“You must run in such a way that you may be victorious.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
I would like to discuss with you in this note a great and necessary principle of spiritual advancement. The important principle I am referring to can be stated as follows:
THE MORE A PERSON PROMPTLY MORTIFIES HIS EVIL INCLINATIONS, THE MORE THE LIFE OF GRACE AND CHARITY WILL GROW IN HIM
We neglect this all-important principle of spiritual advancement at great risk to our growth in holiness and charity. Thus, if we fail to promptly mortify the evil inclination of bitterness or resentment toward another person, then more and more this bitterness and resentment takes root in our heart and soul and significantly impedes our spiritual development. If we are going to grow in charity, if we are going to grow in the love of God and neighbor, then we must learn to promptly mortify our evil thoughts and inclinations as soon as they rear their ugly heads! “We take captive every thought”, says St. Paul, “and make it obedient to Christ [and his law of charity] (2 Corinthians 10:5).”
Prompt mortification of our evil thoughts and inclinations is a great principle of the spiritual life, and we would be living a type of illusory spiritual life if we felt we were not called to practice it. This mortification involves a “stripping off of the old nature” with its sinful tendencies (Colossians 3:9), and a “putting on of a new nature” in “the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10). In the context of this note, we are talking primarily of mental, not bodily, mortification: we are talking about what psychologists might call cognitive training, and in traditional Catholic parlance it is called mortification of the mind or mortification of the will. Whatever it might be called it involves a two step process of:
1. Seeing and identifying in the mind an evil inclination or thought; and
2. Mortifying or casting out the evil thought just as quickly and effectively as possible.
As we train the mind to engage in this cognitive process through repeated, virtuous acts of mental mortification, it will develop into an amazingly healthy habit that purifies the mind of its evil or sinful tendencies. When we begin to consistently root out all these evil inclinations, like lust and malice and envy, we therefore begin to allow Christian charity to take “a deeper root in our will.” And the essential development of the Christian life is growth in charity: growth in the love of God and neighbor.
In another note, I present this concept of the mortification of the mind in a slightly different manner as formulated by a great Catholic spiritual writer, Father Lallemant, who speaks about “purity of heart” accomplishing so much in the spiritual life. See the following link:
All of the great Catholic spiritual writers talk about the great spiritual principle of mortification, and it is a topic that needs to be better addressed at the current time.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Ref. See link directly above.
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