There is no quicker way to expose yourself as a “Cath-oholic” than to drop the word mortification on an unsuspecting interlocutor. Once you’ve unleashed that baby you may as well change your name to Francis Xavier O’Surname and start wearing your brown scapular on the outside of your dress shirt—your cover is blown.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to use the word mortification to practice mortification. (Paradoxically, for some of us, not using it might even qualify as an act of it, but I digress.)
Very (very, very) loosely, mortification means “die-iting.” It’s an act of self-denial, of dying to self, that helps us grow in our spiritual life and become more Christ-like. Not all acts of mortification have to be Braveheart “Freedom!” moments. Here are five inconspicuous ways to mortify yourself that won’t get you labeled or libeled. Think of them as “mortamins”—the Catholic, spiritual version of vitamins. Take one and see if it helps you grow in your spiritual life.
- 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.
- Be on time. To everything. Here I open myself up to “tu quoque”sgalore, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
So there you have it, five ways to die to yourself for the greater glory of God. Feel free to add to the list and let us know if any these prove helpful. Peace!