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If God used Balaam’s donkey to get that prophet’s attention, I guess he can use me to get yours. May these periodic postings on the second and fourth Mondays of each month (God willing) generate fruitful discussion and faithful change.
Other than during Lent, when was the last time you heard anyone preach on “mortification”? - probably as frequently as you have heard about sin, penance and the four last things.
I ask that question today because I recently ran across another one of my forgotten index cards hidden in the back of my desk drawer.
The card was a stark reminder that mortification was never intended to be practiced just for Lent and should go beyond our simply giving up candy, dessert, favorite televisions shows, or internet access for a few days, as desirable and beneficial as those small sacrifices would be.
No! External and interior acts of mortification must be part of our daily spiritual journey. They are a necessary means of combating our vices and acquiring virtues.
But are they part of our daily walk? For many the answer would be not so much.
[Mortification] “like penance,” the late Father Charles Hugo Doyle wrote in Guidance in Spiritual Direction “is a useful means of cleansing the soul from past faults; but its main purpose is to safeguard us from sin in the present and in the future… and may be formally defined as a combat against our evil propensities in order to keep them subject to our higher nature and subject to the Will of God.”
It should not be considered “a negative thing”. In fact, according to Father Doyle, mortification “is getting rid of self in order to allow Jesus to live His life in us, and to enable us to share His life fully. There is no chance of living such a life without that degree of mortification, which is sufficient to prevent our lower appetites from leading us into sin.”
Sure some of us eat too much, don’t exercise enough, and spend too much time in front of the computer. Our physical and spiritual well-beings would both benefit from some serious behavioral modifications.
What other practices, though more difficult, might be of greater spiritual value and helpful for avoiding sin? The possibilities are endless.
Let me just share a baker's dozen from the “forgotten” list I rediscovered:
Constantly remind yourself that you are in the presence of God.
Listen to Him!
Accept whatever happens as God’s will for you.
Turn immediately to God when you find yourself dwelling on what is wrong.
Look at the Cross when feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, angry or upset.
Grab Rosary when you are about to lose it.
Guard your tongue.
Say nothing negative about anyone. When inclined to do so, call upon God.
Do not join in any conversation critical or likely to be critical of someone else.
Stop blaming others.
Stop disparaging yourself.
Let others speak.
Ask God if you should speak.
No one said this would be easy. Are you ready to try?
(P.S. I highly recommend Father Doyle's book)