Posted by: L. E. Barnes | September 13, 2010

Mortification Made Simple

Think you have to wear a cilice, flagellate yourself, or do extreme fasting to practice self-mortification? Rob Drapeau instead offers some simple yet very beneficial ways to discipline yourself and not come across as an “Cath-oholic”:

  1. Wake like a hero. Get up the first time the alarm goes off. Don’t hit the snooze button, instead practice what members of Opus Dei call “the heroic moment.” Roll out of bed, kiss the floor, and say one word: serviam. That’s Latin for “I will serve.” It’s exactly the opposite of what Lucifer said before being cast into hell.
  2. Be on time. To everything. Here I open myself up to “tu quoque”s galore, but it is still good advice. Punctuality shows respect for others and yourself. It’s a perfect mortamin because it’s a small thing, but hard to do.
  3. Be cheerful even when you don’t feel like it. Every one you meet is engaged in a great struggle, not just you. Suck it up and be friendly. You might feel like an old shoe, but your attitude doesn’t need to smell like one. Smiles are free, they’re easy, and they go a long way towards boosting morale—maybe even your own.
  4. Order a smaller size drink. This is a ridiculously simple mortification, but a surprisingly hard one to do. For whatever reason, Americans feel entitled to jumbo-sized beverages—they don’t even have small drinks at McDonald’s anymore—but this is the perfect covert act of self-denial. If anyone notices, they’ll probably chalk it up to the economy.
  5. Eat fish on Friday. Admit it: you want to be a Catholic who eats fish on Friday—it’s so not cool, that it is cool. Besides, nobody will notice, I promise—there are too many trendy diets for people to keep track of. Call it the “purposefully alternating proteins and legumes” diet (the p.a.p.a.l. diet, wink, wink) and your co-workers will beg you for the details. Also, contrary to popular belief, Catholics have not been excused from the requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays—it’s just that now one is allowed to substitute another suitable act of mortification.

Thanks, Rob. I’ll admit that I didn’t know about the rule on abstaining from meat on Friday. I had thought it was simply passe–gone with Vatican II. Boy was I wrong… Time to make a change in my life!



  1. Thanks for the link to my article. Please pray for me as I struggle to follow my own recommendations!



    • And thanks for writing this piece. Sounds like good advice for those of us who aren’t priests or religious.

  2. These are excellent ideas!

    I left a blog award for you on my site, Evan 🙂

  3. […] Mortification Made Simple […]

  4. Good ideas–that morning one would be especially hard.

    • It’s probably hard for a lot of us. Rolling out of bed instead of trying to snooze a little longer can be a challenge!

  5. These are great ideas. it is amazing how difficult the most simplest of mortification can be!

    • True. Sometimes it’s a matter of making some small changes, rather than a big one. Just doin these can be challenge enough!

  6. I got a kick out of the “eat fish on Friday”. I grew up in the era when it was a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday. Like you, I thought the Church had changed the discipline, but, of course, she hadn’t. It is a very big penance to have meatless Fridays at our house because my husband won’t eat fish and I am constantly having to come up with something he will eat that will also be nutritious. Most salads are a no-no, too. But it’s good that when I’m going through the process I am thinking about doing it for Jesus. Mortification not only helps discipline our passions, it builds our relationship with God. Thanks for posting this.

    • Right on! I’m afraid I haven’t been faithful with the Friday penance… Got to do better!
      And yes, mortification is not for self-punishment or bragging rights; it’s for our own benefit.

  7. Hey, great ideas. Thanks for sharing. I esp. like the one about getting up the first time and saying I will serve. Thanks for sharing!

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