Mortification – By St Anthony Mary Claret

I keep in mind the teaching laid down by St. John of the Cross which states: “If anyone affirms that one can reach perfection without practicing exterior mortification, do not believe him; and even though he confirm this assertion by working miracles, know that his contentions are nothing but illusions.

As for me, I look to St. Paul for my example, for he mortified himself, and said publicly: “Castigo corpus meum et in servitutem redigo, ne forte cum aliis praedicaverim ipse reprobus efficiar — I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps when I have preached to others I myself may become a castaway.” All the saints until now have done in like manner. Venerable Rodriquez says that the Blessed Virgin said to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, that no spiritual grace comes to the soul, commonly speaking, except by way of prayer and bodily afflictions. There is an old principle which goes: “Da mihi sanguinem et dabo tibi spiritum.” Woe to those who are enemies of mortification and of the cross of Christ!

In one act of mortification one can practice many virtues, according to the different ends which one proposes in each act, as for example:

1. He who mortifies his body for the purpose of checking concupiscence, performs an act of the virtue of temperance.

2. If he does this, purposing thereby to regulate his life well, it will be an act of the virtue of prudence.

3. If he mortifies himself for the purpose of satisfying for the sins of his past life, it will be an act of justice.

4. If he does it with the intention of conquering the difficulties of the spiritual life, it will be an act of fortitude.

5. If he practices this virtue of mortification for the end of offering a sacrifice to God, depriving himself of what he likes, and doing that which is bitter and repugnant to nature, it will be an act of the virtue of religion.

6. If he intends by mortification to receive greater light to know the divine attributes, it will be an act of faith. 7. If he does it for the purpose of making his salvation more and more secure, it will be an act of hope.

8. If he denies himself in order to help in the conversion of sinners, and for the release of the poor souls in purgatory, it will be an act of charity towards his neighbor.

9. If he does it so as to help the poor, it will be an act of mercy.

10. If he mortifies himself for the sake of pleasing God more and more, it will be an act of love of God.

In other words, I shall be able to put all these virtues into practice in one act of mortification, according to the end I propose to myself while doing the said act.

Virtue has so much more merit, is more resplendent, charming and attractive, when accompanied by greater sacrifice. Man, who is vile, weak, mean, cowardly, never makes a sacrifice, and is not even capable of doing so, for he never resists even one appetite or desire. Everything that his concupiscence and passions demand, he concedes, if it is in his power to yield or reject, for he is base and cowardly, and lets himself be conquered and completely overcome, just as the braver of two fighters conquers the cowardly one.

• To labor and to suffer for the one we love is the greatest proof of our love.

God was made man for us. But what kind of man? How was He born? How did He live? Yes, and what a death He endured! Ego sum vermis et non homo, et abjectio plebis — I am a worm and no man, and the outcast of the people. Jesus is God and Man, but His Divinity did not help His Humanity in His crosses and sufferings, just as the souls of the just in heaven do not help their bodies which rot under the earth.

In a very special manner God helped the martyrs in their sufferings, but this same God abandoned Jesus in His crosses and torments, so that He was indeed a Man of Sorrows. The body of Our Lord was most delicately formed, and therefore more sensitive to pain and suffering. Well, then, who is capable of forming an idea of how much Jesus suffered? All His life, suffering was ever present. How much did He have to suffer for our love! Ah, what pains He underwent, so long-enduring and intense! O Jesus, Love of my life, I know and realize that pains, sorrows and labors are the lot of the apostolate, but with the help of Thy grace I embrace them. I have had my share of them, and now I can say that by Thy aid, my Lord and my Father, I am ready to drain this chalice of interior trials and am resolved to receive this baptism of exterior suffering. My God, far be it from me to glory in anything save in the cross, upon which Thou wert once nailed for me. And I, dear Lord, wish to be nailed to the cross for Thee. So may it be. Amen.