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Christian Counsel: 9: On Mortification

By Francois Fenelon

      God calls us hourly and momentarily to the exercise of mortification; but nothing can be more false than the maxim that we should always choose that which mortifies us the most. Such a plan would soon destroy our health, our reputation, our business, our intercourse with our relatives and friends, and the good works which Providence requires of us. I have no hesitation in saying that we ought to avoid certain things which experience has shown us to injure our health, such as certain kinds of food, etc. This course will, no doubt, spare us some suffering; but it does not tend to pamper the body nor require the employment of expensive or delicious substitutes; on the contrary, it conduces to a sober, and, therefore, in many respects, mortified life.

      Failures in regimen are owing to a want of mortification; they are not due either to courage in enduring pain, or to indifference to life, but to a weak hankering for pleasure, and impatience of anything that annoys. Submitting to regimen for the purpose of preserving health, is a great constraint; we would much rather suffer and be sick, than be constantly restraining our appetites; we love liberty and pleasure more than health. But God arranges all that in the heart which is devoted to Him; He causes us to fall in quietly with every regulation, and takes away a certain want of pliability in the will, and a dangerous confidence in ourselves; He blunts the desires, cools the passions, and detaches the man, not only from exterior things, but from self, renders him mild, amiable, simple, lowly, ready to will or not, according to His good pleasure. Let it be so with us; God desires it, and is ready to effect it; let us not resist his will. The mortification which comes in the order of God, is more serviceable than any enjoyment in devotion which should result from our own affection and choice.

      In regard to austerities, every one must regard his attraction, his state, his need and his temperament. A simple mortification, consisting in nothing more than an unshaken fidelity in providential crosses, is often far more valuable than severe austerities which render the life more marked, and tempt to a vain self-complacency. Whoever will refuse nothing which comes in the order of God, and seek nothing out of that order, need never fear to finish his day's work without partaking of the cross of Jesus Christ. There is an indispensable Providence for crosses as well as for the necessities of life; they are a part of our daily bread; God never will suffer it to fail. It is sometimes a very useful mortification to certain fervent souls, to give up their own plans of mortification, and adopt with cheerfulness those which are momentarily revealed in the order of God.

      When a soul is not faithful in providential mortifications, there is reason to fear some illusion in those which are sought through the fervor of devotion; such warmth is often deceitful, and it seems to me that a soul in this case would do well to examine its faithfulness under the daily crosses allotted by Providence.

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See Also:
   1: Of the Little Knowledge of God there is in the World
   2: Of the Necessity of Knowing and Loving God
   3: On Pure Love
   4: On Prayer and the Principal Exercises of Piety
   5: On Conformity to the Life of Jesus Christ
   6: On Humility
   7: On Prayer
   8: On Meditation
   9: On Mortification
   10: On Self-Abandonment
   11: On Temptations
   12: On Wandering Thoughts and Dejection
   13: On Confidence in God
   14: In What Manner We are to Watch Ourselves
   15: On the Inward Teaching of the Spirit Of God
   16: On Daily Faults and the Toleration of Ourselves
   17: On Fidelity in Small Matters
   18: On Transitory Emotions, Fidelity, and Simplicity
   19: On The Advantages of Silence and Recollection
   20: Privation and Annihilation, A Terror Even to the Spiritually-Minded
   21: On The Proper Use of Crosses
   22: On the Interior Operations of God to Bring Man to the True End of His Creation
   23: On Christian Perfection
   24: The Way of Naked Faith and Pure Love is Better and More Certain than that of Illuminations and Sensible Delights
   25: On the Presence of God
   26: On Conformity to the Will of God
   27: General Directions for Attaining Inward Peace
   28: Pure Love Only Can Suffer Aright and Love its Sufferings
   29: Interested and Disinterested Love Have Each its Appropriate Season
   30: On True Liberty
   31: On the Employment of Time


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