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WALDENSIAN HERETICS

Way of Life

The Waldensian Heretics established for themselves one superior, who they called their "majoral", and who everyone must obey, just as all Catholics should obey the Pope.

The followers all ate and drank at common meals. All those you could and would, fasted on Mondays and Wednesdays, however meat was eaten on fast days. Some would also fast on Fridays. During Lent, they would abstain from eating meat in order to avoid scandal, which seems strange since they declared that Christ did not prohibit the eating of meat , nor order anyone to abstain from it.

After a follower had been received into the group which they referred to as a "fraternity", they would promise obedience to their superior. They then promised to observe evangelical poverty and chastity and to own no property, but sell all they possessed and donate the money to the common fund. Thereafter, they would live off alms given to them by their believers and anyone else who sympathised with them. The superior distributed these alms among the believers, each according to his or her need.

The Waldensians recommended continence, but conceded that burning passion ought to be satisfied in whatever way. This was based on the words of the apostle Paul who said "It is better to marry than to burn." The Waldensians interpreted this to mean that it was better to appease desire than to be tempted inwardly in the heart. This idea was kept very secret in order not to seem vile to the believers.

Each year they would celebrate one or two general chapters in an important town, secretly assembling in a house hired by one or more of the members. In those chapters, the superior would discuss matters concerning the priests and deacons, and also those concerning members of the society who had been sent to different regions to hear confessions and collect alms. The superior also received receipts of expenses of the group.

Once they have been made a "perfect" of the order, the Waldensians did not work with their hands or do any work for profit unless it was necessary to do so in order that they not be recognised and apprehended. The members of the society commonly called themselves brothers and said that they were the poor of Christ or the poor of Lyons.

They spent many hours in prayer, in a very particular manner. On bended knees they bowed down on a bench or something similar and remaining on their knees, they bowed right down to the ground. They prayed in silence in this position for as long as it took to say the "Our Father" thirty to forty times or even more. This was done regularly each day, as long as no strangers were present, and the ritual was repeated before and after dinner, before and after supper, before they went to their bedrooms, before they lay down to go to sleep, in the morning when they woke up, and then in the morning and the afternoon. The group recognised no prayer except the "Our Father", having no regard for the "Hail Mary" or the "Apostle's Creed", for these prayers were contrived by the Roman Church, not by Christ. Thus the Roman Church believed the heretics to be easily detected, because when asked to recite the Apostle's Creed, they would answer that they did not know it because they had never been taught. In a time of religious fervour, this method of detection is not too far fetched.

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