is used by some austere Catholic religious orders. The Cistercians, for example, use discipline to mortify their flesh after praying compline. The Capuchins have a ritual observed three times a week, in which the psalms Miserere Mei Deus and De Profundis are recited while the friars flog each other with discipline. Saints like Dominica Loricatus, Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi, among others, used discipline on themselves to aid in their sanctification.
Voters of some Anglican religious orders practice self-flagellation with discipline. In Anglicanism the use of the discipline has become quite common among many members of the Tractarian movement. Martin Luther, German reformer, practiced mortification of the flesh through fasting and self-flagellation, even sleeping in a stone cell with no cover. Congregationalist writer and leader within the evangelical Christian movement, Sarah Osborn, practiced self-flagellation in order to remind her of her continued sin, depravity and baseness in the eyes of God".u".