An important question about mortification


Good afternoon. I have a question that is really hurting me:
Mortification is a DUTY of a Catholic or just a POSSIBILE WAY (like prayer, charity) to reach God? My spiritual director has never suggested it to me, and I think that something like avoiding meat on Lent Fridays can be good (on other Fridays, my priest has told me that I can substitute the fast with prayers), but I think that something like damaging himself or avoiding the back of the chair or something like this are absolutely impossible things, that can be substituted by prayer and charity, that can get you closer to the poor and the neighbors, when mortification just closes you in your house restricting you help to others. Am I wrong? Many told me that this mortification is not compulsory, please tell me your opinion about it.


Mortification can have several meanings. We are all as Catholics obliged to “mortify” our senses and bodily desires when not to do so involves sin. So, for example, we must not look at pornography.
We are also obliged to follow Church guidelines for fast and abstinence days. Beyond that, “mortification” means taking on a voluntary action, or suffering (although it doesn’t always involve real suffering), to offer to God as penance. This can be anything–extra prayers, a charitable act, patience when we don’t want to be patient, small acts of denial while eating (e.g. not using salt on food), turning off the TV when you want to watch it, etc. Sitting upright in a chair versus leaning back might be a good penance, if you are called that way. In previous times some saints appear to have gone out of their way to actually harm themselves in doing penance. Few would recommend that today. There’s plenty of small mortifications to do daily. Such mortification is voluntary, but we are called as Catholics to do some type of penance for our souls and that of others.


So, according to you, every good action we do (charity…), even if it makes us happy, can be seen like a mortification, because it gets you closer to God?


Mortification is not good and not required by the Church if it involves “self damaging” as you put it in the other thread you started about the same topic.


There is a huge difference between damaging oneself and not leaning against the back of one’s chair!

The Church frowns upon people damaging themselves. Serious physical mortifications are only to be undertaken under the supervision of a spiritual director and few of us are called to that level.

What your spiritual director or priest has told you about abstaining from meat on Fridays other than Lenten is the case in the US.

However, I don’t think it is a good idea to substitute prayer and charity for all mortification s, because then your spiritual exercises would all be in one area. It would be like exercising only one arm or only your legs. You need exercises for all over your body, and you need different kinds of exercises to exercise your whole soul.

But mortifications can be very simple: doing the job you don’t like before you do the job you like. Saying no to seconds. Saying something nice to the person who really bugs you.
And we can organize them so we know we are ok. I might say, on on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will not have dessert. Then I am free to eat dessert on the other days!

And it is amazing how difficult even a little thing like that can be. I decided to fast for one hour/day, between 3 and 4, and bang! I got soooooo hungry!!! And suddenly people were offering me great food right then! And so on. It was very hard! But I learned from that. And could now contemplate a longer fast, maybe 2 hours.

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