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The saints and mortification August 31, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic.

Nowadays, mortification seems to have gotten a bad rap.  Not many people advocate that Catholics should practice it, except perhaps in some occasional fasting.  It is amazing to me that this seems to be the case, because so many of the great saints of the Church from past practiced mortification regularly, and not just a little bit, but very painful, onerous mortification.  St. Rose of Lima wore a hairshirt studded with sharp metal barbs and slept on a bed of broken tiles (ouch).   But some today seem to think that practicing mortification can actually be a sign of love of self, of wanting to elevate oneself to a higher plane of holiness and thus look down on others. 

St. John of the Cross was a big proponent

If……..someone, whether he be a superior or not, should try to persuade you of any lax doctrine, do not believe in it nor embrace it; even though he might confirm it with miracles.  But believe in and embrace more penance and detachment from all things, and do not seek Christ without the Cross.

OK, so he seems pretty much in favor.  Any more?

Things that do not please us seem to be evil and harmful, however good and fitting they may be…….Now, until God gives us this good in Heaven, pass the time in the virtues of mortification and patience desiring to resemble somewhat in suffering this great God of ours, humbled and crucified.  This life is not good if it is not an imitation of His life.  May His Majesty preserve you and augment His love in you, as in His holy beloved.  Amen. 

Both aforementioned saints, and others (like St. Catherine of Siena), probably dramatically shortened their lives through their practices of mortification.  In a sense, they had such a burning desire to be close to God, to suffer for Him, that they burned their bodies up and shortened their lives, hastening the day when they would receive their Crown of Glory.  Their mortifcation played a part in that.  I have been counseled by some that mortification is bad, and certainly the dominant culture hates such self-sacrifice and feels that it is crazy.  But it has a strong tradition in the Church – even Pope John Paul II practiced it periodically.  I wonder, can it be an effective remedy for temptation?

One final quote – if anyone thinks I’m hard on them with my blog (Hi, Fr. Petter!), be glad I haven’t the strong spirit of St. Catherine of Siena:

You have abandoned the counsels of the Holy Spirit to listen to the Evil One; you were a branch of the true Vine, and you have cut yourself off with the knife of self-love.  You were the beloved daughter of your Father, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, and now you have abandoned him. 

We’re such tenderfoots nowadays.

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