Skip to main content

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 11: Mortification, the Heroic Minute and Love

The experience I remember the most from the first time I ran the Heroic Minute Challenge two years ago was the following early morning encounter:
Around 5AM, I was awoken by a bright light streaking through the bedroom window, followed by a loud burst of thunder. Not three seconds later, my daughter arrived in our bedroom, accompanied by a pillow and two stuffed teddy bears. "I'm scared", she whispered and climbed into bed.  My little one was 10 at the time, and as she snuggled in besides me I contemplated how few of these childhood moments I have left. We both drifted off to sleep to the sound of the rain pounding against the window. When my alarm rang just a short while later I quickly shut it off, and immediately got out of bed. Proud of my stunning accomplishment of living out of the "Heroic Minute" on that rainy, gloomy morning, I began to tiptoe out of the bedroom - only to hear my daughter cry "Mommy, don't leave me!" UGH...I thought about the challenge; I thought about the quiet time that awaited me; I thought about how much I could be accomplishing - and then I crawled back into bed and held my daughter.

A Heroic Minute failure? I think not.....

Mortification, the Heroic Minute and Love
St. Josemarie Escriva describes the act of living out the Heroic Minute as "a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body."

A mortification is an act of voluntary self-denial of something good, in order to free ourselves to pursue, or receive something better. St. Francis de Sales describes the benefits of mortification in the following words:

"The more one mortifies his natural inclinations, the more he renders himself capable of receiving divine inspirations and of progressing in virtue."
In practicing the Heroic Minute, we mortify ourselves of our desire to remain resting for a few more minutes (a good thing) in order to begin our day in a self-disciplined way, with our eyes fixed on the Lord. (a better thing). As St. Escriva points out, this simple mortification does not harm our body, but it does serve to strengthen our will - something that is essential for us in the pursuit of virtue and holiness. The more our wills become accustomed to this type of voluntary self-denial, the more readily we will be able to face greater challenges as they come our way. The less we give in to even a seemingly innocuous desire to hit the snooze button, the more in-tune our hearts will become to seeking out the will of God in our lives. Not a bad way to start the day!

The challenge I had that morning two years ago, and one that we all face in our desire to grow in holiness, is that acts of piety, self-denial and mortification, must always be subordinated to love.  St. Paul makes this very clear in the his letter to the Corinthians where he warns:
" If I speak in human and angelic tongues* but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13: 1-3)
Could I have lived out the Heroic Minute that rainy morning? Yes... and that would have been a good thing. However, by subordinating that good thing to the demands of love, I was blessed- through God's grace - to have chosen the very best thing.

Interested in taking the challenge? Click here to find out more information...


  1. This is beautiful! A very nice reflection on the lessons of sacrificial love. It has been many years since I thought of the heroic minute. Perhaps it is time to get reacquainted with St. Josemaria! God bless you.

    1. Thanks for visiting Melody - St. Josemarie Escriva is one of my favorites!

  2. Oh, such a beautiful minute. Heroic in so many ways! I like the way you responded to it all. I have yet to be mindful like this in the morn always allowing for the excuse of sleep deprivation to rule how my day starts. Praying for grace!

    1. Thanks so much for visiting Amanda - it is so hard to get up in the morning when we are sleep-deprived!!! It is super - heroic to be up at night taking caring for children! God bless you and your family.

  3. Thanks Deborah for reminding us that little sacrifices are oftentimes more powerful and transforming than more stringent/grandiose mortifications. Great post.

    1. Thanks so much Michael for the encouraging comment!
      God bless!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Quotes From St. Francis Xavier

On December 3, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of missionaries. St. Francis Xavier was a Jesuit missionary best known for the thousands of people he brought to conversion and Baptism in India and Japan. In a letter he wrote from the missionary fields in India, he described the amount of people he Baptized in vivid language: "As to the numbers who become Christians, you may understand them from this, that it often happens to me to be hardly able to use my hands from the fatigue of baptizing: often in a single day I have baptized whole villages. Sometimes I have lost my voice and strength altogether with repeating again and again the Credo and the other forms." Here's an interesting fact about St. Francis Xavier that I found in Saints for Young Readers for Every Day, Vol. 2: July-December  : Pope Gregory XV canonized St. Francis Xavier in 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and Isidore the Farmer.  W

St. Thomas Aquinas: Prayers Before and After Communion

I recently stumbled upon these two prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas to be said before and after receiving Holy Communion. As with much of the Angelic Doctor's writings, his words have the ability to stir one's heart to more fully experience the depths of the mysteries he is writing about.  What a gift to the church he was and continues to be. Prayer Before Communion Almighty and Eternal God, behold I come to the sacrament of Your only-begotten Son,  our Lord Jesus Christ. As one sick I come to the Physician of life; unclean, to the Fountain of mercy; blind, to the Light of eternal splendor; poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore, I beg of You, through Your infinite mercy and generosity, heal my weakness, wash my uncleanness, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness. May I thus receive the Bread of Angels, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, with such reverence and humility, contrition and devotion, purity and faith, purpo

7 Lessons from Max Lucado's "You Are Special"

Max Lucado's children's book You Are Special is a favorite of mine and a beautiful story with many facets to it and much to be learned from it. It is a sad story of judgment; of pride and slavery; of sin and brokenness.  It is also a beautiful story of witness and hope - a story of intercession and prayer. Ultimately it is a story of love and the heart of God. Below are 7 lessons from the story that I shared a few years back with a women's group at our parish. Please note that I will include the main plot line as I go, so you should be able to follow along even if you have not read the book.  I do highly recommend that you pick up a copy for yourself  - it is a story whose message is ageless and timeless. --- 1 --- This is a story of judgement. The story opens with us witnessing a typical day in the life of  the wooden Wemmicks. These gangly wooden people spend all their time furiously giving each other grey dots or golden stars. The grey dots are placed on Wemmick