• Mater

Mortification in Motherhood (Part 3 of 3)

Updated: Jan 3

"St. Bernard says that those are much more cruel towards themselves, who for the sake of the momentary pleasures of this world, condemn themselves to the eternal torments of the next. Others say that the body should be denied all forbidden pleasure, but despise exterior mortifications, saying that interior mortification alone is necessary, that is, the mortification of the will. Yes, it is in the first place necessary to mortify the will, but it is also necessary to mortify the flesh; because if the flesh be not mortified, it will have great difficulty in being obedient to God." —St. Alphonsus Marie de Ligouri

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed some of the obstacles we face in taking on mortifications as mothers, and how to not waste what we are already doing or suffering as mothers as a chance to mortify ourselves. In Part 2, we discussed mortifying our will—in other words, giving up our own preference. We will close the series by taking things a bit further and discussing which mortifications of the body that we can add to our rule of life.

Now, don't be rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Make sure you are doing all you need to be doing to stay in a state of grace. Of course, mortifications can greatly help with this, but I'm saying don't be in a state of habitual mortal sin and think you're in the clear because you're giving up sweets on Tuesdays.

However, if you are fulfilling the duties in your state of life and cultivating the habit of prayer, you might be considering taking up additional bodily mortifications, but running into the same issues we discussed in Part 1, this post is for you. Of course, run everything by your spiritual director or confessor (both of whom we recommend being traditional Catholic priests). These are simply a compilation of ideas of mortifications suited to mothers. Now, onto the list:

Give up or limit your time on social media and the internet. Usually, those social media accounts can completely go without any risk to your vocation or any inconvenience to your family. That is actually what inspired our free service, Old Souls' BiWeekly, which we discuss in greater detail here.

Keep the temperature in the car a little hot, or a little cold. Don't hurt yourself or your passengers, but have at least a few minutes where it's just not as comfortable as you would like it.

Limit your time looking in the mirror. Avoid glancing at it when you walk by, and give yourself something like two minutes maximum to look at it before you go out or when you get dressed for the day.

Kneel during prayers. This is something that can be a pain when you're tired, but it is a great way to make you focus on your prayers (though it's not always recommended for mental prayer). And it's so easily incorporated into motherhood!

Stay in your nice clothes until bed time. We talk elsewhere about avoiding the comfy sweatpants-and-tee trap, but you can also think of that itchy tag or waistband as a mortification by keeping it on as long as possible. Think of it like the gateway drug to the hair shirt.

Regulate your externals. Of course, this is the definition of the virtue of modesty, but it's something so rarely seen in our culture, that sometimes it needs extra time devoted to it. You could pick one thing to focus on and move on to another once it's habit: sitting up straight, elbows off the table, comportment when laughing or crying, speaking only when needed in social situations, not flopping onto the couch... you get the picture. Everything your mother taught you. You'll be amazed at how hard these are, and they're mortifications no one would ever noticed. While technically someone perfected in the virtue of modesty will do all of things habitually—in other words, most of these really aren't "extra"—by zeroing in on them or doing them when they're not required, you should see growth in this necessary virtue.

Give up alcohol or coffee at home. Use music to energize or relax you. You can use the money you save (and trust me, it can add up) for almsgiving. But of course, don't be picky about this when you're a guest or if your husband wants to have a glass of wine with you, and go with the eat-what's-in-front-of-you rule.

Throw out the TV. Or, if your husband is against this, do what we propose here.

Use your housekeeping. Keep your house cleaner than it needs to be or pick one gross job that you hate and do it first or when it's not needed.

Have a drug-free birth. Okay, I know this is not an option for everyone (nor should it be), but after having done it, it's hard to think of a more difficult bodily mortification!

These are just some ideas—what ideas do you have? As always, we love hearing from you guys in the comments. And of course, remember that these, and all mortifications, will usually work more effectively with a routine instead of doing them haphazardly or occasionally. In fact, putting yourself on a routine (rules imposed by time not your whims or feelings) is a mortification in and of itself. For example, you could pick one for Tuesdays in honor of St. Anne, one for Saturdays in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and one for Wednesdays and Fridays in honor of the Passion of Our Lord. Consult with your confessor or spiritual director, and see what works best for you.

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