“…we need to reflect on our willingness to sacrifice, or what we call in our own Vincentian tradition, the virtue of mortification. The root of the word mortification is to die to oneself, to sacrifice, to put the other first.” – 2009 Lenten letter, G. Gregory Gay, C.M. (former Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission), see: https://vinformation.org/en/2015/03/video-of-quotes-on-the-virtue-of-mortification/
Historians say that the virtue St. Vincent de Paul called “mortification” might be better understood as something akin to self-discipline or even sacrifice. In other words, mortification means giving up something we value for the sake of something more valuable. This underlying principle can be quite challenging to live out. Denying ourselves something we desire, in favor of something more worthy but perhaps less enjoyable, takes considerable focus and intentionality.
For Vincent, acts of self-discipline were made easier through being mindful of the result that followed. Therefore, he exhorted his community members to have courage in the face of obstacles for “their reward is great in proportion to the work entailed.” (204, Mortification, 2 May 1659, CCD, 12:185.)
Another helpful way to consider self-discipline may be to ask why we are performing the act. Could it be for reasons of courtesy (giving up our seat on the “L”), or self-improvement (exercising or studying hard), or to benefit the common good (performing our job well, serving the community)? Whatever the worthy motivation for our behavior, being mindful of our values and then endeavoring to live out those values, even in the face of challenge, is the epitome of the virtue Vincent called mortification. It is what we strive to achieve to this very day.
What worthy behaviors do you find most difficult to live out? Does it help if you consider why you are doing them or what the results of your actions will be? What things are hard for you to let go as you pursue a more worthy goal? What areas of your life, at either DePaul or elsewhere, do you think would benefit from some form of self-discipline?
Tom Judge, chaplain, Division of Mission and Ministry
Day with Vincent: A Day of Service and Reflection for Faculty and Staff
Friday, March 6th, 2020: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Are you interested in joining your colleagues to put mission into action during a day of service and reflection? Join us for this special mission engagement and learning opportunity for DePaul’s faculty and staff. We will focus on gaining a deeper understanding of DePaul’s Vincentian mission, and on integrating a commitment to service with our personal sense of purpose. This Day with Vincent retreat doubles as Part II of the Explore Your Purpose Workshop series for staff and faculty. For more information, please contact Tom Judge at firstname.lastname@example.org.