Mortify Yourself

“Paradox: to live we must die.” (Saint Josemaria Escriva, The Way, 187)

Denying ourselves and mortifying our senses has always been regarded as a powerful means of conquering vice, acquiring positive habits, and building character. Saint Josemaria put it in these words, “Where there is no self-denial, there is no virtue.”

How does one go about choosing mortifications? Saint Josemaria gives us advice when he says, “Choose mortifications that don't mortify others... and let it be a reasonable penance, imposed as it were, on an enemy who is at the same time your brother.”

It is easy to think that mortification has to involve massive displays of suffering like the people in the Philippines who reenact the crucifixion every Good Friday. But on that topic Saint Josemaria says, “Many who would willingly let themselves be nailed to a Cross before the astonished gaze of a thousand onlookers cannot bear with a christian spirit the pinpricks of each day! Think, then, which is the more heroic... The world admires only spectacular sacrifice, because it does not realize the value of sacrifice that is hidden and silent.”

There are corporal mortifications that involve denying our senses, and internal mortifications which involve putting to death our pride and anger. For corporal mortifications, the idea is that, “One has to give the body a little less than its due. Otherwise it turns traitor.” And for interior mortifications, we practice charity in times where it is especially difficult so that it becomes easier and easier.

What can we expect to gain from our efforts? According to Saint Josemaria, “These are the ripe fruits of the mortified soul: tolerance and understanding for the defects of others; intolerance for one's own.”

When you find it difficult to stick to your planned mortification, remember Saint Josemaria’s words, “You always come out beaten. Propose to yourself, each time, the salvation of a particular soul, or its sanctification, or its vocation to the apostolate. If you do so, you are certain of victory.”

Here are some examples I’ve come across that may help spark some thoughts on how you may want to mortify yourself.


Corporal Mortifications:

  • Place a small stone in your shoe

  • Wear a sack cloth under your clothes

  • Take a cold shower

  • Don’t use a pillow during sleep

  • Fast from a meal

  • Don’t hit snooze in the morning and get up right away

  • No sugar and/or creamer in tea/coffee

  • No alcohol

  • No smoking

  • No sweets

  • No social media

  • No gossip

  • No music

  • No tv/movies


Interior Mortifications:

  • Smile at someone who annoys you

  • Listen patiently to someone who bores you

  • Don’t say that biting remark on the tip of your tongue

  • Be kind to a boss that is overbearing

  • Take the smallest/worst piece when you get to choose

  • When a group of people is asked for assistance, be the first to offer your help

  • Pray for/forgive those who have hurt you

  • Wash other people’s dishes/serve them without saying anything

  • When going to get in a line, wait to be last, rather than rushing to be first.