Corporal Mortification?

Are there any catholics on here who practice some form of corporal mortification? If so, is it under a spiritual director’s guidance, what kind, etc. and what are your thoughts on the issue?

Lately I have been drinking my coffee without sugar or sweeteners as a means of fasting, which is a corporal mortification. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I am on a limited food budget (unemployed), so I am already not eating in a fancy way. I’m also have diabetes, which limits what I can do about fasting. So, this, in a small way, is a mortification to me. The next step is to eliminate the milk in the coffee, but I haven’t gotten that bold, yet.

Some members of Opus Dei practice self-flagellation, and wear cilices (a strap round their thigh that irritates the skin).

After reading about one of my favorite saints (Padre Pio) engaging in self-mortification, I felt ashamed because I felt like I should be practicing some form of it myself.

Then one day I was listening to some Father Corapi tapes and he mentioned how the saints would wear clothes made of horse hair and slept on bare floors. The saints did these things as a cross to bear for our Lord. Father Corapi went on to say that you do not need to do such things as your cross can be sitting next to you! LOL:D (meaning your spouse, of course). I’ll never forget that, made SO much sense to me…

A word of warning, perhaps unnecessary, but you never know… Don’t start rigorous self-mortification without talking to your spiritual director. Not everyone is cut out to do these things, and for some people they may pose a grave risk. Especially those who tend toward scrupulosity. You can do a lot of damage if you start carrying self-imposed crosses. :slight_smile:

As to the use of other sorts of mortification (beyond ordinary or small) … discuss with ones confessor/spiritual director.

Regarding bodily mortification:

Link’s not working…:confused:

fixed …just giving you some passive mortification :slight_smile:

[FONT=Arial]I never really knew how to ask a spiritual director if it would be acceptable to do self-flagellation as a form of penance. Fasting is probably one of the best forms of mortification and is probably the least used form of mortification. I think most spiritual directors would start by telling you to fast or pray the rosary with outstretched arms before they approve stricter penances.

I think the other thing we tend to look over when we read the lives of the saints is the type of lives they lived. Most of their ordinary tasks or things they would perform during their day would suffice a lay persons needs when it comes to mortifying the senses. In my opinion self-flagellation was an accepted practice for them ONLY because they were already leading lives of complete mortification. In short what I’m trying to say is if you can’t even mortify yourself through fasting, then you shouldn’t be jumping the gun and heading straight to self-flagellation. Baby steps, people.


Self flagellation is I think not the best term here for what was practiced by many through the ages (and perhaps by some today (with direction as you note).

I would suggest the use of the term “the discipline” or “take the discipline”.

One finds that term in the spiritual works. I would suggest such for the other is apt to sort of bring to mind excessive things

Thank you for the response. I used self-flagellation because a) that’s what it is and b) most people (including priests) today wouldn’t understand what “the discipline” was/is if you asked them about it.
The Discipline

Since today is St John Bosco’s feast day, I thought I’d include some quotes of his about mortification:

“Begin to practice self-denial in little things, so that later you will be able to do so in bigger ones.”

“There are plenty of ways to practice mortification! Just patiently endure cold, heat, sickness, troubles, people, happenings, and so forth.”

“[Regarding mortification of the eyes]
This act of self-denial is purity’s effective safeguard.”

A friend of mine when I got married noted that a wife can be for a husband an instrument of penance… :slight_smile:

One needs of course to receive such penance and mortification well when it comes.

Such of course goes to for husbands…

When we fast we are to wash and put oil on our heads (Matthew 6:17). In other words, we aren’t supposed to be letting other know what we are up to.

The church also teaches that we can only under take corporal mortification or out of the ordinary observences under the direction of a spiritual director. That is a real spiritual director and not what we read about, or what someone said, or what folks at CAF are doing.

Several posters have already said that there plenty of mortifications we are avoiding - like letting our spouse have the last word, or letting someone cut ahead of us in traffic. Until we have accepted those mortifications we don’t need to think about using the discipline or any other unusual form of corporal mortification.

Get up early enough to say your morning prayers every day, get to daily Mass, give up sugar in your coffee, try all those things first and see where they get up in the development of your spiritual life. Sometimes we have to humble ourselves to just wash in the Jordan instead of having a miracle cure.

Corporal mortification is a form of mental illness.

Depends on what you mean by mortification. Surely you wouldn’t say that someone who sleeps on a hard mattress, walks instead of driving to the store, or drinks black coffee is mentally ill. Even if they did all 3 things you wouldn’t say that.

The church teaches that all sin affects the entire body of Christ and that, conversely, all reparation can restore the body - even reparation undertaken voluntarily by those who had no share in the sin. So in a time in history when criminals or other sinners were “canned” or whipped in punishment, those undertaking reparation often whipped themselves.

Yes, some of the Saints in history did do things that we now would say were not right - For example, St Rose of Lima disfiguring her face with lye. But without the protection of laws and mores of our time, that was her way of preserving her viginity from both real suitors and men who mights have raped her otherwise.

But again, we indulge ourselves to such a degree now, that simply giving up milk/sugar in coffee or sleeping on an older mattress is mortification for us.

As stated earlier: exactly in order to ensure that someone who may be mentally unstable doesn’t take on excessive or inappropriate mortifications is why the church says it can *only *be done under spiritual direction.



Ha ha, your comment reminds me of a thread I started on mortification when I understood spiritual matters less than I do now.

We are talking self imposed pushishment , (not giving up milk in coffee) and anyone thinking of or doing it needs help asap not a spirtual advisor to tell them how to do it.
Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t even get tatoos.

No different than teen girls who cut themselves (who also need professional help) . If one thinks they may get to heaven or even get a blessing from God for doing it they are not.

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