Mortification is a method.
The goal is personal sanctification.
The best way to gain personal sanctification (to become a saint) is to conform yourself to God’s Will.
What is mortification?
I think our tendency is to think of mortification in the sense of monastic life or in a Protestant sense, the more austere you are the better. (At least, this is my tendency.) Lately, I am trying to think more in terms of “mortification that builds up Catholic culture” in my home.
In my mind, mortification is most often associated with fasting. I think many Catholics think this way because so often I hear “We gave up sweets for Lent.” What if we step back for a second and look into one of the reasons for fasting in monastic life? If you are not married and have no one depending on you (children) it is probably easy to become self centered. So, by fasting you keep your dependence upon God front and center. The hunger and weakness experienced by a monastic who is fasting is similar to the feeling of a mother, open to life, who has young children constantly at her elbow demanding attention. A mother has achieved the position of weakness and dependency upon God without fasting.
The priest at my daughter’s baptism, the same one I referred to here, said “Parents don’t need to go looking for more penance, they have it right in front of them.” And this priest is no shrinking violet when it comes to penance. He tells us not to listen to rock music. Christian rock music is not Christian. He tells us to wear three quarter sleeves. But, when it comes to family life, he says, ‘taking care of your children is all the penance you need.’ He also said, not to me and I have often wanted him to speak on this more, ‘You’re a mother – you shouldn’t be fasting.’
Sleep deprivation, in my opinion, falls into the same category as fasting. The body is downtrodden; it now understands its vulnerability, its true position before its Creator. Abandonment to the Will of God can begin in earnest.
The night risings are not/were not for every religious order. The more contemplative orders scheduled night risings. (In other words, those who didn’t have to deal frequently with the outside world.) The Carmelites I am familiar with never eat meat. In addition, they fast from September 14 (Triumph of the Cross) until Easter. However, night risings are only for Lent. I think that in itself speaks volumes to the difficulty the human person experiences in losing sleep.
If the goal is sanctification and conformity to the Will of God is the best means to achieve sanctity, then mortifications are designed to make our wills pliable, supple to the commands of God. Penance is not designed to destroy us, although the root of the word mortification is death. Death in the Gospel sense “the grain of wheat that falls to the earth”; not suicide. Mortification is supposed to make us humble, soft, malleable, and above all else conforming to God’s Will.
St. Paul tells us faith and hope will not be needed in the next life, only charity. “Love is patient, love is kind….”
So, how does “love is patient, love is kind” come together with “mortification” especially, sleep deprivation? They must be able to come together. The fusion lives in the life of every saint.
The fusion must come from continually living in the presence of God. Our Lady of Fatima taught us to offer many sacrifices during the day and say: “For the love of God, the conversion of sinners, and sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” How do we get through a day in which our bodies are downtrodden? One step at a time, one breath at a time, and continually repeating the words of Our Lady “This is for the love of God.”
Our Lady’s life was one of continual suffering. However, She lived in continual union with God, Her eyes set on the fulfillment of His promises. Her Will is the same as God’s Will, their Hearts are so united. She lived the essence of sanctity: conformity to the Will of God.
Spiritual communions help greatly in this. Think of the Tabernacle. Say your prayers during the day with the thought of the grace pouring out from the Blessed Sacrament. Sing Eucharistic hymns. Continually offer the day, the fatigue, the weakness, the sacrifices with the words Our Lady taught at Fatima.
Our Lady is the example. What kind of life did the Blessed Virgin Mary live? As a child she lived in the Temple, praying for God’s manifestation as the Messiah. She experienced the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit to such an extent that the Word of God became flesh in Her womb. She carried Him for nine months – Does She not understand what it means to perform all actions as though one lived in front of the Tabernacle? She Is a Tabernacle!
If you have read this far ... I will continue.
But, how can I turn to God’s presence with the multiplicity of my tasks? How do I go into God’s presence when passions rage? How can I be kind when I am overworked and overburdened? How can I be recollected with the thorn in my side and an angel of satan to beat me? (St. Paul says this happens so that I don’t become proud, and so I can do penance. Humility of Heart recommends recalling past sins to remain humble.) The answer to the question ‘How can I be good? How can I live with the mortifications that come from God? The answer must be to NEVER leave God’s presence.
This is the height of virtue. Virtue is a strength; a habit. Virtue doesn’t happen immediately. It takes time and practice.
This is my meditation:
The virgin earth from Genesis is Mary. The moon recalls Mary, the birds in the air recall Mary. Symbols of Her greatness and power are everywhere. I do not need to look far to find my Mother who is at my side, sustaining me, leading me to Her Son. St. Maximilian said to go through life working with one hand and the other holding on to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have a Guardian Angel with me at all times, patron saints waiting to be of assistance, and the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. Tap my heart, for the soul of Our Lady is there, brought there by the Vow of Total Consecration taught by St. Maximilian. Send out the message to the Lord, keeping vigil in the Sacrament for me.
Today, I resolve to beg for the grace to live in God’s presence. I cannot force myself into God’s presence. He needs to call me in like Queen Esther. When Esther sought an interview with her Lord and King, she waited outside the throne room, dressed in her finest robes. I need to be my loveliest for the King, continually working on virtue and hover about the doorway to the Throne, longing to enter but nonetheless, waiting upon the Lord.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Mortification is a method.