Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

On Exterior Penance and Mortification.


There is nothing more united and less united than the soul and body. When one advances, the other recoils; when one rises, the other descends; when one is in health, the other is sick; when one is strong, the other is weak. It is necessary, then, in order to strengthen and give health to the soul, to bring the body under subjection, and weaken its sinful inclinations by penance and mortification.

I am not a man if I obey my passions; I am not a Christian if I do not combat with and overcome my passions; I am not a true penitent if I do not mortify my passions. Since my body is polluted by sin, it ought to be purified by mortification; and since it has part in the pleasures of the soul, it ought to glory in sharing its sorrows.

How do I know that my sins are forgiven? How do I know that the pain which my offences merit is remitted? How do I know that God will not punish me in my body? How do I know that he will not chastise me in my soul? How do I know that he will not regard me with coldness, and permit me to fall into some grievous sin? How do I know that I shall be able to rise after falling therein? Only if I consistently practice penance and mortification can I be sure that my sins will be forgiven, that my punishment will be remitted, that I will receive an abundance of grace, and that I shall have the strength to rise again.


If I spare myself and do not practice mortification, God will not spare me on account of the weaknesses I fail to overcome. If I am filled with self-love and close myself off to loving God and others, I will be closed to God’s love for me, but if I forget myself and give myself to God and others, God will give himself to me. If I punish myself by the mortifications of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, God will not punish me. If I excuse nothing in myself, God will pardon all, but if I excuse all things in myself, God will pardon nothing. If I am indulgent to myself and live a life of excess, God will be severe, but if I am austere and live a life of Christian generosity, God will be generous and merciful.

Oh, Christian soul! make your body a living and dying victim; mortify your passions, your senses, and your desires; mortify yourself at all times, and in all places; mortify yourself with zeal, mortify yourself with discretion.

Resolution: To develop a penitential program for Lent involving the three traditional mortifications of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and to begin practicing it no later than next Monday.

Prayer: O Holy Spirit, enlighten me that I may know my weaknesses and guide me in choosing those penances and mortifications which will be most salutary for my salvation.

By a Member of the Society of Jesus, edited and amended by J. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R.

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