Adam Minihan
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Adam is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma, the Co-Host of The Catholic Man Show, and the CEO of St. Michael Catholic Radio.

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10 Uses for Mortification

These are the dim days of Lent, where the shining lure of slipping back into the modern comforts of life is ever enticing. With Easter Sunday in sight, the temptation of slowing the pace of our ascetic practices creeps into our thoughts. However, it is not the time to shorten our stride, but to increase our momentum to run as to finish the race. When motivation lags and our will seems depleted, it is good to remember the purpose of our mortification and to recall our desire for God alone. Let us remember the plan and motivation we had on Ash Wednesday to offer up prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving throughout the full 40 days of Lent. To assist us in this recollection, we can turn to the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church.  In his book, The Secret of Sanctity, written with the assistance of Father Jean Crasset, a French Jesuit theologian who is known for his writings on asceticism, Saint Francis de Sales lays out ten benefits and advantages of mortification deserving serious consideration.  

10 Uses for Mortification

1. We cannot care for our spouse, children, or neighbor if our appetites dominate our will and are a liability for making rational decisions. By quieting our appetites, we are able to focus our concern for others rather than ourselves. As Saint Francis de Sales says, “These [passions] must be, I do not say altogether removed, but effectually crippled, before we can hope to make much progress.

2. Sin blinds us. It turns our desires selfishly inward, perverting the prayer of the Our Father from Thy will be done to My will be done. Through the grace-filled purification process of mortification, our spiritual vision is heightened so that we may see all our imperfections.

3. Mortifications of all kinds help us to obtain power with God. The world was redeemed by suffering and suffering in this life unites our will to God, allowing us to carry out His mission to make disciples of all men.

4. Mortification intensifies our love. Voluntarily denying ourselves produces an atmosphere for charity to grow and thrive. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).

5. We are not made for this world. Mortification reminds us that the reward we should be striving for is not in this world but in the next. “Nothing is in itself so unworldly as mortification, because it is the killing of everything that the world most prizes and cherishes.”

6. Francis de Sales tells us “perhaps the chiefest danger in the whole spiritual life” is leaving the first stage of purification (often called the via purgativa) too soon. When rightly ordered and done out of reverence for God, mortification is a virtue. And since it is a virtue, it must be developed out of habit. In the early stages of the spiritual life, many try to take on too many ascetic practices at once and lose their motivation, causing them to quit the practice altogether. This is a mistake and should be avoided.

7. There is a strong connection between mortification and prayer. All day long we distract ourselves from our duties in life with our mobile devices, social media, and email. Is it really a surprise that we find ourselves distracted in prayer? “How many complaints are we daily hearing of the difficulties of mental prayer! If we do not mortify ourselves, why complain?

8. We must not get complacent in the spiritual life. Mortification continues to build and strengthen our sanctity by developing habits of a holy life. This relates to what was stated above about not trying to get out of the via purgativa too quickly.

9. Without disciplined exterior mortification, it is foolish to think we will ever achieve the higher grace of interior mortification. “It is the greatest of delusions to suppose that we can mortify judgment and will, if we do not mortify our body also.

10. The last use of mortification St. Francis de Sales mentions is to develop the virtue of discretion. As Saint Francis de Sales beautifully states, “The truly mortified man will as little think of not listening to discretion as he would think of listening to cowardice.”

With the aid of Saint Francis de Sales, let us use this time the Church has given us, in Her wisdom, to strengthen our desire to conform ourselves closer to Christ through prayer and mortification -- for there can be no true or enduring love without it.

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10 Uses for Mortification

These are the dim days of Lent, where the shining lure of slipping back into the modern comforts of life is ever enticing. With Easter Sunday in sight, the temptation of slowing the pace of our ascetic practices creeps into our thoughts. However, it is not the time to shorten our stride, but to increase our momentum to run as to finish the race. When motivation lags and our will seems depleted, it is good to remember the purpose of our mortification and to recall our desire for God alone. Let us remember the plan and motivation we had on Ash Wednesday to offer up prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving throughout the full 40 days of Lent. To assist us in this recollection, we can turn to the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church.  In his book, The Secret of Sanctity, written with the assistance of Father Jean Crasset, a French Jesuit theologian who is known for his writings on asceticism, Saint Francis de Sales lays out ten benefits and advantages of mortification deserving serious consideration.  

10 Uses for Mortification

1. We cannot care for our spouse, children, or neighbor if our appetites dominate our will and are a liability for making rational decisions. By quieting our appetites, we are able to focus our concern for others rather than ourselves. As Saint Francis de Sales says, “These [passions] must be, I do not say altogether removed, but effectually crippled, before we can hope to make much progress.

2. Sin blinds us. It turns our desires selfishly inward, perverting the prayer of the Our Father from Thy will be done to My will be done. Through the grace-filled purification process of mortification, our spiritual vision is heightened so that we may see all our imperfections.

3. Mortifications of all kinds help us to obtain power with God. The world was redeemed by suffering and suffering in this life unites our will to God, allowing us to carry out His mission to make disciples of all men.

4. Mortification intensifies our love. Voluntarily denying ourselves produces an atmosphere for charity to grow and thrive. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).

5. We are not made for this world. Mortification reminds us that the reward we should be striving for is not in this world but in the next. “Nothing is in itself so unworldly as mortification, because it is the killing of everything that the world most prizes and cherishes.”

6. Francis de Sales tells us “perhaps the chiefest danger in the whole spiritual life” is leaving the first stage of purification (often called the via purgativa) too soon. When rightly ordered and done out of reverence for God, mortification is a virtue. And since it is a virtue, it must be developed out of habit. In the early stages of the spiritual life, many try to take on too many ascetic practices at once and lose their motivation, causing them to quit the practice altogether. This is a mistake and should be avoided.

7. There is a strong connection between mortification and prayer. All day long we distract ourselves from our duties in life with our mobile devices, social media, and email. Is it really a surprise that we find ourselves distracted in prayer? “How many complaints are we daily hearing of the difficulties of mental prayer! If we do not mortify ourselves, why complain?

8. We must not get complacent in the spiritual life. Mortification continues to build and strengthen our sanctity by developing habits of a holy life. This relates to what was stated above about not trying to get out of the via purgativa too quickly.

9. Without disciplined exterior mortification, it is foolish to think we will ever achieve the higher grace of interior mortification. “It is the greatest of delusions to suppose that we can mortify judgment and will, if we do not mortify our body also.

10. The last use of mortification St. Francis de Sales mentions is to develop the virtue of discretion. As Saint Francis de Sales beautifully states, “The truly mortified man will as little think of not listening to discretion as he would think of listening to cowardice.”

With the aid of Saint Francis de Sales, let us use this time the Church has given us, in Her wisdom, to strengthen our desire to conform ourselves closer to Christ through prayer and mortification -- for there can be no true or enduring love without it.

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