Tag Archives: mortal sin


Go you also, Golden Grains, borne on the wings of zeal and friendship; carry the cry of alarm to some pious souls. Say to them that, at this hour, another soul, one of their sisters, a daughter of Jesus Christ like themselves, is just about to fall into sin.

Tell them to cry aloud: –

My God, my God, give thy grace to the soul which is on the point of offending thee!

Oh! what a beautiful mission is that of preventing a mortal sin by prayer! of keeping from falling into the abyss some poor soul, which, perhaps, was about to be for ever separated from thee, my God.

Mortal sin is committed every hour, and God is blasphemed every hour, and every hour God loses a soul.

And for some of these souls all that is wanting is one grace more, which they have not merited, and which a prayer could have obtained for them.

My God, my God, pour forth thy grace on the soul who is about to offend thee.

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889


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“Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith the Lord” (Is10:1)

One of the great virtues, the importance and necessity of which we are many of us far from impressing upon ourselves enough, is the virtue of Christian Confidence. We may aim at leading an orderly existence, we may practise our religious duties with some exactitude, we may aim at keeping ourselves for the most part pure, truthful, and upright, but one may fear that many of us have little or no thought of deepening within ourselves the feeling of holy confidence.

A spiritual luxury?

We look upon it, perhaps, as a counsel of supererogation, a sort of spiritual luxury, a mere adjunct or condiment of the inner life, comforting, it may be, but still unnecessary and superfluous. Nevertheless, in point of fact there is perhaps no virtue of which people of goodwill stand more in need. Like Peter walking upon the waters they consider the fury of the wind and the tumult of the waves. They do not keep their eyes on Christ Our Lord, and the inevitable result follows – they begin to sink. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” was the gentle reproof of Our Lord on that occasion.

Like Peter walking upon the waters…

But there are numberless occasions when He seems at special pains to enforce upon us the same lesson: He exhausts every comparison: He appeals to the birds of the air, to the flowers of the earth, to the grass of the field, that He may bring home to us the great commanding truth that God does really care for us, that He has our interests at heart, even though at sundry times He may appear to have forgotten us, He is in reality watching over us at every moment with the solicitude of a Father, and that not one hair shall fall from our head without his knowledge and consent.

…we consider the fury of the wind and the tumult of the waves

We all need these assurances of God’s providence and tender watchfulness, for there is no temptation so common, so insidious, so calculated to sap the roots of the spiritual life, as the temptation to diffidence and discouragement. It assumes different shapes in different persons. It may arise from the thought of past failings and sins, or, again, it may be the result of the hardships and sufferings we have to encounter in the life. The subject is too vast to be treated in the course of one conference and we may be content here to deal with the first of these causes of diffidence.

“O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

In the first place, there are many for whom the temptation to diffidence springs from a spirit of disquietude on the score of past sins. They are conscious of the error of their former ways, they recollect periods in their life when they gave themselves up to disorder, they are haunted by the thought of the divine chastisements they have incurred.

It is true that they regret their misdeeds: they have done penance for them: they have had recourse times without number to the Sacraments instituted by Christ for the cleansing of human sin. Nevertheless they are restless, anxious, ill at ease. They rack and torture their conscience as to the integrity of their confessions, or sincerity of their sorrow, and perhaps come to the conclusion that they have never repented as they should, that they cannot shake off the burden that oppresses them, that their case, in short, is desperate beyond redemption.

Feeling restless, anxious, ill at ease

Such a frame of mind is lamentable, and, moreover, is based upon a complete fallacy. It ignores the loving mercy of God which surpasses all our sins, however grievous and numerous they may be. It refuses to take into account the true Fatherhood of God, who knows the clay of which we are formed.

He knoweth our frame and remembereth we are dust (Ps120:14)

He makes allowance for us far beyond all we can imagine, certainly far beyond the allowances we make for one another, even in the case of our best friends. There is a saying that to understand all is to forgive all; and God, whom nothing escapes, does understand us through and through. He it is who searches the reigns and the heart and reads into the depths of our souls more clearly than we ourselves can ever hope to do. He discerns the many motives, both good and evil, which inform our best and our worst actions, the cross-current that distract the soul, the striving as well as the failing, the good intention as well as the miserable failure, the abiding love that persists even after many repeated relapses. He knows that most of our sins are sins of frailty, due to the pressure of temptation and the weakness of our nature. He knows that few of us, and perhaps only rarely, are guilty of the heinous sins, those which in His sight overshadow every defection of the flesh and every indulgence of the senses, inasmuch as they are directed immediately against Him and His infinite perfections.

God, whom nothing escapes, understands us through and through

And here, to make a disgression, it may be observed that there is a scale according to which sins, even mortal sins, may be graded. Many people do not seem to have been clearly educated into recognising the difference in gravity between sin and sin.

There are some who practically restrict mortal sins to those of the flesh. Even when guilty, they will not accuse themselves of sins of disbelief, or of entirely losing heart and confidence in God. And yet the very order in which the Decalogue enumerates the commandments more or less corresponds to the degree of gravity involved in their transgression. The higher and nobler the virtue to which it is opposed the more grievous is the sin.

Are all mortal sins equally grievous?

Now, among the virtues, the highest are unquestionably the theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity, which have for object the Increate Divinity Itself. Accordingly, the most terrible and grievous of all sins are the hatred of God, despair, unbelief, formal heresy, blasphemy, and the like.

In the second rank are to be placed those sins which are opposed to cardinal and moral virtues, first of all to the virtue of justice in regard to God Himself or in regard to His creatures. Injustice as regards God infringes the virtue of Religion, and is more serious if directed against the honour and service due to the Deity immediately. And so as we go down the scale of the virtues the gravity if the sins opposed to them also diminishes.

In the next place, St Thomas, whose teaching we have been following, places sins against the virtue of justice in relation to creatures, a virtue which gives to each its due, whether it be the Church, or State, or family, or our fellow beings. Sins then which are against the Creator, i.e. against Faith, Hope, Charity and the virtue of Religion, are the most grievous of all. Other sins are against the creature and therefore in a different category altogether. There is a gulf between them. Then, last in order, come the virtues of temperance and fortitude, by which we restrain our concupiscible and our irascible proclivities.

When the intellect is clouded and the will is weakened…

It is here, however, that human passion enters, and passion always takes away from the voluntariness of our actions, sometimes more, sometimes less, but on occasion to such an extent that St Thomas allows that it may do away with the entire guilt that would otherwise attach to some objectively evil action.

Wine and women, drink and lechery and other vices on the one hand, and on the other, hatred, anger, revenge, calumny, assault, murder, are no doubt mortal sins, given the necessary conditions – freedom of will, knowledge, and advertence – for gravity; and, moreover, some of these are the most common of all the sins that occur. But they have been described by certain authoritative writers as the least of mortal sins, precisely because they have not God in view directly, and because of the element of emotional passion which they contain, tending to cloud the intellect and to weaken the will. And it is this element which renders it difficult to apportion the guilt, and state which are the most grievous sins, those inspired by sensual love or those resulting from the passion of anger and hatred, the sins of impurity or those of violence and malignity. In any case, it is clear that they stand lowest in the scale as it appears in the sight of God.

To return now to our main subject, it may therefore be that we have often reproached ourselves in the past and held ourselves guilty of a grave transgression: it may even be that our confessors have judged in the same way as we have done, basing themselves, as they necessarily must do, upon what we have told them – and yet in the eyes of the all-seeing God the measure of our iniquity may have been diminished to an extent we cannot gauge.

Mortal or venial sin?

How many of these sins were made venial through lack of that full and entire knowledge and advertence at the time, which are requisite to constitute a deadly offence? How often were we not surprised or betrayed into some temptation when we were off our guard and acted on the spur of the moment without much thought, without much deliberation? How often has it happened that it was after committing a certain act that we have felt anxiety, lest it might prove to be wrongful, when we should have remembered that there can be no more evil in a deed than we apprehended at the moment itself? How often again have we been agitated with a doubt as to the lawfulness of some course of action in our past life, when in reality we had, though perhaps unconsciously, resolved that doubt and “formed our conscience” according to strict theological principles, thereby avoiding any serious guilt. If they go back to their first youth, some may realise now that in sundry directions their views of right and wrong were vitiated from the beginning without much fault on their part, through prejudice, through early education, through the example of others, sometimes even to a certain twist or kink of the mind peculiar to themselves.

Circumstances to be taken into account

Then again, it is impossible for us to surmise how many of our former transgressions have been shorn of their full grievousness because the consent we gave them was not complete and wilful. We may have been negligent or curious, we may have dallied with temptation, played with it, even yielded some sort of half consent, but on all the occasions when we did not let ourselves go altogether, we did not simply lay down our arms and surrender, when we continued to offer some resistance at least, on all these occasions we did not incur the serious imputation of mortal sin.

Perhaps we were engaged in doing what is perfectly lawful up to a certain point, yet one day, more by accident than otherwise, we went beyond and overstepped the mark. Perhaps we were placed in some occasion from which it was difficult to extricate ourselves, and where temptation was powerful and incessant. In all these cases can we suppose that a merciful God did not see and weigh in the scales the difficulty, the goodwill, the effort, though unattended with success at the last?

If any man lose his soul in the end, it will never be because of any act of his committed before his last good and valid confession, or before his last act of perfect contrition.

Many of our failings may thus be less serious than we have imagined. We may dwell too on the confidence we should entertain that the more undoubtedly mortal sins of our past life have been really and truly remitted, never to return, in so much that if any man lose his soul in the end, it will never be because of any act of his committed before his last good and valid confession, or before his last act of perfect contrition. God indeed is a kind and indulgent Father, always “ready and easy to forgive” and “His mercy is above all His works.”

Were it possible for us to choose for ourselves the Judge who should equitably and finally pronounce sentence upon our deeds as we pass out of this world, it would not be, I think, any parent or earthly friend that we should elect, one like ourselves subject to error and misapprehension – it would surely be Our Saviour Himself, for is He not the best friend we have, the one who knows everything concerning us, the good as well as the bad, the pressure of temptation as well as the reluctant fall?

“His mercy is above all His works”

Is He not the one who understands every detail of our actions, and who therefore can make allowance such as none other could; a Judge overflowing with kindness, goodness and love; nay one, we might almost say, who has a personal interest in passing a favourable sentence upon us, for has He not redeemed us at the price of His most precious Blood?

“Who shall accuse against the elect of God?” St Paul asks, and he answers, “God that justifieth. Who is he that shall condemn? Christ Jesus that died, yea that is risen also again, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Rm 8:33-34), the while the Church, at that most solemn moment of our existence, appeals to Him in her prayers for the dying, making that only but most powerful plea, “However much he may have sinned, yet he hath not denied Father and Son and Holy Ghost, but hath believed.”

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949


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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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If habit makes saints, it also makes sinners. Slowly and by degrees we are either saved or lost; and, having reached the gate of heaven or that of hell, we exclaim: So soon!

Salvation through Jesus’ merits is a lifelong process requiring prayer and attention to detail

The point of departure is scarcely perceptible; it is like the little snowflake which; falling on the mountain, seemed ready to melt, but, having mingled with other flakes, has helped to form the avalanche which may soon crush us.

Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall (1Cor10:12)

If, after having committed one mortal sin, we try to go back to the desire which caused the act, to the thought from which sprung the desire, to the occasion which gave rise to the thought, we would but find a mere trifle, something almost imperceptible – a word of double meaning which was listened to with a smile; a useless explanation which we asked for simply through curiosity; a casual glance cast on some object, I know not for what reason, although my conscience urged me to refrain from it; a prayer omitted because it would have put me to some inconvenience, and instead of it, I did something which pleased me; a moment of work I abandoned, in order to follow some vague idea floating through my mind.

It is easy to draw the practical conclusion

After a few days the same accidental circumstance is renewed, a little more prolonged; – remorse, once stifled, ceases to exist.

A few days after; – alas! let me stop here; each one can complete the story for himself. It is easy to draw the practical conclusion.

– From: Golden Grains, M. H. Gill and Son, O’Connell Street, Eighth Edition, Dublin 1889


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It is advisable to make an examination of conscience every evening; here an examination of conscience as guide, also before sacramental confession.

The Ten Commandments

“When did you make your last confession? Was it a good one? – Did you conceal a mortal sin? – Did you perform your penance?

1) Have you since neglected your morning, evening, or meal prayers? Often? – Have you said them with wilful distraction? – Have you doubted in matters of faith? – Were you ashamed to fulfil your religious duties? – Have you exposed your faith to danger, for instance, by going to heretical churches, reading heretical books, etc.? – Did you deny your religion?

2) Have you taken the Name of God in vain? – Have you spoken irreverently or mockingly of holy things? – Have you cursed yourself or others? – Have you sworn falsely, rashly, or in trivial matters? – Have you broken your vows?

3) Did you on Sundays or Holydays stay away from Mass wilfully? Did you come too late? How often? – Have you done or commanded servile work on such days without necessity? – Have you been irreverent in Church?

4) (Children): Have you been disobedient towards your parents or disrespectful otherwise? – Have you grieved them, neglected to assist them when in need?

(Parents): Have you neglected to teach your children their prayers, to send them to church and to a Catholic school? – Have you given them scandal by cursing, quarreling, etc., in their presence? – Neglected to watch over them: the company they keep, the books they read, [the way they use electronic media and entertainment] etc.?

5) Have you struck or wounded others? – Did you injure your health by excessive drink, etc.? – Did you bear hatred? – How long? – Did you desire revenge, refuse to forgive? – Did you wish others harm? – Have you lead others into sin? What sins? – How many persons? – Have you given others bad books to read; shown them bad pictures; taken them to bad places; helped them to steal, etc.?

6) and 9) Have you wilfully entertained impure thoughts? desires? How often? – Have you recalled with pleasure to mind former sins of impurity? What sins? – Did you expose yourself to danger of committing sins of impurity by keeping bad company, reading lewd books, frequenting bad places, dangerous dances, theatres, etc.? – Did you wilfully give ear to, or take part in impure conversations, sing immodest songs, [told or listened to immodest jokes, comedies, films, etc.], boast of immodest actions, etc.? – Did you wilfully look at immodest pictures, or cast immodest looks upon yourself or others? – Did you sin by immodest touch or action? Was it with yourself or with others? How often? Was it with relatives, perhaps with a married person? Did you wilfully desire to commit such sins? – Did you lead others to any sins of immodesty?

7) and 10) Did you steal? What was it worth? – Have you cheated on any one? – Have you done or caused damage? To what amount? – Did you neglect to make restitution in former cases? – Neglect to pay your debts? – Retain things found or stolen? – Did you have a desire to steal?

8) Did you tell lies? – Did you make known the hidden faults of your neighbour? – Did you, through envy or hatred, tell lies about others? Have you injured them thereby? – Have you judged others rashly? suspected others falsely?

Precepts of the Church

Have you gone to confession within the past year? Have you fulfilled your Easter duty by receiving Holy Communion during the Easter-time? Did you eat flesh-meat on forbidden days, wilfully? Did you neglect to fast on the days prescribed, without cause? Did you belong to any society forbidden by the Church?

The Seven Capital Sins

Have you been proud and thought yourself better than others? – Have you been jealous or envious? – Have you the habit of drinking to excess? – Have you given way to anger?”

– Fr Gebhard, 1952



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QUESTION: “My daughter is making her first Confession in a few weeks but we have been told to call it ‘First Reconciliation.’ Is it wrong for me to talk at home about first Confession?

ANSWER: The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a short explanation of the different names that are used, including the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (1423-1424). You need, therefore, have no scruples about referring to the sacrament of Confession since the Church herself uses this term.

Confession is one of the three acts of the penitent which the Council of Trent defined as being required for the sacrament, the others being contrition and satisfaction (undertaking penance for our sins). By mortal sin we lose the life of sanctifying grace in the soul. The Sacrament of Penance restores us to grace and reconciles us to friendship with God. As Vatican II highlighted, the sacrament also reconciles us to the Church. This is particularly shown in our re-admission to Holy Communion through sacramental absolution.

Venial sins do not destroy the life of grace in the soul but weaken it: they do not cut us off from Holy Communion. Theologians have attempted to extend the notion of reconciliation to the case of the forgiveness of venial sins by saying, for example, that they wound our relationship with God and with the Church, and that the Sacrament of Penance heals this wound. Most pastors would consider it unlikely that a young child would commit a grave sin with complete knowledge and full consent of the will, so the aspect of reconciliation in the fullest sense is less important in their case than learning to admit responsibility for doing something wrong, and knowing the loving mercy of God who forgives us with tenderness and compassion, and increases in us that strength, beauty and holiness of soul which we call sanctifying grace. Insisting on the term reconciliation as the only proper name of the sacrament shows a mistaken understanding of Vatican II, as though by emphasising this aspect of the sacrament, the Council intended to ignore or deny its other dimensions.”
– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published in the feature “Catholic Dilemmas” in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 21 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


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We are told time and time again that God loves us and this is very consoling to know. We receive a share in His life at Baptism and keep it up to the moment we commit a mortal sin. When we lose the state of grace, or the life of God within us, do we not also lose His love? Is His love for us not dependent on our not separating ourselves from Him by serious sin?


God still loves us no matter what we do. When we sin seriously (mortal sin) we lose the Divine life which we received at our Baptism – or, as we used to describe it, we lapse from the state of Grace and this can only be regained by contrition and resolving, with God’s help, not to sin again. But while we may be unfaithful ‘God is always faithful.’ He remains unchanged. God is love (1 John 4:8) and He continues to love us – ‘God loved us so much that He sent his only begotten Son to save us -‘. Our sin does not mean he cuts off relations with us. It is we who separate ourselves from Him. So we must never despair of our sin. God loves us and welcomes us back with open arms when we repent of our sin and seek Him again.”
– This article was published in “Saint Martin Magazine” issue March 2004. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


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“There are various reasons why on a particular occasion we may not receive Holy Communion. If we commit a mortal sin God can restore us to grace before that if we make an act of perfect contrition, that is, an act of sorrow out of the love of God. Nevertheless, we should receive absolution in the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Communion again. We are also obliged to fast from food and drink (except water) for an hour before receiving Communion.

We should be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion, though it is a Jansenistic error to think that we need to be perfect first. Holy Communion is a remedy for sin, not a reward reserved only for the perfect. Sometimes, even if we are not in the best state to approach Holy Communion, it is right to come, humbly repentant of our shortcomings.

If we are not able to receive Holy Communion we should certainly still go to Mass because we can participate in the Sacrifice by offering up our prayers, our works of charity, our sufferings and also our prayers begging for God’s grace. Like the publican, we can simply pray: ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

If we cannot make a sacramental communion, we should make a spiritual communion in which we desire to receive Our Lord sacramentally when we are fit to do so. There are various formulae for a spiritual communion on the internet or we can use our own words. This devotional prayer is part of our preparation for the next time that we receive Communion sacramentally, so that we then approach Christ in the Eucharist with deeper devotion and gain greater fruit from receiving Him. We will never make a perfect Holy Communion but Our Lord cherishes the efforts that we make to love Him in this sacrament.”
– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published in the feature “Catholic Dilemmas” in “The Catholic Herald” issue February 7 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


My Jesus, I believe in You; I hope in You; I love You. I am heartily sorry for all my sins. Come into my heart, cleanse it, purify it, and remain there for ever. My Lord Jesus, preserve my soul unto life everlasting.


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