Physical Mortification


I am reading the livf of St. Catherine of Siena, I am wondering where physical mortification comes from and how it fits into Catholic Sprituality. I just don’t get it.


What is physical mortification, is that modification


Physical mortification is something you should only do if your spiritual director recommends it. It is more humbling to do spiritual mortification for most people.

Physical mortification is “mortifying the body”, like fasting, wearing a hair shirt, etc. Some Saints practiced very severe mortifications like the discipline. The purpose of it is to bring the body and the ‘passions’ into submission, so that the spiritual rules the physical and not the other way around. It’s similar to how we fast during Lent… some Saints also did it to share in Christ’s suffering.


Well said, Monica4316! All Catholics are called to various types of mortification in order to subdue the passions and live life in God (i.e., a more supernatural life).


Spritual mortification I get completly. I even get fasting, at 320 lbs I could probably use it anyway.:shrug: Beating yourself with a whip, wearing a chain, even a hair shirt seems a little extreme. With all the beauty that God has given us in the world why should we go out of our way to hurt oursleves?

Fasting, in moderation, is good for a person physically and spritually. Unless, of course, you do it in a prideful manner, “I’m so holy. I fast EVERY FRIDAY.” It is the more extreme kind that I don’t understand. It makes no sense to me to whip the body that God made or to injure it with a chain or heavy weight. I simply don’t get it. Didn’t Jesus suffer enough?


Ask and ye shall receive:

Colossians 1:24. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church:

*Wanting… There is no want in the sufferings of Christ in himself as head: but many sufferings are still wanting, or are still to come, in his body the church, and his members the faithful.

To overvalue the good of the body, which is food for worms and dust is foolishness from the world. :smiley: This entire world is going to be destroyed by God in fire, and all the riches in it that men cling to, all the art, all made by man’s hands from the beginning of time. Destroyed.

The ways of the world are not the ways of God. There are so many scriptural verses showing the value of suffering and the lack of value of sensual and material pleasures.

So it is that the saints desire to be as much like Christ as possible, and to make as much use of all the gifts that God gives them to gain as much merit as possible before God and to mortify the passions and do penance for their own sake and all the Church.

Those who can practice corporeal mortification definitely should. Real corporeal mortification. Try reading the life of St. Lydwine of Schiedam. :slight_smile:

The more you sacrifice and give up to God in this life, the more you suffer for Him and embrace the cross, the greater good you do for all the mystical Body of Christ, and the higher and closer to God and more full of His love you will be in Heaven.

For further reference:

‘Let us remember that every act of mortification is a work for heaven. This thought will make all suffering and weariness sweet.’

‘Let us read the lives of the saints; let us consider the penances which they performed, and blush to be so effeminate and so fearful of mortifying our flesh.’

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

‘You must practice, at one and the same time, interior and exterior mortification; but with this difference, that you must give yourself up to the first particularly, always, and without exception; to the second, on the contrary, only as far as circumstances and the particular condition of persons and occasions will permit.’

‘Do not wait for old age to mortify your body and your passions. First, are you sure of reaching it? Again, how shall you do penance at that age?’

St. Ignatius of Loyola

‘There were two saints in the desert, who had sewed thorns into all their clothes; and we seek for nothing but comfort!’

‘We give our youth to the devil, and the remains of our life to the Good God, who is so good that He deigns to be content with even that. . . but, happily, everyone does not do so. A great lady has been here, of one of the first families in France; she went away this morning. She is scarcely three-and-twenty, and she is rich-very rich indeed. . . She has offered herself in sacrifice to the good God for the expiation of sins, and for the conversion of sinners. She wears a girdle all armed with iron points; she mortifies herself in a thousand ways; and her parents know nothing of it. She is white as a sheet of paper. Hers is a beautiful soul, very pleasing to the good God, such as are still to be found now and then in the world, and they prevent the world from coming to an end.’

‘Oh, how bitterly shall we regret at the hour of death the time we have given to pleasures, to useless conversations, to repose, instead of having employed it in mortification, in prayer, in good works, in thinking of our poor misery, in weeping over our poor sins; then we shall see that we have done nothing for Heaven. Oh, my children, how sad it is! Three-quarters of those who are Christians labor for nothing but to satisfy this body, which will soon be buried and corrupted, while they do not give a thought to their poor soul, which must be happy or miserable for all eternity. They have neither sense nor reason: it makes one tremble.’

St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

‘I myself have undergone your penance. I only ask you for your mortification to spend one entire night without stirring on your back.’

St. Lydwine of Schiedam


Does anyone here pratice physical mortification? I am not trying to be intrusive. I am still trying to understand.


Here is some reading on penance and mortification. Although it was written for the Rule of St. Michael, it contains helpful info for those not in the Order.

Catholic Penance and Mortification


A little. A very little.

I don’t feel comfortable discussing it too much.

I’d rather speak about what I know about it generally.


This is exactly why I, a returning Catholic and also reading “Rediscovering Catholocism” will probably not make a “real” return to Holy Mother Church.

This mortification stuff is just not for me. I don’t want to be a saint. I would be happy with a folding chair in heaven. Next to my parents and late husband, deceased children and all my dogs.

In reading Rediscovering Catholicism I read many things about the Catholic Church about which we should take pride…WE started many schools, enabling people to learn to read, do arithmetic, etc. WE started hospitals enabling many with physical illnesses to be saved from death. But…I read where maybe the thing I really should aspire to is sainthood. It is not good enough to be an “ordinary” Catholic at Mass (what the heck is an ordinary Catholic? I don’t know…one who attends and maybe distributes Communion, cleans the church, helps at the festival (-: ) plus do my best to live a good life. A good life is…being honest, doing favors for people when I can…giving my clothes to St. Vincent and food to the food pantry?

Rather, I am (after listening to the local Catholic station) now of the opinion that after I pay for my “basic necessities” I shouldn’t spend the rest on ME, but on “the poor.” Add to that praying for bad things to happen to me?

No thank you! This is not for me.

This is a side of Catholicism I didn’t know existed and I am sorry to have found out. How could I have been raised Catholic and not learned that some of us are wearing hair shirts and – wanting to suffer?


Physical mortifications do not have to be something extreme. Last year I said my Breviary every day while sitting straight up on the edge of a hard chair (I usually pray on my recliner which is very comfy). It was a bit of discomfort but it helped me focus on my prayer. There is another thread on this with other suggestions.


Thank you joannm…but this is not for me. I want no part of this. It took my breath away to see that there was even a blog for mortification…I thought maybe I heard the radio station incorrectly or dreamed it…or whatever.

I don’t know what I will do for religion now, but I don’t think I want to be Catholic.Not if this is part of it.

This is not for me.

It was nice of you to answer. God bless you. Take care.

After listening to some of the programs on the local Catholic radio station, I have become aware that I am an abysmal sinner and get the feeling that unless I embrace these mortification (even mild like you did) exercises and give up my false gods of Ecco shoes and Chanel – and give whatever is left after I pay my taxes and buy a little food…why go to Mass? I don’t want to go anyway. I was going because it was my Sunday obligation. But heck, Mass attendance is not being Catholic. There is all the other stuff.

Too much for me.


PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, talk to a priest!

Being Catholic is not all about suffering & mortification, and I have never heard anyone say that I can’t spend my money on things I may want.

It sounds like you have some serious misunderstandings on what the faith really teaches. I suggest, in addition to “Rediscovering Catholicism” that you check out “Catholicism for Dummies” This is a great book, that breaks down Catholic belief into very simple terms.

Peace be with you on your journey!


Thank you for saying you hope I have peace on my journey. I hope I do, too. Thank you.

Priests are busy here. The priest who hosted Catholics Come Home had a confessionathon (at 9am, I wonder how busy he was at 9am) and so while I hoped he would be there, he was busy with the confessionathon. I went the following week as well. Another confessionathon. Really nice lay people were there to greet us. They couldn't discuss my concerns with me. But they were nice and refreshments were served! Doughnuts. Coffee. So....I guess I was disappointed. Kind of like having a "party? a brunch? an event? with father (the HOST!) .....not showing up. Priests are really busy here! They are really, really...pressed.

So lacking priestly direction, I turned to Catholic radio. I think the local Catholic station is what scared me.

I posted in another forum late last week about some of these things, but I don't remember which one (-:

But thank you. You, like every one else, are the best!

I wish you peace and gosh, pray for me. I need it.


Cut and pasted from someone else's post:

Those who can practice corporeal mortification definitely should.

This is what is scary. That people believe this and think this way. I am sure the writer of the post was giving us what she truly believed and god bless him/her. I respect the poster of the information but this is just not for me.

This is so scary.

I need to get out of here. God bless



[quote="SmartBuffy, post:15, topic:153514"]
Cut and pasted from someone else's post:

Those who can practice corporeal mortification definitely should.

This is what is scary. That people believe this and think this way. I am sure the writer of the post was giving us what she truly believed and god bless him/her. I respect the poster of the information but this is just not for me.

This is so scary.

I need to get out of here. God bless



This is one person's opinion! Please do not think that this is something you must do.

I know priests are very busy people, I work for the Church. I also know that if any of the priests I knew, knew you were having issues like this, they would make the time to talk to you. Most priests have "office hours" where they see people for various "pastoral needs". Call the parish office and see if you can make an appointment. And it does not necessarily need to be a priest, if your parish has a deacon, you could ask to speak with him also.

You really need to clear up some of your misconceptions, and sadly Catholic radio, CAF and other information on the internet can cause more confusion than it can actually help. :sad_yes:

Please, make the effort to talk to someone, You will be in my prayers. :)


Smart Buffy, I agree with the other posters who have recommended you make an appointment with your priest. You are right, the priests are busy. They give so generously for the people in the church, and that includes you. You have many questions that are better answered outside of the confessional anyway. Please call and make an appointment. There are people who derive spritual benefits from mortifications, but not everyone is called to that. You don't need to run out of the church in fear. God bless you!


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