However, the mortifications which we impose upon ourselves, as well as those which God sends us, should serve to subjugate the spirit, rather than the flesh; the passions, rather than the body. For if a victory over both is necessary, the victory over the spirit is necessary at all times and for all, whereas the victory over the flesh may come later, to each according to his disposition.
What will it avail to weaken the body by fasting and to lash it with the scourge if the spirit is stubborn and the will rebellious ? What is the good of humbling yourself before God in secret if you cannot bear the slightest mortification in public ? if you love to be admired and praised ? if you are a slave to the opinions of men ?
The Church does not want in Her army soldiers who are so cowardly that they fear human respect and are ruled by it. Our Saviour loved His Cross and bore it, not alone at Nazareth and under the eye of His Mother, but also through the streets of Jerusalem and out beyond its gates before all the multitude that had gathered there.
According to the Fathers every Christian must be a fearless follower of the Cross and bear this standard on high before the world. Whoso loves not Jesus Crucified is anathema, and whoso shrinks abashed at the humiliations of the Cross is not of Jesus ; he must seek another leader. The leader of all holy priests is Jesus poor and humble and suffering.
The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,1 says St. Paul. In these words the great Apostle lays bare the wonderful secrets of his heart, and reveals the 1 Galat. vi. 14. source whence, during the long and harassing struggle of his apostolate, he sought strength and victory. He was enabled to endure labors so incredible, to run a course so glorious and to save innumerable souls by dying to the world, to himself, to his inclinations, to his desires, and to everything that is not God. And what he did has been done in every age since by those apostolic men and great Saints who have labored so earnestly and so successfully in extending the Kingdom of God.