I have had flu for two days, but am getting better. Someone took me to a wifi cafe today, so here are some posts. I should be blogging regularly again by March 1st. Please ignore any spelling errors or typos, as my spell check is not working again.
This one is on mortification.
I started to read the fantastic Jesuit meditation book I discovered in a used bookstore last year for a mere pittance. If you recall, I followed several of the priest’s meditations from this book originally written in 1868.
Today, I was struck by this unnamed priest’s thoughts on penance. He quotes St. Paul “If by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.’
The Jesuit notes that this mortification is not an option, but a duty, a necessity for salvation. Now, as I have noted on this and the old blog more than once, some mortifications are given, that is, chosen by God, and some are chosen by men and women-involuntary mortifications and voluntary mortifications.
Father reminds us the we are obliged to do penance. He recalls the penances of the Desert Fathers in vigils, austerities and fasting.
One thing which Americans can do is eat less, eat only what is necessary and not eat, “dainties” which cause pleasure. Now, we do not have to put ashes on our food, but to be satisfied with more plain food can be a chosen mortification. Father reminds us that perfection is found when we deny ourselves our natural inclinations. Thus, eating something which we do not particularly enjoy, but which gives sustenance.
One does not have to live like a Benedictine monk or nun, getting up in the middle of the night for prayer, but many lay people are awaking at odd hours, and some have told me they pray for Mercy chaplet then for whoever may be dying, or in danger of death outside the Church.
Father reminds us that St. Augustine said that we must do penance in order to do expiation for sins or else we shall go to purgatory. “...do penance or burn,” wrote the Doctor of the Church.
As to other physical austerities, custody of the eyes and ears form good habits of penances.
The priest mentions passing stores and other distractions in the street, not looking up at things, and not to be distracted by things are activities which are penances and good habits. Being silent when one could give an opinion is also a possible mortification.
A great way to moritify one’s self is to decide not to complain about suffering or deprivations, but maintaining cheerful disposition.
If one does not do penance now, one will have to do so in purgatory. And, a reminder, no one can merit anything, any graces, after death. Death ends the time of merit. No one merits anything in purgatory, only is purified of faults and does penance for sins committed.
“...do penance or burn”
Sometimes, God gives a person penances—poverty, even penury, lack of community, lack of friends, illnesses, misunderstandings, suffering in families which no longer believe in God’s Laws, hunger, thirst, and in extreme penances, war and dislocation.
Sometimes penances are the results of other peoples’ sins against one.
I think of the famous story of the Desert Father who was accused by a woman who tried to seduce him and failed, of fathering her child she had with another man. When this monk was accused, he said nothing to defend himself, although he was completely innocent. The other monks said he had to raise the boy-child as they thought it was his, which he did. When the boy was a young adolescent, the mother was dying and confessed she had lied and calumiated this good monk. She told all who the real father was, and the monks went and took the now older boy from the monk, who had come to love him, and gave him to his real father.
The monks then asked the monk why he did not defend himself. He answered that God would defend him, and that it was God’s Will to so suffer this false accusation, and then suffer the loss of the child he has raised.
The monks then understand what mortification entailed, and how holy this monk was.
Can we learn to be so mortified? Forgiveness and freedom come from mortification. Forgiveness and freedom clear the mind of heart leaving room for love and holiness.
Lent is the great time of the liturgical year for mortification.
As I have learned in certain areas of my life, mortification can become habitual. Cooperation with God’s Will regarding involuntary penance leads to purification, making the mind, heart, imagination, memory and will pure and open to receive God’s love.
Sometimes God gives us a big chance to be mortified. Recently, two Christians I know were involved in a project. It involved planning, working, and looking towards the future. Last week, this project failed completely because funds which were promised by one of their benefactors did not materialize. This Christian project floundered and the two in charge had to start over again with other ideas.
The two went to prayer and God revealed to them these things, which I am allowed to share.
One, the Christians had ignored some hints of how God wanted this project to go. This ignoring of hints in prayer led to the direct blocking of the project moving into another direction rather than the one God intended. Because the hearts of these two Christians did want God’s Will, God block the project they were setting up outside of His Perfect Will.
Two, they realized that in ignoring those directions from God in prayer, they had followed their own choices based on imperfections in their souls-insecurity, giving in to rather intense outside pressures, rushing through something too fast, not trusting.
Three, so the big fault of these two was a lack of trust in Divine Providence and the using of their resources as they saw fit, instead of relying on God to do the more with their less.
Four, God revealed to them tendencies towards sin—those hidden imperfections which block perfection—those predominant faults. They shared these with me and I have permission to write these on the blog.
Tendencies to greed, pride, impatience, ambition, insecurity—all leading to moving away from God’s chosen plan for the project.
Five, but the biggest sin which underlined these two Christian’s souls was that of not trusting in God’s grace, in His Divine Providence to take care of every detail of the project, or His Plan.
Six, they also realized that God’s Plan was bigger than what their puny visions could discern. God wanted more, wanted to give them more, even the desires of their hearts through this project, but they were settling for less. This settling for less was compromise. This compromise came out of their own imperfections. God mortified them on purpose to stop the moving on with something which was based on imperfection.
Amazing how God is so faithful to reveal through mortification His Greater Plan, and also, to be so good and so faithful as to show the imperfections and sins to these two Christians through the failure of their project.
But, they firstly accepted the humiliation of the failure, and secondly, prayed as to why this happened.
Then, they were shown how they had moved away from God’s ideas on the project and settled for their own.
Because they are good Christians who want to serve God, God was free to chastise them. He knew they would respond to this chance to change direction.
Salutary suffering brings life, not death. Those two Christians are now planning something more akin to what God had told them in prayer a month or so before they took off with their own plans.
Mortification may be public or it may be private. Those who respond to it will grow in holiness.
If you choose your own, God bless you. If you respond correctly to God’s choice, God will bless you.