The Self-Denial of Our Blessed Mother by Msgr. Charles Mangan posted on February 3rd, 2007
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
The Ever-Virgin Mary spent Herself in mortification. She embraced every opportunity that came Her way to practice self-denial. How she appreciated and used well the abundant chances that God gave to Her to deny Herself some licit good!
Mortification makes some of us very nervous. We wonder if we can persevere in some little self-imposed penance. This is often true during the penitential season of Lent. The days and weeks before that season begins can be a breeding ground for trepidation.
But Our Blessed Lady had no fear about self-denial. Only reverential fear for God could be found in Her Immaculate Heart. Her genuine desire to mortify Herself derived from Her deep, abiding love for God, a love that God Himself inspired. Hence, the Madonna was not afraid to practice mortification. On the other hand, She treasured the possibilities for self-denial that presented themselves.
Mortification is, according to Jesuit Father Sydney F. Smith in The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: The Encyclopedia Press, Inc., 1913; Volume X, page 578), a method “which Christian asceticism employs in training the soul to virtuous and holy living. The term originated with St. Paul, who traces an instructive analogy between Christ dying to a mortal and rising to an immortal life, and His followers who renounce their past life of sin and rise through grace to a new life of holiness. ‘If you live after the flesh’, says the apostle, ‘you shall die, but if through the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live’ (Romans 8:13; cf. also Colossians 3:5, and Galatians 5:24).”
Mortification is often thought of in relation to the palate. But self-denial encompasses more than restricting food and drink; it also can be applied to limiting one’s own rest in order to spend additional time in prayer and acts of charity for others. Furthermore, self-denial can be practiced by the use of a less comfortable bed, walking instead of riding in a car, guarding one’s eyes, etc. Self-denial is not meant to ruin one’s own physical health. Hence, one must exercise the Cardinal Virtue of Prudence when choosing voluntary forms of self-denial.