Tag Archives: self-abnegation



“Do you wish to know a secret?” Pope Pius IX asked, in referring to La Salette. “This is it: Unless you do penance, you shall all perish.”

At Lourdes, Bernardette repeated our Lady’s plea for “Penitence! Penitence!”

At Fatima, our Lady asked the children: “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings that He may choose to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and ask for the conversion of sinners?” When Lucia answered that they did, our Lady said: “Then you will have much to suffer, but the grace of God will assist you always and bear you up.”


“Sacrifice yourself for sinners,” our Lady said on another occasion at Fatima, “and say many times, especially when you make sacrifices: ‘O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.'”

The following words of Our Lady of Fatima put a great responsibility upon all of us: “Pray, pray a great deal and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray for them.”

In 1925 the Child Jesus and our Lady both appeared to Lucia in the convent and asked for acts of reparation to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

At Beauraing, Belgium, in 1932, our Lady said, “Sacrifice yourself for me.”


How are we to make sacrifices? The three children of Fatima asked this very question of the angel who appeared to them the year before they were favoured by the apparitions of our Lady. The angel had just asked the children to “offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”

“How are we to make sacrifices?” asked nine-year-old Lucia. – “You can make sacrifices of all things,” the angel replied. “Offer them in reparation for the sins that offend God, and beg of Him the conversion of sinners. In this way, try to draw down peace on your country…  Above all, accept and bear humbly the sufferings which the Lord will send you.'”


“You can make sacrifices of all things…” The words were meant as much for us as for the children of Fatima. The three children heeded the request of the angel and made sacrifices of all things. They offered all their everyday actions to God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In the spring of 1942 Lucia wrote: “This is the penance which the good Lord now asks: the sacrifice that every person has to impose upon himself is to lead a life of justice in the observance of His Law. He requires that the way be made known to souls. For many, thinking that the word penance means great austerities and not feeling in themselves the strength or generosity for these, lose heart and rest in a life of lukewarmness and sin.

“Last Thursday, at midnight, while I was in the chapel with my superior’s permission, Our Lord said to me: “The sacrifice required of every person is the fulfilment of his duties in life and the observance of My Law. This is the penance I now seek and require.'”

This is the very most that is asked of us: the sacrifice required of every person is the fulfilment of his duties in life and the observance of God’s law. This is heartening when we tend to become discouraged, and when we think we are not doing enough.


The most effective way to make sacrifices of all things is to make the Morning Offering: “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer thee all my prayers, works and sufferings of this day for the intentions of thy Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates and in particular for the intention of the Holy Father.” If we are in the state of grace, the Morning Offering turns all our actions for the day into meritorious acts.

The Act of Total Consecration has this same effect. To a person who has consecrated himself completely to Jesus through Mary, the Morning Offering is simply a daily renewal of that consecration.


“Above all, accept and bear humbly the sufferings which the Lord will send you.” When the civil administrator put the children of Fatima in jail with the hardened criminals, they offered their suffering in reparation for the sins of the world. When Jacinta was undergoing great agony on her deathbed, she murmured through her pain: “It is for love of You, my Jesus. Now You can convert many sinners, for I suffer much.”

All of us have our sufferings, small ones and big ones; the extra tasks we have to perform, the slights we receive, the plans that go wrong, the severity of the weather, the loss of a loved one, a severe illness, a financial reverse. Like Jacinta, we can offer these in reparation for sins and for the conversion of sinners.


Offering their everyday actions and their sufferings to Jesus through Mary was not enough for Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. They were constantly thinking up voluntary sacrifices. When they went out to tend the sheep, they gave their lunches to children poorer than themselves, and they ate unripe olives. Under their clothes they wore shaggy ropes which chafed their skin.

All of us can make voluntary sacrifices in addition to the minimum penance which our Lord says he requires, although our sacrifices are not likely to take such extreme forms.


St John Mary Vianney, the Cure of Arms, lived a life of heroic self-denial, penance and reparation. Because of these virtues he was able to convert an entire parish, the members of which had given up their practice of religion.

One day a neighbouring pastor said to Father Vianney: “I have a hardened old sinner in my parish. Years ago he fell away from the faith. I’ve tried everything to convert him. I’ve pleaded with him: I have prayed for him: I’ve asked others to pray for him. But it’s no use. He seems determined to die in his sins. What can I do?”

“You say, Father,” replied the Saint, “that you have pleaded with him and have prayed for him. But have you tried fasting for him? It is only by sacrifice and suffering – offered as penance – that you will be able, by the grace of God, to convert him.”


Similarly, with the grace of God, we can accomplish stupendous things by our sacrifices. The stakes are high. We can win peace on earth. We can win a Catholic Russia. We can win peace of mind and peace of soul. We can achieve the unity of the Mystical Body all over the world. We can bring about a rebirth of the moral values so long deadened by the forces of materialism.

What sacrifices shall we make? We can make them in all categories: everyday actions, sufferings and voluntary acts of self-denial. Here are a few suggestions. We can:

  • Get up an hour earlier every morning and go to Mass.
  • Do that unpleasant task we have been shirking.
  • Be kind to someone who has slighted us.
  • Be pleasant at home and at work, even when we have severe provocation to be otherwise.
  • Bear our aches and pains in quiet patience.
  • Go out of our way to help others.
  • Live up to the duties of our religion, even when doing so is very inconvenient.
  • Give up something we want very much in order to give the money to the missions.

These are only a few ways in which we can answer Mary’s call for sacrifices. With good will we should be able to think of many more ways of carrying out the wishes of the Mother of God. If made in the proper spirit, such sacrifices will help restore the world to Christ, and will help put the world on the road to true peace.

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954



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“Quite truly it has been written of [St Frances Xavier Cabrini] that she…was a modern woman by nature and inclination. She was thoroughly in sympathy with what has become known as ‘the women’s movement,’ provided only that spiritual values were safeguarded…she was no obscurantist, and wasted no time in sighing after the days of her youth and lamenting the degeneracy of the rising generation. Nor did she adopt an attitude of wholesale, unintelligent destructive criticism towards every educational development, or even every Government requirement.


Realising the increasing part woman was to play in public life, she envisaged her in the world of to-day as the Church herself does…She foresaw the part the cinema was to play in modern education; [regarding the students in her schools] she believed in plenty of healthy exercise and catered for all the sporting and athletic interests of the day. At the same time, her keen sense of the need of home-making in modern society led her to develop the teaching of domestic science along the most up-to-date lines, and also to preserve and encourage the traditional feminine arts and crafts. She rightly objected to the type of woman who, whilst proficient in higher mathematics, cannot use a needle or run her own home intelligently! …


Another field of women’s labour with which she was greatly concerned was nursing. As she gained acquaintance with hospital conditions and medical circles in the [United] States, she was sadly impressed by the fact that so many doctors and nurses are free-thinkers. She saw how easily the young nurse, constantly occupied in tending bodily ailments and studying material science, can fall into a pure materialism. Hence she desired to have nurses’ homes attached to her hospitals, and these foundations to be thoroughly efficient and recognised as training centres for the State nursing certificates, so that girls who entered the profession as practising Catholics should not lose fervour and, perhaps, faith during their years of training. She readily admitted non-Catholics who were ready to conform to the regulations and the Cabrini nurses’ homes, as the Cabrini schools, are recognised as some of the best in the States. In the true sense, she was a Christian humanist and humanitarian.


Turning to consider Frances Cabrini as a Superior and a nun… Among her rare personal notes we find this resolution: ‘I will study to maintain the union of holy charity among the Sisters. I will love them with a true mother’s love, yet striving to bear myself as the servant of all…seeing in each one the image of my beloved Bridegroom and of Mary most holy…’ Those who knew declared that she succeeded…


She prescribed no special corporal austerities, and rarely allowed any, but she made up for these in other ways. If lacking the ‘classic’ penitential practices, her institute is yet sufficiently severe. She required her religious to ‘mortify themselves a little in everything and destroy the idol of self-love.’ In 1895, she notes that Quito is ‘where Blessed Mariana lived in such austere penance, though this is rather to be admired than imitated.’ (Blessed Mariana Paredes, known as the ‘Lily of Quito’, is patron of that city. Born in 1618, she died in 1645, having lived the life of a religious in her own home, but never joining any congregation. She was beatified in 1854). From Lima, having alluded in a letter to the austerities practised by St Rose, she passes on to write of that saint’s ‘other crucifixions – those of the spirit – which are better; real crucifixions in the strictest sense, which serve so well to purify souls and unite them intimately to their Beloved.’


She held that the special circumstances of their life provided her religious with mortifications enough, provided that these were rightly used and, it must be added, she ground fine.


She would not tolerate the slightest grumbling or complaint, or the raising of difficulties over the daily trials of life, be these what they might. A sister who complained of the heat, when travelling in summer, was promptly silenced and reminded that all weather was God’s weather. Another, who asked permission to take a drink outside of meal-time, adding that she was very thirsty, received the reply: ‘Do not speak like that; it is unmortified. Say simply, ‘May I have a drink?’ without adding anything else.’ Yet another, travelling along the Ligurian coast, remarked, as she watched the bathers from the hot, stifling railway carriage, how she would love a plunge. ‘Do not talk like that; it is self-indulgence,’ was the foundress’ reply.


Frances Cabrini’s daughters must take in silence, patiently and cheerfully, absolutely what each day might bring forth. ‘Contradictions,’ she once wrote, ‘there is a real, sharp hair-shirt! If you love penance, there is a penance that has made saints and which all can practise, even with the weakest health. It is a hair-shirt that you can wear not for an hour but all day long.’…


Loved as she was, she was extremely reserved, and allowed no familiarities. The few who ventured upon such were severely snubbed. She treated everyone alike, showing an equal interest in all, so that it was impossible to say that one was loved more than another… ‘Do you want to love God? You must be emptied of self. You must enlarge your hearts, and that is done only by getting rid of self-love. Our self-will and self-love are what hinders the love of God from entering our souls. Get rid of these, and you will become fervent souls, true missionaries.’



The relations of subjects to their local Superiors had to be on the supernatural plane, always and absolutely. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Frances Cabrini here speaks but the authentic language of the classic ages of religious life.
‘You serve our Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, see Him in your Superior…if thoughts assail you against obedience, reject them as promptly as you would those against faith or chastity…never look at her personal qualities, her gifts, her manners; otherwise you will change supernatural obedience into that which is purely human.’ Again: ‘It is obedience that distinguishes true from false piety. It is the obedient religious who speaks victories… Obedience is a sacrifice immensely more pleasing to God than any sacrifice you might choose for yourselves.’

And all this in view not only of their own sanctification but that of others. ‘If you sacrifice yourselves, you will become saints and, after having sanctified yourselves, you will certainly be able to sanctify others. She who is not holy will never be able to make anyone else so; she who is will shed a fragrance of holiness around her and all who come into contact with her will breathe it.’



Her conception of humility… No refusal to recognise real gifts or good qualities in one’s self, no pious cliches, easy to utter but often meaning nothing; no posing. Humility meant perfect truth as regards oneself, and perfect ABANDON to the will of God; the soul simply counting upon His grace to fulfil whatever task be laid upon it as well as He means it to be fulfilled; referring to Him whatever measure of success may be achieved, and accepting apparent failure peacefully, even joyfully, should failure be His will.

Once she placed a Sister at the head of a school of several hundred pupils. Taken by surprise, the latter exclaimed: ‘Oh Mother, what a responsibility! So many innocent souls to train aright!’ In a flash came the retort: ‘Do you imagine that the welfare of these souls depends upon you, and not rather upon God working in you? Poor creatures we should be, indeed, if the fruit were to be looked for from our puny efforts! We must do our duty well, but in the utmost simplicity and without preoccupations, secure that our Lord will take thought for everything.’

She thus expressed the principle more at length: ‘The true Missionary Sister never thinks, ‘What office will be given me? Where shall I be sent?’ And she should never say, ‘I can’t carry out this or that; I am incapable.’ Whether she be made Superior-General, sent to teach a class of infants, or to sweep a staircase, she should carry it out serenely, in holy indifference…that is real love, practical love, stripped of all self-interest; the strong love you ought to have. You are immolated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; in this complete self-abnegation lies the very essence of sanctiity. So courage, perseverance! Live up to your vocation!'”
– From: “Frances Xavier Cabrini, By A Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey”, 1944


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