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5 Ways to practice self-sacrifice according to St. Josemaría

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Karen Hutch - published on 02/23/24

During Lent, the Church asks us to live an austere life of almsgiving and fasting so that we can meet Christ during these 40 days through self-sacrifice.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that anyone who wants to reach the goal of heaven needs to pass through the cross. In number 2015 it explains that “there is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the beatitudes.”

Mortification and ascesis here refer to sacrificing our comfort to make us understand that our body desires cannot rule over us. This way, when sin comes, we know how to respond with a resounding “no!” This is because ascesis and mortification are exercises of our willpower that strengthen it. 

Since this is a key to attaining holiness, we should practice self-sacrifice not only during Lent, but daily. Each day, in the ordinary things, is where we find the opportunity to strengthen our spirit. 

St. Josemaría Escrivá, a saint who invites us to sanctify our daily lives, said that we have to live with a spirit of true penance.

How do I know what kind of self-sacrifice is right for me?

Here are some points for reflection that will help us give meaning to our daily offerings, as proposed by St. Josemaría Escrivá. 

Devout woman with eyes closed in prayer

1
REVIEW YOUR DAY

Spend a few minutes analyzing your daily activities, from the time you get up until nightfall. 

Doing an analysis of your day will help you to know what areas are important in your life, and to identify the places or people you are around the most. 

In ancient times, the desert and the mountains were seen as meeting points with God. That’s where people went to pray, since they were places far away from everything else. Today, go to the “desert” in your room and dedicate time to see where you can improve.

2
Self-sacrifice in ordinary things

Sometimes we might perform excessive penances — fasting in a way that keeps us from being able to do our duties, for example. Or, on the contrary, we might offer to God things that don’t really cost us any work because we don’t care much about them anyway. For a vegan, it’s no sacrifice to give up meat for Lent, for example. This is why it’s important to make sacrifices in the ordinary things of our daily life.

A sacrifice can be something simple, such as the way we start our day. Maybe you find it hard to get up on time; in this case, you can make the sacrifice of getting up 10 minutes earlier than you normally do. 

3
AT WORK

woman-working

How many times have you found it hard to concentrate on your work and do your tasks with enthusiasm? St. Josemaría tells us that in the face of laziness or lack of enthusiasm for work, we should offer as a sacrifice doing our work “intensely, constantly, and in an orderly fashion, knowing that the best spirit of sacrifice is perseverance in finishing with perfection the work we have begun.”

4
FILL YOUR DAY WITH HEROIC MINUTES

Look at sacrifice as something simple, something that doesn’t have to take more than a minute. That way, we’ll see the day full of little opportunities to do good and to bring us closer to the best version of ourselves. St. Escrivá wrote that we should find self-mortification in ordinary daily things:

In the care of the things which we have and use; in the eagerness to serve, which makes us fulfill the smallest duties with exactitude; and in the details of charity, to make the path of holiness in the world lovable to all: a smile can sometimes be the best sign of our spirit of penitence.

Remember also what Jesus told his disciples about fasting:

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

(Mt 6:16-18)

5
Distance yourself from things that don’t make you a better person

We can make a sacrifice by distancing ourselves from those things that we know aren’t good for us — that instead of leading us to heaven, lead us astray. 

We should withdraw from places that, instead of improving us, make us stagnate and invite us to yield to the temptation to sin. 

Remember that if we exercise our will with small acts of self mortification, we will be able to nip in the bud the sin or sins that can turn into vices. 

Constancy

The holy founder of Opus Deiwarns against falling into traps or that do not foster good mortification: 

It is not the spirit of penance to make great sacrifices some days, and abandon them on other days. A spirit of penance means knowing how to overcome oneself every day, offering things — big and small — for love without making a show of it.

This is the sacrificial love that God expects of us.

Tags:
Catholic LifestyleLentSaintsSpiritual Life
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