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Mortification in a pleasure-driven world
Posted By Eric Sammons On September 9, 2010 @ 7:30 am In Spirituality | Comments Disabled
When reading the lives of saints, perhaps nothing is so startling to the modern reader than the practices of corporal mortification that these holy men and women engaged in. In our pleasure-driven world, the idea that someone would willingly choose to inflict pain on themselves is incomprehensible. And the practice of mortification is universal among the saints – even John Henry Cardinal Newman, who is known as an intellectual, used the discipline on a regular basis.
Based on this reality, those of us who desire to become saints today might wonder where does mortification fit into our lives? Are we to engage in some of these seemingly extreme measures? Catholic tradition has always recommended the advice (and approval) from a spiritual director before engaging in corporal mortification, and most people today don’t have spiritual directors. So what can we do? Fortunately, there are plenty of mortifications that we Catholics can practice that are true mortifications and can be done by anyone without a spiritual director. Catholic Phoenix gives us five great examples :
- Wake like a hero. Get up the first time the alarm goes off. Don’t hit the snooze button, instead practice what members of Opus Dei call “the heroic moment.” Roll out of bed, kiss the floor, and say one word: serviam. That’s Latin for “I will serve.” It’s exactly the opposite of what Lucifer said before being cast into hell.
- Be on time. To everything. Here I open myself up to “tu quoque”s galore, but it is still good advice. Punctuality shows respect for others and yourself. It’s a perfect mortamin because it’s a small thing, but hard to do.
- Be cheerful even when you don’t feel like it. Every one you meet is engaged in a great struggle, not just you. Suck it up and be friendly. You might feel like an old shoe, but your attitude doesn’t need to smell like one. Smiles are free, they’re easy, and they go a long way towards boosting morale—maybe even your own.
- Order a smaller size drink. This is a ridiculously simple mortification, but a surprisingly hard one to do. For whatever reason, Americans feel entitled to jumbo-sized beverages—they don’t even have small drinks at McDonald’s anymore—but this is the perfect covert act of self-denial. If anyone notices, they’ll probably chalk it up to the economy.
- Eat fish on Friday. Admit it: you want to be a Catholic who eats fish on Friday—it’s so not cool, that it is cool. Besides, nobody will notice, I promise—there are too many trendy diets for people to keep track of. Call it the “purposefully alternating proteins and legumes” diet (the p.a.p.a.l. diet, wink, wink) and your co-workers will beg you for the details. Also, contrary to popular belief, Catholics have not been excused from the requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays—it’s just that now one is allowed to substitute another suitable act of mortification.
And if anyone feels that these mortifications are not serious enough, I challenge you to actually try them on a consistent basis for at least a month or two. You will find they are not as easy as they appear – and that they do involve dying to self, which is what mortification is for.
Finally, when doing any type of mortification, follow the advice of St. Josemaría Escrivá: “Choose mortifications that don’t mortify others” (The Way 179). If your mortifications cause you to be grumpy and uncharitable to others, then they are not means to salvation for you or for others.
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 Catholic Phoenix gives us five great examples: http://catholicphoenix.com/2010/09/08/five-ways-to-practice-mortification-without-outing-yourself-as-a-catholic/
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