Mortification and the Saints


Hi :slight_smile:

I know that a lot of the Saints practiced corporal mortification like wearing hair shirts, fasting, and other penances. To the modern mind it seems a little odd perhaps, but many people still do so today. Of course, it should be done only under the guidance of a spiritual director, under obedience, or if you’re in Opus Dei or something… otherwise, it can easily become a temptation to pride. For the rest of us there is spiritual mortification, which is actually quite effective! and fasting of course.

I thought that’s the Church teaching…

but then I read about St Frances of Rome, and her Angel (an Archangel) told her not to do SEVERE penances like eating only bread and water and a hair shirt and such, because the point is not to destroy the body. Of course, that makes a lot of sense… we should bring the body under submission to the spirit, but we shouldn’t destroy what God has made.

My question is, how does that relate to what the other Saints did?
For example, St Rose of Lima did quite severe penances, and I read she saw her Angel too, and he didn’t say anything…

do you think the difference is in intention, or maybe St Frances’ mortification was too extreme? if it doesn’t harm the health, is it alright?

(not that I’m contemplating of doing anything like that, it would probably only make me proud. I’m just wondering about the Saints :))

I know it’s sort of a strange question… I read about the Saints a lot though.


I think part of the answer is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. What is too much for some is fine for others. I think that, as you said, a good spiritual director is paramount in these matters.


My dear friend Monica

I think what makes you a saint is grace and our cooperation with this. Grace is the life giving living love of God, and God. The living Holy Spirit dwelling within us dispenses this grace and when we cooperate we get more and more. We should hunger after grace and cooperate with this. It does not matter what angels do or don’t do. This love of God we receive transforms us into the person we were always meant to be- a very human and very loving person. This is a saint. How you achieve this does not matter. Everything we do, as we’re led by the Spirit, should be aimed at cooperating with grace which slowly transforms us into saints. We should pester God continually to make us into saints. This is our purpose in life- to become a saint. Everything will fall into place if we strive for this. I hope this helps:)

May God and our Blessed Mother bless and sanctify us:thumbsup::slight_smile:



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