The “Virtue of Mortification”

I’ve referred any number of times to my deep commitment to the Vincentian charism and my ties to members of the Vincentian family. So it was with enthusiasm that I read last night the Lenten letter written by the Vincentian Superior General, Gregory Gay, C.M.

In a time of economic crisis that has affected the world, Fr. Gay asks if we should consider whether we tend to “act too quickly to protect ourselves and our own interests” and with insufficient concerns for the needs of others. He invites us to practice this Lent what he terms the “virtue of mortification.” After reminding us that the root of the word “mortification” is to sacrifice, putting others before oneself, he writes that the virtue of mortification

is an opportunity for us, as we say, to tighten our belts, to live more simply in order that those who are usually on the lower side of the scale will feel less the effects of the crisis than usual. We are asked to reverse the scenario, so that it be us and not them who feel the suffering. Saint Vincent practiced this continually when he referred to the poor as our lords and masters. He did not speak of a relationship of equals, but he went to the other extreme in order to help create a more balanced relationship….Rather than drawing in on ourselves in these times of crisis, enveloped in our own selfish attitudes, let this time of Lent be a time of solidarity.

Although written to the Vincentian family, the suggestions in Fr. Gay’s letter are ones worthy of being followed by all of us. All of us, as he suggests, “are part of the whole and are invited to live in harmony one with another…. [Lent] is a time of abandonment, a time of mortification, a time of reconciliation, a time of collaboration and solidarity. Lent is a time of harmony and peace. It is a time of new life. It is a time of movement from death to life, a time of moving out of oneself and moving towards the other, and the Other.”

You can read Fr. Gay’s Lenten message in its entirety on the famvin website here.


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