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Fr Barron on St John Paul II and Self-Mortification

February 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Lent, Mortification, Videos

Fr Barron Comments on Pope John Paul II and Self-Mortification

John Paul II and self-mortification; Sepia of Flagellants, artist unknown, 15th century woodcut, Wikimedia Commons.

John Paul II and self-mortification; Sepia of Flagellants, artist unknown, 15th century woodcut, Wikimedia Commons.

What is self-mortification?  Is it an ascetical practice?  And, what is the truth about self-mortification, taking the discipline and Pope John Paul II?  What other discipline did Pope John Paul II practice?  Is this bizarre behavior?  Or rather, is this an indication of how holy the Pope was? Find out when Father Robert Barron comments on Pope John Paul II's self-mortification in this short video.


Art: Sepia of Flagellants, artist unknown, 15th century woodcut, Wikimedia Commons.



Editor's Note: Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyla) was Pope from October 16, 1978 to April 2, 2005 (26+ years).  He was canonized on April 27, 2014 by Pope Francis and is often called Pope John Paul the Great or Saint John Paul the Great. Although many saints' feast days are celebrated on the anniversary of their deaths (their births to eternal life), St John Paul II's feast day is celebrated on October 22nd, the anniversary of his papal inauguration.  He was the second longest-serving pope in modern history, after Pope Pius IX, who reigned for almost 32 years.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Cathy

    I am now more confused than before. If our body is the temple, and we are to take care of the temple, than how would physical mortification accomplish this? It is also stated that people who do this want to help carry some of the sin and experience some of what Christ went through. Wouldn’t it be better if we worked even harder to live as Christ would want us to? To make everything we say and do a prayer in itself?

    • Dear Cathy in Christ – Just so I don’t make an assumption, how would you summarize Fr. Barron’s primary argument for the value of mortification?

      • Cathy

        From what I understand, it is primarily to allow Christ to live in you, and to have the body experience discipline, but not to be masochistic. I have just never heard of this until I saw this on the website. I have had several people, priests included, that our body is a temple. I am just a little confused, and need to do more research. To say that we should live more like Christ is what I have been told. I need to do more research to better understand. I have only been back to the church for 13 months, and have been away a lot longer than that.

        • Aimee

          Probably would have been too much for me when I was returning to the faith too. No one actually likes discipline. Besides, pain tolerances vary greatly and best to run these matters by a spiritual director. I figure ‘the discipline’ had the effect of boxing or camping. It’s meant to toughen you up though it may hurt a bit, it’s a good kind of pain. Like kneeling at prayer so you don’t fall asleep or prostrating because the knees need a break and you still want to stay focused at prayer. The sleeping on the floor would be too much for me, but good for some people’s backs.

    • Janet

      I agree with you, Cathy. I’m confused. I too immediately thought about our bodies as being temples. Working out and sweating during exercise is good for our bodies. I don’t understand how self-mortification is good for our bodies. I can possibly understand that it may be good for our souls, but are we compromising our body for our soul in the practice of self-mortificationl? See, again I am confused.

  • michelewalton

    Thank you so much for Fr. Barron’s explanation of self mortification. I understand it more than ever, especially Fr.’s example of how people use
    exercise to improve themselves. Not because they hate thier body, through
    grueling, painful exercise, but for exactly the opposite reason. We can truly offer up to Christ, our suffering for the good of all souls!! What a beautiful, wonderfully responsible and charitable cause!!

  • john

    I loved the was very illuminating .. the best part of the speech was when he said to allow Christ to live in us and by acceptance of our suffering to make up for the balance atonement for siiners.. Did i get this right??

    • Yes – St. Paul said it in Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,” This does not mean that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient, but it does mean that we participate in his work of suffering as part of his plan of redemption of the world.

  • Guest

    Very, very enlightening. For those who are blessed with the ability to practice this virtue, especially during this time of Lent , it is a great source for Graces.

  • Thomas

    This video was posted a while back, so not sure what responses I’ll get.

    I’m a catechumen–coming from a strong Calvinist worldview. I’ve excepted a lot of Church teaching in the past months, even the stuff that was difficult to swallow–which, for me, was the injunction of Obligations upon a believer. However: only recently learning (as a research follow-up to research on Penance done by the kids of Fatima) about the Church’s approval of “taking the discipline.” It struck me as very strange–especially since I KNOW that the sect of Flagellants that arose in the Middle Ages was denounced as heretical.

    My problem isn’t with mortification, as such–I have done fasts (poorly) and taken cold showers (ich!)–which are both appropriate forms of penance and purgation (I think!). I know that 1 Peter 4:1 says (my translation): “Since then Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, suit yourselves up in the same mind–that the person who suffers in the flesh has ceased from sin.” I know–further–that this doesn’t come from a desire to punish the body as a thing wicked in itself–but rather to, in a since, cut ourselves off from the need to fulfill all desire for pleasure and comfort.

    So far, so good.

    My problem comes (as in so many cases) from St. Paul (whom, I’ll dub the “Reactionary”): “These kinds of things (ie. the prohibitions of the Judaisers) appear to have a substance of wisdom (εστιν λογον μεν εχοντα σοφιας)–in the submission of the will, the humbling of the spirit, and the neglect of the body–but really have no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” -Colos. 2:23 (my trans.)

    Paul’s words would even seem to fly in the face of the need the fast–though I doubt any well-informed Christian would question that, as Our Lord fasted and attests to the need thereof. What does strike me as odd, though, it the willful and active beating of the body. I mean: yes, Our Lord suffered grievously in the passion; yes, Stephen and Paul were stoned and Peter crucified. Yes, we must identify with all that. But those were things done at the hands of others that they endured as a testament to the faith. Paul rejoices in his sufferings, yes–but for the name of Christ, not because it helped him break with the flesh. And, when we find him with that “thorn in the flesh” that he is so famous for: he asks that it be taken away. He only rejoices when Christ tells him of the added grace he will receive to bear it–but not in the thorn itself.

    Anyway, I think that’s enough to get a handle on where I’m coming from. If anyone hears this in cyberspace and would like to answer up–‘twould be most welcome!

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