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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:52 pm 
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St. Francis was one I had in mind.


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One could also point to priests around the turn of the 20th Century. Father McGivney died at age 38; Fr. Tolton was 33. I believe it's mentioned in Fr. McGivney's bio that the life expectancy of a parish priest at that time was something in the mid-40s because of the amount of time they spent visiting the sick with poor sanitation.
Also, Blessed Father Seelos died of yellow fever, and many priests and sisters died of the pestilence in the seventeenth century when the plague hit northern Italy. These went to serve the dying knowing that they themselves would be put in almost certain danger of death.


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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:42 pm 
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Fr. Barron expands here on the revelation that Pope John Paul regularly 'took the discipline' himself.

http://www.wordonfire.org/Written-Word/ ... pline.aspx

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:22 pm 
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Non-sequitour:

Someone very wise once told me that corporal punishment cannot substitute more usual forms of piety... I.E. does me no good to take cold showers if I do not go to confession or give in to acedia....

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:35 pm 
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I don't know if I'd say that it does no good at all, at least in terms of amendment of life, but it certainly can't take the place of the basic foundations of spiritual life.

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:40 pm 
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caleb wrote:
Blessed Father Seelos

I mentioned St. John Neumann (died at age 48) not only because he was the bishop of the diocese in which I live, but also because of Bl. F.X. Seelos' testimony of how tireless a worker he was for the Lord's harvest:

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Our dwelling was so poor that one night we had to leave our room in a severe storm and seek protection elsewhere, because the water was pouring down on our beds. I say our room because we were in one and the same room, which was separated only by a curtain. For that reason I could hear [Father Neumann] often saying his prayers during the night. He slept so little that I could not understand how he could keep his body and soul together. Because he generally got up before the regular rising time, he prepared the fire, often bringing up coal himself to have the room warm for me when I got up.

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:46 pm 
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sunmumy wrote:
Someone very wise once told me that corporal punishment cannot substitute more usual forms of piety... I.E. does me no good to take cold showers if I do not go to confession or give in to acedia....
Yes, the wise person presented you with a non sequitur because we could substitute anything in the place of corporal punishment here, and it would be true:
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Someone very wise once told me that corporal punishment cannot substitute more usual forms of piety

Someone told me that devoting myself to learning . . .
Someone told me that serving the poor . . .
Someone told me that loving my family and friends . . .

None of these things "does any good" in the end if the person doesn't receive the grace of the sacraments. None of these things takes the place of the sacraments. But this is a false dilemma because any one of these things, including mortification, can lead a person to, or help a person remain in the regular reception of the sacraments.


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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:33 am 
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gherkin wrote:
I don't think that citing that passage fully settles the matter at hand, if that's what you mean. But I do think that when you read what you wrote, and then read what our Lord said, you'll see that they don't easily hang together. Our Lord doesn't seem to be expressing anything like the kind of thoughts you were expressing. That strikes me as significant. I thought it might so strike you, as well, since you are working on understanding asceticism. If not, then nevermind.

Though I admit that I am in a state of complete disagreement with the practice of asceticism (as we've been qualifying it), I am open to the possibility that I am wrong. I have been before, I have no doubt I am about many things, and so I am sure I will admit that I am many times in the future. To that extent, I'm very much trying to understand it. What, after all, is the point of disagreeing with or rejecting something you don't understand?!? It is simply that to the extent that I do understand it, I reject it.

So can you say more about how my understanding of Jesus' words "don't easily hang together" with what He actually said? I agree it would be significant if they don't, but I'm at a loss to see the disconnect. :scratch:

gherkin wrote:
Injuring the body is clearly not a sin. If it were, then surgery would be sinful. What makes surgery non-sinful is the intent of the injury. The physician cuts the body open and mutilates it in order to make the person more healthy. He hasn't sinned (that is, injured the body) in order to make the person healthy. He has done something indifferent in itself in order to make the person healthy. To take a more radical case, capital punishment is not sinful, nor is corporal punishment (I mean here flogging a prisoner, not spanking a child...although that, too), given the right conditions.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that the law of double effect is the big issue in play here. In the case of surgery, the goal is not to injure the body. It is, rather, to make the body better. But by way of comparison, I would argue that if a non-invasive procedure is available that is just as effective if not better, then it would be sinful (all things being equal) to opt for the more invasive procedure, precisely because we should not injure the body (intentionally) where it can be avoided.

The "where it can be avoided" is important to me. So take corporeal punishment. I spank my own daughter, but there are times when I think--to the best of my judgment--that other methods would be just as if not more effective. So, since in those cases I can avoid inflicting physical pain on her, I use those other methods.

If I'm right, it would seem to me that any justification for asceticism would require self-mortifications necessary for spiritual growth, or at least for the attainment of a particular spiritual state (and, by extension, that such a spiritual state is more desirous than the respective spiritual state where the body is properly nurtured). Further, it would seem that this justification would implicitly recognize the evil of self-mortification, but justify it via double effect. But that's part of my problem with my current understanding of asceticism. The self-mortifications themselves aren't presented as evils--albeit necessary ones--to be suffered, but rather as goods to be sought in and of themselves! Perhaps, again, that's just my misunderstanding, but that's the way it appears to me at this time.

caleb wrote:
As Obi implies, mortification attains its worth from the works of Christ and is an imitation of his suffering and penance in reparation for sin. The practice of asceticism falls under a universal Christian duty of mortification which arises because of the fallen condition of humanity.

I appreciate that argument, but the only way that can be persuasive in principle is if I can first accept the notion that asceticism is not sinful in and of itself. For if asceticism is sinful in and of itself, then we cannot expect to engage in such sinful activity in order to bring about reparation for sin. With that said, I'm understanding you here to say that our suffering in self-mortification has something to do with the purging of our sin, which is what I can't accept. I obviously have no problem with the idea that Christ's suffering did that. I hold to a rather typical view of substitutionary atonement here (actually, to make it worse, I hold to a univeralist view of the atonement, but that's another matter for another debate!).

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I disagree. Jesus isn't taking about "something causing you to sin."

Uhm . . . those are the words He uses . . .

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
How about 1 Cor 9:24-27?

How about it? Paul is drawing an analogy. Just as athletes discipline their bodies to get the best performance out of them, we do, too. That would justify the kind of "asceticism" I first talked about in terms of temporary fasts, but it doesn't get us anywhere near the kind of mortifications that result in injury to the body. In fact, I think that passage is in my favor here, for no athlete would injure himself in his training. On the contrary, such "discipline" would be seen as foolish and counter-productive (which, I confess, is how I tend to view asceticism today).

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:08 am 
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Since St. Paul is talking about spiritual training--training in holiness--the athletic analogy only goes so far. Even with that in mind, athletes do in fact damage their bodies in training, but not the parts (they hope) that pertain to achieving their goal. So, then, if the Christian's goal is heaven, he will not hesitate if necessary to bodily damage as a by-product to asceticism. (Thus Origen's self-castration is ruled out, since the damage was directly intended.)

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:21 am 
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The athletic comparison is a good one though, look at what professional athletes, football players, basketball players, to a lesser extent baseball players, do to their bodies....they undergo severe injuries, frequent surgeries, concussions, sometimes in extreme cases, permanent paralysis, and all for a mere temporary 'championship'...by the time they retire professional athletes are often so bruised and beaten up that they can barely move....look at Shaquille O'Neal, he injured his knees during his career so many times that he will never be able to walk completely normally ever again and he can no longer run....and yet no one condemns them for this...

If it is generally regarded as morally acceptable to go through that kind of physical agony just to win something transient like a sports competition, how much more so must it be to do it for something imperishable....and let's be clear here, the harsh physical practices some religious orders go through don't hurt the body anywhere near as much as a basketball or football career....

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:24 am 
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jac3510 wrote:
Doom wrote:
No, it isn't....Jesus is being quite serious here, no he is not commanding people to mutilate themselves, but when he says that you would be better off cutting off your hand than sinning, or plucking out your sins than sinning, he is being quite serious. Eternal damnation is the absolute worst thing that can happen to anyone, any other thing that might happen to you pales in comparison. He is talking about priorities, and he is quite serious when he says that the state of your soul is more important than the state of your body.

I'm sorry. I don't buy it. Your body parts don't cause you to sin. Jesus was using hyperbole to make the point that if something is causing you to fall into sin, then get rid of it. If a person has, for instance, sexual addictions, Jesus wouldn't be the least impressed if they castrated themselves.


To quote The Princess Bride 'you keep using that word (hyperbole) I don't think you know what it means'....

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:32 am 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Since St. Paul is talking about spiritual training--training in holiness--the athletic analogy only goes so far. Even with that in mind, athletes do in fact damage their bodies in training, but not the parts (they hope) that pertain to achieving their goal. So, then, if the Christian's goal is heaven, he will not hesitate if necessary to bodily damage as a by-product to asceticism. (Thus Origen's self-castration is ruled out, since the damage was directly intended.)

Okay, let's take athletes damaging their bodies. Baseball catchers, for instance, are known to get bad knees very quickly. But they don't damage their knees in order to train. Their training results in damaging their bodies, but again, damaging the body is not the means of training. And it isn't hard to find people arguing that our professional athletes are killing themselves and that some sort of reform is in order.

So I don't see how you can argue that damaging the body as a means of spiritual training follows from Paul's analogy at all. But even if we could somehow accept that (which would take more work), notice your own two qualifiers. Such damage would only be allowed if it was necessary and if it were a by-product of the actual training. So it sounds like you are appealing to the law of double effect. But that seems to presume the principle I've been thinking the entire time--that damage to the body is an evil that should be avoided if possible. Moreover, I fail to see how the kids of ascetic practices we have been talking about are at all necessary for spiritual growth (were the Stylites holier than Paul or JPII?). And second, I fail to see how such injuries are the byproduct of said growth, since the morfications are not only sought by are celebrated. I mean, tying a rope around your body and leaving it there until it cuts into the flesh and has to be cut away from the body, leaving you to be nursed back to health (which Chrysostom did to himself) doesn't seem like a byproduct. He did that to himself. He sought the body harm in hopes that the suffering would make him holier. Now seeking body harm means you can't say that the harm you sought is a byproduct . . . doesn't it?

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:57 am 
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As noted, JP II is said to have scourged himself, so there's one of your examples gone.

The mortifications are not (or at least ought not) to be celebrated for themselves but for what they achieve.

St. John might well have accepted some form of bodily suffering that did not leave permanent damage if some such thing had been available, but it wasn't (and, for that matter, still isn't that I can think of). As it is, he chose to accept the bodily harm as an effect of pursuing the suffering to make up in his body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ (Col 1:24).

Again, I don't think that severe asceticism is for everyone, but many more people could stand to be much more ascetic than we are, and I have no problem thinking that God calls some to be challenging examples for the rest of us. If St. John Chrysostom can do that, why do I bewail not being able to eat meat on Fridays?

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:22 am 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
As noted, JP II is said to have scourged himself, so there's one of your examples gone.

The mortifications are not (or at least ought not) to be celebrated for themselves but for what they achieve.

St. John might well have accepted some form of bodily suffering that did not leave permanent damage if some such thing had been available, but it wasn't (and, for that matter, still isn't that I can think of). As it is, he chose to accept the bodily harm as an effect of pursuing the suffering to make up in his body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ (Col 1:24).

Again, I don't think that severe asceticism is for everyone, but many more people could stand to be much more ascetic than we are, and I have no problem thinking that God calls some to be challenging examples for the rest of us. If St. John Chrysostom can do that, why do I bewail not being able to eat meat on Fridays?

But surely you aren't going to argue examples the whole time, for I hardly think it would be all that difficult to come up with examples of people who are considered saints who did not scourge themselves. The important things is that such cases would prove that extreme asceticism is not necessary to achieve that level of holiness. But you invoked necessity in your defense of the practice.

Beyond that, I don't think we need Chrysostom's flesh-tearing rope to not bewail fasting. I have Christ for that. And beyond Christ (as if anything else were needed!) I have the sufferings of the apostles. If Paul was stoned for his faith, why can I not fast? If Peter was hung upside down in his humility, why cannot I not humble myself? And even if I do not have the apostles, I have the martyrs. If Perpetua could be gored by a heifer, stabbed, and then still willingly submit to death for her faith, why should I be so worried about my expressing my faith in the workplace? And even if I didn't have the martyrs, I have those who were tortured for their faith. And even if I had no examples at all of those who suffered for their faith, I have the promise of Scripture that if I suffer well I will be rewarded!

I don't think, then, that you are saying that ascetics are necessary to encourage us not to bewail our own minor self-mortifications (e.g., fasting). But, frankly, I don't even see how they are helpful. The Stylites don't make me long to fast, and they don't make my fasts any easier. What they do (for me, and this is strictly personal) is caution me that some people can take a good thing and be intemperate and thereby turn it into an evil. That they were still blessed shows me the patience, mercy, and kindness of God, and that draws me discipline my body all the more that I might serve a gracious God more fully, for I thereby have greater control over myself to serve Him. In short, for me they are negative examples that draw me drive me closer to a loving God.

Again, I know that I'm arguing strongly on this. I just genuinely do not understand how what seems so obviously sinful to me is promoted as saintly to you. I am more open than you would believe to the possibility that I simply do not understand the motivation or the practice. Perhaps what I see as sinful is merely a perversion of something deeply holy that others have profited from. But if that is true, all I see is the perversion, and I cannot for the life of me see how the Church's greatest saints that engaged in these practices can be differentiated from that perversion.

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:20 am 
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jac3510 wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that the law of double effect ...

No, I'm not trying to make a big philosophical point. I was just saying that you're being far too simplistic in your assertions that harming the body is sinful.

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:51 am 
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If someone other than gherkin would have said that, I would agree with it. :fyi:

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:54 am 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
If someone other than gherkin would have said that, I would agree with it. :fyi:


Jac is being too simplistic in simply saying that harming the body is sinful.

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:56 am 
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Since you are gherkin's sock puppet, my statement still stands.

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:01 pm 
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gherkin wrote:
jac3510 wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that the law of double effect ...

No, I'm not trying to make a big philosophical point. I was just saying that you're being far too simplistic in your assertions that harming the body is sinful.

But I didn't say that harming the body is sinful. I said intentionally harming the body is sinful. We aren't supposed to do that. We have this neat little sensation called "pain" that is primarily directed at keeping us from doing just that! Granted, there are times that we have to ignore pain, and often that results in injury, but when we do so, there has to be some other reason for doing so not directly related to the pain (i.e., getting surgery, working out, etc.) and, it seems to me, in those cases the ignorance must be necessary.

I don't think that's simplistic at all. In fact, I think it's rather nuanced and, frankly, that it is correct. You can, of course, offer me a counter example to show me where I am wrong . . . (or a "big philosophical point" if you prefer).

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:05 pm 
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Then I don't have to agree with gherkin when I say that you are wrong to state that intentionally harming the body is sinful. If it were, not even surgery would permit it. But since you and I are in agreement that harm is permitted for the cause of greater bodily health, how can it not follow that harm would be permitted all the more for the cause of greater spiritual health?

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 Post subject: Re: Asceticism
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:13 pm 
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In the last few months I have become a runner....I run several miles every week...I know that running is terrible on the body and really tears up the knees in particular...so even though by running I am improving my health in one respect, I am also harming it in another respect because I am tearing up my knees....

So, is recreational running morally justified?

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