The second spiritual enemy is the flesh, that is, our body, and it is fearful enemy because it is always with us and can tempt us day and night. Who of us does not feel the rebellion of the body against the soul? This struggle had its beginning after original sin, but before, it was not so.
The senses of the body are like so many hungry, insatiable dogs; they are always craving; the more they are given and the more they crave. He who wants to save his soul, must preserve his dominion over the body, that is, with the power of the will, one must keep the bad cravings in check, regulate everything with right reason, giving the senses only what is necessary and denying anything superfluous, especially that which is immoral. Woe to those who let themselves be dominated by the body and become a slave to their passions!
Our Lady Immaculate, by a singular privilege, had a virginal body, since She was exempt from original sin, and always maintained perfect harmony with Her spirit.
The devotees of the Virgin, if they want to be such, must strive to keep the body immaculate; to succeed victorious in the daily struggle of the senses, let us invoke the help of the Mother of mercy. This victory is not possible with our human strength alone.
Just as the restless slave needs the lash and the spurs, so our body needs the rod of mortification. Mortification means denying to the senses not only what God forbids, but also certain things that are lawful, but not necessary. Every little mortification or renunciation contributes to our spiritual perfection, it protects us against the shameful moral falls and is an act of respect, to the Queen of Heaven, a lover of the purity of our body.
The spirit of renunciation is precisely of the devotees of Mary.
In practice, let us strive to cultivate temperance, avoiding exaggerations in eating and drinking, denying the throat so much refinements and depriving ourselves of something. How many devotees of the Madonna make a fast on Saturday, or abstain from eating fresh fruit or sweets, or limit themselves to drinking water! These little renunciations are offered to Mary as fragrant flowers.
The custody of the eyes and also of our hearing and smell is a sign of domination over our body. More than anything else, the mortification of our touch is most necessary, avoiding all freedom of touch with oneself and with others. How many persons to overcome strong temptations wear sackcloth or chains and also give in to corporal discipline!
Mortifications do not harm our health, rather they preserve it. Vices and intemperance are the causes of most bodily diseases. The most penitent saints lived to a ripe old age; to be convinced, it is enough to read the life of Saint Anthony the Abbot and Saint Paul, the first hermit.
In conclusion, while considering our body as a spiritual enemy, we must respect it also as a sacred vessel, convinced that it deserves more respect than the chalice of the Holy Mass, because it not only retains the Blood and the Body of Jesus, but we nourishes it with the Holy Communion.
Let it be that on our body, there will always be an image of our Lady, a medallion or a scapular, which is a perennial reminder of our sonship to Mary.
Let us try to be just with ourselves, that is, to have more care of our soul than our body. How many persons cares too much for this flesh, which must one day become grazing for worms in the grave!
Father Ségneri, in his book “The Educated Christian” (in Italian: Il Cristiano Istruito), recounts that a certain young man, full of sins against purity, went to confession in Rome to Father Zucchi.
The Confessor told him that only the devotion to Our Lady could free him from that bad habit; he gave him as penance: that every morning and every evening, after getting up and before lying down in bed, to carefully recite a Hail Mary to the Virgin, offering his eyes, hands and whole body, and praying to Mary to preserve his body from sin, and then to kiss three times the floor.
With this practice the young man began to amend himself. After several years and after having been around the world, he wanted to visit in Rome, his old confessor and he told him that for years he had no longer fallen in the sin against purity, since our Lady with that little devotion had obtained that grace for him.
One day, in a sermon, Father Zucchi told this story. A captain was listening to him and who had a similar bad habit for many years; he then proposed to himself to imitate that particular devotion, in order to free himself from that horrible chain of sin. After sometime, he managed to correct himself and had changed his life. But after six months, foolishly trusting his own strength, he wanted to prove that he was strong enough by trying to visit a house of sin, proposing foolishly not to sin.
In approaching the door of the house where he was in danger of offending God, he felt an invisible force pushing back and found himself as far from the house as the length of that road where he was, and without knowing how, he found himself near his home.
A Little Spiritual Flower Offering to our Lady:
– Respect your body and the body of others, as a sacred vessel and Temple of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer to Mary:
– O Mary, I consecrate my body and my soul!
Adapted and Translated from:
MARIA REGINA E MADRE DI MISERICORDIA (Mese di Maggio) – by DON GIUSEPPE TOMASELLI