Are you forgetting something? The Inescapable Law of Mortification
In an age when we are inundated with all kinds of pleasures and told sin and hell don’t exist, it’s time to consider mortification.
As we deny temptations and unlawful practices of pleasure, or choose to do acts of mortification to grow holier, we tend to actually enjoy God’s created goods more.
Recently we celebrated St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s feast day. He reminds us mortification is a lost art of spiritual battle. At times, the world feels like an octagon in which we battle demons of lust and unlawful pleasures. Mortification is one of several fighting techniques we should consider employing.
Gonzaga mortified his body to get his passions under control. At one time he said, “I am but a crooked piece of iron, and have come into religion to be made straight by the hammer of mortification and penance.”
There are three laws of mortification.
1. Mortification is exterior.
There are many passions that tempt the body and sometimes control us. Allowing passions to control us adversely effects the direction of the soul. The more we give into passions, unchecked, we are more inclined to act on our passions and apt to ignore the promptings of the spirit. Subduing the body and controlling the passions does not mean that we deny all forms of pleasure or advance a notion that pleasure is bad. God made certain things pleasurable and permits us to partake of them. Food, sex, music, the arts, relationships, company, alcohol, exercise, and hobbies, are all pleasurable. Mortification of the body and senses means we don’t overindulge, place pleasure above prayer, or unlawfully partake in pleasure. Meaning, participating in pleasure cannot violate the natural and Divine Law.
Exterior mortification includes denying ourselves of pleasures in order to grow deeper in Christ. Some forms of physical mortification, especially at times of temptation, may be suitable. Examples are, sleeping on the floor, not using kneelers, fasting, not watching “that” show, or depriving the senses of lawful gratifications and inflicting voluntary sufferings.
2. Mortification is interior.
While exterior mortification strikes at temptation, passions, and conquers bodily weaknesses, interior mortification conditions and subjects the spirit and mind to godliness. It works in conjunction with exterior mortification because the physical sufferings lead to interior growth. However, interior mortification can be done apart from the exterior. For example, many people work behind a computer with limited interaction with others. While working at a desk, the spirit and mind can pray to God. Lustful thoughts can quickly be suppressed. The soul’s eye focused on Christ.
Interior mortification can be done anywhere. While speaking, thoughts directed to Christ repel the darts of the devil. The tongue is guided by what comes out of the heart, so the heart enflamed with the Spirit prevents gossip and foul speech. Interior suffering includes uniting the mind to Jesus’ suffering and interior delights and thoughts denied.
3. Familial mortification.
Families can practice mortification. Some families already do by not eating meat on Fridays. Other foods could be included through the week. Maybe there is a T.V. show or video game that the family enjoys that all agree to stop watching or playing for a short time. Mortification under this rubric can include starting things, like a daily rosary, daily Mass a few times a week, or Scripture readings. As a family, mortification bonds them in a common fight against attacks that weaken them. Discord, anger, disobedience, alcoholism, and pornography may all be things that cause stress in a family. Depending on the temptation or sin, members of the family can agree together to strike at the head of the situation with mutual mortification.
The point of mortification is not to exhibit gloominess or somehow give the impression that religion is depressing and not enjoyable. It’s meant to carve out the rough spots of the soul and actually create peace and joy. Those closes to God most often have a calm, peaceful, but joyful spirit. As we deny temptations and unlawful practices of pleasure, or choose to do acts of mortification to grow holier, we tend to actually enjoy God’s created goods more.
This article, Are you forgetting something? The Inescapable Law of Mortification is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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