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Tuesday after Quinquaqesima

Mortification: its necessity and advantages - 1

From book "Spiritual Readings for all days of the year from texts of Saint Alphonsus of Liguori"... For the recovery of bodily health you must take c...

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Spiritual Readings

Saint Alphonsus

For the recovery of bodily health you must take care never to impair the strength of the soul, which will always be weak so long as the flesh is not mortified. "I compassionate," says St. Bernard, "the infirmities of the body; but the infirmity of the soul should be an object of greater alarm." I pity the infirmities of the body, but feel greater commiseration for the more formidable and dangerous maladies of the soul. Oh, how often is bodily weakness made the pretext for unnecessary indulgence. "We leave the choir," says St. Teresa, "today, because the head aches; and tomorrow, because it has ached; and for three more days, lest it should ache." Hence, on another occasion she thus addresses her dear children: "You have entered Religion not to indulge the flesh, but to die for Jesus Christ. If we do not resolve to disregard the want of health, we shall do nothing. What injury will death do us? How often have our bodies molested us? Shall not we torment them in return?" St. Joseph Calasanctius says: "Woe to the Religious who loves health more than sanctity."

St. Bernard considered it unbecoming in those called to a perfect life, to take costly medicine; for them, he said, decoctions of herbs should be sufficient. I do not require this of you; but I say that small indeed must be the spiritual progress of him who is continually seeking physicians and remedies; who is sometimes not content with the prescription of the ordinary physician; and who, by his discontent, disturbs everybody. "Men," says Salvian, "devoted to Christ are weak, and wish to be so: if they were robust, they could with difficulty be Saints." All who have consecrated themselves to the love of Jesus Christ, and are weak in body, desire to continue in their infirmities: for were they strong and vigorous, it would be difficult for them to attain sanctity. The truth of this observation appears from the Lives of St. Teresa, St. Rose, St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, and other Saints. The Venerable Beatrix of the Incarnation, the first spiritual daughter of St. Teresa, though afflicted with pains and infirmities, was accustomed to say that she would not exchange her condition for that of the happiest princess on earth. Such was her patience, that in the greatest sufferings she never uttered a word of complaint. Hence a sister once said to her: "You are like one of those wretched paupers who languish for want of food, but continue to endure the pains of hunger rather than submit to the shame of manifesting their poverty."

If bodily weakness renders us unable to practise corporal austerities, let us at least learn from her example to embrace with joy the infirmities with which Almighty God visits us. If borne with patience, they will conduct us to perfection better than voluntary works of penance. St. Syncletica used to say, that "as corporal maladies are cured by medicine, so the diseases of the soul are healed by the infirmities of the body."

Oh, how profitable to the spirit are the mortifications of the flesh!

They detach the heart from sensual pleasures, which wound the soul, and frequently deprive her of life. "The wounds of charity," says Origen, "make us insensible to the wounds of the flesh."

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Monday after Quinquagesima