A Reasonable Pig

At the abbey of Vale Royal, in the thirteenth century, part of the tenant’s rent was “a reasonable pig” or “half a customary pig.”

G. G. Coulton, “Medieval Village, Manor, and Monastery” (1925) p. 46.

Coulton’s chapter, “The Sporting Chance,” presents numerous and humorous examples of how things were measured during the medieval era. But as I read his book, I took note of an interesting comment about youth (p. 41). He cites a study by W. Hudson that records an amazing fact: a medieval peasant boy had to join a tithing group (think taxes) when he was twelve. By sixteen, he had come of age and was responsible for working his own patch of ground on the manor.

How stunningly different this is from the youth culture of today, which springs from the roaring 1920’s. In earlier modern culture, school typically went up to eighth grade (c. 14 years old), then one had to get a job or work full time on a farm. But about 100 years ago, affluence changed modern culture, making high school and then college expected rights of passage. Work is now greatly delayed, and as a result, so is personal responsibility.

In traditional churches, we still have our “reasonable pig” of confirmation taking place around 13/14 years of age. We expect our young people to make a most serious vow about following Christ. But then we drop all reasonable expectations. Too often, they take a Sunday morning job at the local restaurant, buy a car, and we do not see them again until they are in their twenties and want to marry. The church needs to have reasonable expectations on its youth as Christians and society had in the past. Otherwise, we foster a very distorted view of the Christian life.



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