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This post is a part of a Marian Virtue Series, running every Wednesday and Friday. It will conclude on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. If you are just joining the series now and want to learn more you can start here: Introduction to Marian Virtue Series.
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When I first heard of the Marian Virtues series, I knew I wanted to participate. I also knew I wanted to write about Universal Mortification because it was the virtue that made me the most uncomfortable. How better to grow with Mary than to work on my weakest Marian virtue? I did some digging to learn a little bit more about these two words. I had an idea of what they meant separately, but I wanted to know what they meant together.
I really liked this description of mortification from All to my All: “mortification is the ability to consistently bear the pain of right choice. Real mortification is not just the pain of our dying to this life of corruption in order to live again in the incorruptible truth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our All.”
The virtue is more simply described by at Lifeteen as the following: Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment.
Women of the Word shares this quote from the New Catholic Encyclopedia Mortification is the deliberate restraint that one places on natural impulses in order to make them increasingly subject to sanctification through obedience to reason illumined by faith.”
When I took in these various definitions, they all pointed to sacrifice. Mary was willing at any time, in any place, to sacrifice anything for the Lord. That included her own desires, giving up the best of something and settling for the good, trusting Him blindly with no idea where He was leading her.
It’s not hard for me to see where I struggle with this. I want to be in control. I want things my way. I want to be comfortable and to avoid pain. I don’t want to wait on God’s timing and I often say that I trust the Lord with my words, but doubt Him in my heart when I cannot see the future clearly.
Perhaps because Mary was human, and because she is my mother, it is easier and more natural for me to come to her with these weaknesses rather than straight to Jesus. I fall to her feet begging for her guidance and her intercession.
“Teach me to be like you sweet mother.”
“Ask your son to forgive my weakness and my self-centeredness.”
“Help me to put Jesus and others above myself.” “Help me to choose eternity in Heaven over fleeting pleasures here on Earth.”
And most of all, “Help me to teach my children the virtue of universal mortification.”
Going back to the definition, “Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment,” I see how far I have to go to capture every moment for Christ as Mary did. But I also see great hope that I have room to improve. It is not discouraging to me that I will likely work on this for my entire life.
I think of climbing a tall ladder up to our Blessed Mother who waits for me in Heaven. Would we not gladly climb thousands of steps to reach her?
When I find myself struggling with pride and wanting to… well avoid mortification… I think of St. Faustina. She endured so much suffering as many of the nuns she lived with, not only didn’t believe she was experiencing visions, but would put her down right to her face telling her that she was lying for attention. How awful!
St. Faustina also mentions that there were times other nuns would think the worst of her, and instead of correcting them by giving a very reasonable explanation for what she was doing, she kept quiet and let them continue to think less of her. This sacrifice she made for the Lord and as always for sinners.
This is a relevant way that moms can offer up suffering to the Lord. How quickly we want to jump in and defend our choices and shine up our reputations. To instead allow ourselves to be thought of poorly and to not let it bother us, is an incredible sacrifice. Yet, I think this is worth trying because we will not only find freedom in letting these battles go but we can offer up our suffering for the salvation of sinners. When you think of it like that, who cares if some people have the wrong idea about you? Jesus knows the truth and who else really matters?
It is not surprising to me that most of my favorite saints had a great devotion to our Blessed Mother. Life is so challenging, I cannot imagine enduring such ups and downs without her to sweeten my trials. One of the best ways to grow in our faith is to meditate on the Marian Virtues while praying the rosary.
I wear a blue scapular for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and I try to pray meditate on the Marian Virtues while praying the rosary every day. If you have never tried this devotion, I highly recommend doing it one year for Lent or Advent! Give yourself to the Blessed Mother and she will pour herself into you. The more you embody these ten virtues, the more peace you will find in your life as you draw closer to her son, Jesus Christ!
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