[quote=Chris Jacobsen]People practice mortification for all sorts of reasons. People go without food to make themselves look better. Punish and torture their bodies so they can play professional sports such as hockey and football. Or, they hit the golf ball until their hands are raw, and they still keep hitting the ball, so they can win at professional golf. People get themselves pierced in all kinds of places.
Mortification only becomes suspect when it is done for the love God. When it is done for any other reason, people rarely question it.
Bingo. The example I usually give people is this: there are plenty of women who are very committed to unmedicated childbirth for what I would deem philosophical reasons-- they prefer to work with their own bodies, or they follow a very natural/organic lifestyle and wish to deliver in the same fashion, etc. And that is fine. California is FULL of people like that and nobody looks at them cross-eyed. “I didn’t have an epidural because I believe we need to respect woman’s natural ability to deliver her baby.” “Really? Cool! That’s so impressive!”
But suppose I also decide to forgo pain medication during childbirth, not because of my organic lifestyle, but because I want to offer it up in reparation for all the abortions in this country, or to pray that fallen-away family members return to the faith, or on behalf of a friend’s very ill child. Suddenly, because it’s for God, it’s deemed masochistic in some way.
Frankly, I don’t think I’m the one with the problem… I think people who really strongly object to voluntarily taking on mortifications haven’t quite grasped what AquinasXVI pointed out-- this is about taking up the cross and following Christ. In the spiritual life it is SO easy to get soft on oneself, and start adorning oneself with all kinds of imagined virtues while really slowly sliding into lukewarmness. Mortification helps to make sure we actually “walk the walk” and don’t just “talk the talk.”