• Mater

Mortification in Motherhood (Part 2 of 3)

Updated: Jan 3

Give me blood [mortification] and I will give you spirit.

—Our Lord to St. Anthony Mary Claret

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In Part 1, we discussed how we can use the work we already do as a mother as mortification, while being sure we aren't wasting it. For Part 3, I want to focus on extra things we can add to our lives as mortifications that will serve as solutions to both of the problems we mentioned in the first part (go ahead and go to Part 1 if you need a refresher), but for this post, I want to focus on only one thing, and that is the mortification of preference.

Let's continue with St. Frances de Sales' quote from Introduction to the Devout Life:

I think that we should greatly reverence the words which our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ spoke to his disciples: Eat such things as are set before you. It is, in my opinion, a greater virtue to eat without choice what is set before you, and in the order in which it is set before you, whether it be to your liking or not, than always to choose the worst. For, although this latter way of living seems more austere, nevertheless the other has more resignation in it, for thereby we renounce not only our taste, but also our own choice... this kind of mortification makes no show, inconveniences no one, and is singularly suited to life in the world... A continual and moderate sobriety is better than immoderate abstinences practised from time to time, and alternated with great relaxations.

And a bit more on denying oneself choice, from St. Anthony Mary Claret:

Never have I said, or even hinted, that one thing pleases me more than the another.  I have done this for as long as I can remember.  Our Lord had so bestowed upon me this heavenly blessing of indifference that my dear mother (requiescat in pace) died without knowing what things I liked most.  As she loved me so very much, she would try to please me by asking if I would like to have certain things in preference to other things.  I would answer that I was pleased most of all by whatever she chose and gave me.  But this reply would not be enough, for she would add:  "I know that very well, but we always like some things more than others."  To this I would respond that whatever she gave me was the thing I liked most of all.  I naturally had inclinations for what suited me best, as we all have; but the spiritual satisfaction I had in doing another's will was so great that it surpassed the natural satisfaction resulting from doing my own will.  Thus, I told the truth when I assured my mother that her will was my greatest pleasure.

In light of the beautiful words above, I think that one mortification that is extremely suited to our vocation is the sacrifice of personal choice or preference. I mean, don't we already do this to an extent? We make most of our choices around the needs of our children, be it what we eat during pregnancy, what we wear while nursing, when we wake up, when we go to bed, and everything in between. In my Letter to New Moms, I talked about embracing the suffering that comes with motherhood. What if we embraced this part of it too? What if we give up all preference and truly become the slave of all, as Our Lord did? And the best part about it: no one would ever have to know or be inconvenienced by what we're doing.

So I tried this to see what it would be like. It was intense. Here are some of the ramifications of giving up "choice":

When someone offers you a choice, choose the portion for yourself that they don't want, or, if it's an activity, defer to their preference. This is like the familiar, annoying girlfriend I-don't-care-where-we-eat trope without the "Anywhere but the place you picked" at the end. Now, don't get annoying about it. And if someone really needs you to choose something, giving up preference might be choosing so they don't have to. But in general, when someone offers you the choice of something, defer to them with a simple, "I don't care; you pick." And hey, this will help combat some of the sins of Eve stuff we talked about it Becoming the Wife God's Calling You to Be!

When someone does something that you don't like, or when something unpleasant happens, resist the urge to complain. Personally, this was much harder than letting someone else choose what we had for dinner or whether I wanted my margarita frozen or on the rocks. I honestly didn't realize how many "preferences" I had about how the world should work, whether it was my phone loading slowly, the timing of a party we had to go to, the lack of ripe bananas at the grocery store, not being notified ahead of time for schedule changes, etc., etc. It was much harder than I thought it would be to take everything that happened with a smile and a shrug. If I really needed help, I would remind myself (albeit with clenched teeth) I have no preference.

St. Theresa of Avila said, "Always think of yourself as everyone's servant." This advice was tremendously helpful for me. If humility is knowing one's place and taking it, why not make our preferences take last place. Why not willingly and lovingly take our place as servant of everyone in our families, in our neighborhood, in our parish, or wherever. If we start practicing this voluntarily by giving up innocent pastimes and pleasures in this (almost secretive) way, I really believe it will help us when we our naturally deprived of our preference by things ordinary to our vocation. This could be small things, like handling waking up to a sick child at two in the morning (which, granted, does not seem small at the time.) with a gracious, "Well, I deserve worse than this because of my sins" or a

genuine gratitude for the Lord granting you a chance to suffer and make reparation. It also applies to big things, like foregoing a bigger salary to stay at home with your children, foregoing the fashion trends to be modest, and foregoing bodily autonomy (the feminist's golden calf) to a degree to have as many children as God wants you to have. If we practice giving up our preference when we don't have to, I think we will handle it more gracefully and in a way that pleases God when we inevitably do.

What better way to combat feminism? And what better model to we have in Our Lady of Sorrows, and what better battle cry than "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word?"

In Part 3, we will end the series to discuss a few more ways we can practice mortification in motherhood to help us live out what we've discussed in Part 1 and Part 2. Subscribe so you don't miss a post!

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