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Venial Sin

Venial Sin

Presence of God – O Lord, inflame me with Your holy zeal, so that I will no longer be able to tolerate in myself the slightest thing which is displeasing to You.

MEDITATION

Venial sin, like mortal sin, goes counter to God’s will, although with less serious deviation. While it does not destroy charity, it is opposed to it and therefore diminishes its fervor and vigor, hindering its development. This is the disastrous effect of deliberate venial sin committed with the realization that it is displeasing to God.

Once venial sins of this kind become habitual, they decrease the soul’s tendency toward God, and increase, on the other hand, its leaning toward self-satisfaction and creatures. Thus, little by little the soul loses its fervor, its sense of sin, and falls into tepidity, which is characterized by a certain indifference to venial sin. This puts it in danger of offending God in serious matters also. In this sense, venial sin may be compared to a disease of insidious languor, a kind of spiritual tuberculosis, which undermines the organism slowly but fatally. It is not unusual to meet souls who having at first surrendered themselves to God with sincere fervor, afterwards let themselves fall into continual carelessness, indifference, voluntary omissions, and laziness, because they have given in to selfishness and sought their own comfort. They become incapable of making the generous efforts required to advance on the way they have started. Their spiritual life is reduced to a kind of lethargy which is not yet death, but which has none of the freshness and vigor of a strong, healthy life. It lacks the fervor of charity, for this is continually being lessened by deliberate concessions to venial sin.

To put us on our guard against such a state, St. Teresa of Jesus declares, “Always be fearful if you do not feel sorry for the faults you commit, for even venial sin ought to fill you with sorrow to the very depths of your soul…. For the love of God, take care not to commit any deliberate venial sin, even the smallest…. And can anything be small if it offends God?” (Conceptions of the Love of God 2 – Way of Perfection 41).

COLLOQUY

Peccavi, Domine, miserere mei! Pardon, Father, pardon me, a miserable ingrate. I owe it to Your goodness that I am still Your spouse, even though I am unfaithful to You by my faults. Peccavi, Domine, miserere mei. O my soul, what are you doing? Are you not aware that God sees you always? You can never hide yourself from His sight, for nothing is hidden from Him…. O eternal God, Father of all goodness and mercy, have pity on us because we are blind and in darkness, and I, more than anyone else, am miserable and to be pitied…. O true Sun, enter my soul and illumine it with Your brightness. Drive out the darkness and give me light; melt the ice of my self-love and kindle in me the fire of Your charity. Peccavi, Domine, miserere mei” (St. Catherine of Siena).

“May His Majesty be pleased to make us fear Him whom we ought to fear and understand that one venial sin can do us greater harm than all the forces of hell combined” (St. Teresa of Jesus, Life, 25). Indeed the real evil, the only one I have to fear, is neither temptation, nor trial, nor interior or exterior contradictions, nor the loss of material things or of health, but only what is contrary in any way at all to my union with You, my sovereign Good! This evil, I see, can be caused by one single venial sin, committed deliberately. O Jesus, I beseech You, through the merits of Your Passion, deliver me from this great evil, take away from me the wretched power to offend You, and if, because of my innate weakness, it is impossible for me to avoid these faults, grant that they may never be the consequence of my bad will. May my faults serve only to humiliate me, not to offend You.

Because of my weakness, I often fall. “Often I lose sight of what is my only care, and straying from Your side, allow my wings to be draggled in the muddy pools of this world. Then ‘I cry like a young swallow,’ and my cry tells You all, and You remember, O infinite Mercy, that You ‘did not come to call the just, but sinners’” (St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).

Note from Dan: These posts are provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contain one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here:  Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art: Saint Catherine of Siena, from chiesa di Santa Maria del Rosario in Prati, Roma, 19th century?, PD-US, copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Jeanette

    Forgive me my sins, O Lord, forgive me my sins; the sins of my youth, the sins of my age, the sins of my soul, the sins of my body; my idle sins, my serious voluntary sins, the sins I know, the sins I have concealed so long, and which are now hidden from my memory. I am truly sorry for every sin, mortal and venial, for all the sins of my childhood up to the present hour. I know my sins have wounded Thy tender Heart, O my Savior, let me be freed from the bonds of evil, through the most bitter Passion of my Redeemer. O my Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been. Amen.

    • patricia

      Hi Danny

      As a rule of thumb. In adherarance to our faith, spiritual direction is best in discernment of the types of sin venial and mortal sin. For mortal sin you have to have prior knowledge, your free will to commit this sin and it has to be severe.

      I know if I have to go to confession right away and should not receive communion that I am most likely in mortal sin. However scrupulous individuals may feel they need to go to confession all the time. This is why it is good to have a good confessor and spiritual director. It is hard often to discern what is mortal and what is venial sin. I do examine of conscience twice a day and I ask the Holy Spirit to point out the sins that I need to bring and disclose in confession and the other ones that are not necessary. At confession I say at the end of confession for all other sins and all past sins I can’t remember at this time I ask pardon grace and healing.

      Hope this helps!

  • Danny

    Venial sin has always been a mystery to me. Though I have read the Catechism and looked on Catholic websites for the meaning, it always seems too vague for me and I fear that I may be committing some and not realizing they are sins at all. Can anyone list some concrete examples of venial sins which might help in my examination of conscience? If you can list them in a wide range of sins (based in pride, vanity, lust, etc), that would be helpful. Thanks so much.

    • Danny – I will let other commenters jump in here but your dilemma is best solved with a faithful spiritual director. This would be the shortest and surest path to the application in your life.

      • Danny

        Thanks, Dan. I will take your advice. I used to have a spiritual director but he’s not in town anymore (or not lately), so I’ll have to search for a new one.

        • Camila

          Danny,

          Here are some more ideas for you.

          What is a venial sin?

          Venial sin is a slight offense against the law of God in matters of less importance; or in matters of great importance it is an offense committed without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will.

          Note: you might be struggling with temptation and confusing the struggle with an actual sin. This is best discerned with your confessor and/or spiritual director.

          Which are the chief sources of sin?

          The chief sources of sin are seven: Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth; and they are commonly called capital sins.

          Note: The seven capital sins is a great place to start informing yourself as to what is and what isn’t a venial sin.

          What sins are we bound to confess?

          We are bound to confess all our mortal sins, but it is well to confess our venial sins.

          Note: Venial sins are forgiven at mass, but keep in mind that the graces received in the Sacrament of Penance are unique. In other words, it is best to go to confession even if you have only committed venial sins.

          Remember, regardless of what kind of sin a necessary component of conversion (and forgiveness of sins) is contrition.

          What is contrition?

          Contrition, or sorrow for sin, is a hatred of sin, and a true grief of the soul for having offended God, with a firm purpose of sinning no more.

          A common practice among Catholics is the nightly examination of conscience and act of contrition, you might want to start this practice.

          For more detail you can check the Baltimore Catechism (I took my answers above from a hard copy book I have here at home, the link here gives a different variation to the same questions, which can be helpful): http://www.catholicity.com/baltimore-catechism/

          I hope this helps!

  • Beth Williams

    Danny-as Dan mentioned, spiritual direction will serve you much better than my post. Still, I’ll offer you this. I have an app for my phone which lists most venial and mortal sins. Periodically I review them since I am prone to suffer from spiritual amnesia and need to remind myself that I have been called to be a daughter of the King. My best motive for striving for virtue and avoiding sin isn’t so I can place check marks in the positive/negative column (sadly, I can easily fall victim to legalism). I am a poor judge of myself. What I truly desire is to be in right relationship with God who knows my motives even better than me. He is so merciful and loving and patient, and I hate being out of communion with Him.

    I appreciate this meditation–thank you! All of my sins, regardless of the type, break my communion with God and my fellows. Being in communion with the Body of Christ is awesome.

  • A timely Post for this old gal who is about to undergo a major Surgery!!!!! May God forgive me my Everest of Sins of my entire life, those I have forgotten and those, though confessed, still torment me because they are so grave. I throw myself at the Feet of Divine Mercy and beg your forgiveness. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your Grace, to amend my life and start anew, sin no more and avoid all occasions of sin.

    • LizEst

      Be assured of my prayers, Mary.

      • God bless you, Liz…. I sure need lots of Prayers….though my girls are upbeat I will jump this loop, my Faith rests on the belief that Jesus needs me to do lots and lots of penances here-below before I dare show my soul’s face before Him!!!!!!Surgery is being planned for Friday or Saturday, 21st and 22nd, respectively and could take two to three Hours!!!!!!

        • LizEst

          I’m praying and will continue to pray. God bless you too, Mary.

          • Camila

            Mary, I too will be praying for you. God bless you.

          • Thank you Camila. I sure need all the Prayers. The Surgery has been confirmed for Saturday the 22nd. To-morrow, the 18th, I go to see the Heart Specialist who will participate in the Surgery because of my BP Condition

        • Praying for you too! God Bless!

    • Jeanette

      My prayers will be with you too Mary. God bless you.

      • Thank you, Jeanette. Mine is the Prayer of our Lord in Gestemany. May there be still some Sad remaining in my Hour Glass….but not my Will but His Will be done. The Divine Mercy Chaplets – many, many and continuous, are especially needed here.

        • Jeanette

          Just to let you know, our Charismatic Prayer Group lifted you up in prayer this past Tuesday night.

          • God bless you all, Jeanette, LizEst and your Groups…..with all the Prayers already pledged, Jesus will be merciful to me, carry out a successful Surgery and heal me. He sure knows I need to do lots and lots of penances here below before the Sand in the Hourglass is exhausted and He summons me Upstairs!!!!

          • Jeanette

            You’re very welcome.

        • LizEst

          To add to Jeanette’s note, our parish prayer line group is praying for you as well, Mary.

  • Salvatore Buttaci

    Sin is sin, whether grievous or small. It offends God Who is All Goodness and Purity. As Christians it is our responsibility to shun sin of any kind if we hope to show we love God Who deserves our fervent love. Some will tell us Heaven awaits us all because God is merciful: He would not cast any of us into Hell, but they fail to realize He is also just and that nothing less than pure can enter where impurity cannot exist. It is dangerous to rely on our deathbed to confess all our sins and therefore be made pure. Death comes to many unannounced, with no time to utter a plea to God for mercy and forgiveness. Remain in God’s friendship: shun all sin!

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