“Choose mortifications that don’t mortify others.” — St. Josemaria Escriva
I laughed out loud when I first read this quote. It’s like St. Josemaria was speaking straight to me right through the pages of my paperback book.
For the longest time, I was one of those people who thought I could “earn” heaven by making sacrifices and doing penances down here on this earthly plane. Now, in my defense, I was a kid of six or seven when I somehow-or-another accidentally wound up with this mistaken idea. It’s not like I was a vile heretic spewing falsehoods from the devil and liable to the fires of hell or something. I had just barely received my First Communion.
The point is, I thought I had to become a master at self-mortification in order to squeak into Heaven by the skin of my teeth. So I would do things like close my eyes while riding in my Mom’s 12-passenger van down the L.A. freeways so I couldn’t see all the entertaining billboards. Put pennies in my shoes and walk on them all day long. Refuse to go into Grandmother’s backyard swimming pool on random hot days of summer. Make myself suffer in uncalled-for ways, day in, day out, every day.
I was so confused that, as an adult, I would consider — and attempt! — crazy penances such as giving up my morning coffee for Lent!!
Until the fateful day that my pastor said it from the pulpit: “Your penances should be yours, not someone else’s. Don’t make yourself a burden to the people around you!” It struck me like a ton of bricks. It was seriously a facepalm moment. Mama Bear minus the morning coffee equals Grumpy Bear. Which was just making my family suffer. Not good.
Now, every time I flip through The Way and happen across St. Josemaria’s take on it, I have to laugh at myself, and at the whole situation (including the silly idea that this poor human being could possibly ever “earn” Heaven. LOL).
And I no longer try to stop drinking coffee during Lent. Ahem.