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The Habit of Sin

June 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Sarah Reinhard

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The Sinner’s Guide (Week 9 of 16)

The first of these causes is the tyranny of bad habits. So strong are these that many would die rather than relinquish them. Hence St. Jerome declares that a long habit of sin robs virtue of all its sweetness. For habit becomes second nature, and to overcome it we must conquer nature itself, which is the greatest victory a man can achieve.

“When a vice is confirmed by habit,” says St. Bernard, “it cannot be extirpated except by a very special and even miraculous grace.”

The Sinner's Guide (Chapter 24, Paragraphs 8-9)

How many times have you been to Confession and had the same litany of sins to confess? I know it's not just me, because my confessor and spiritual director has told me, repeatedly, that sin becomes a habit all too easily. He's advised me, in various ways, that breaking the habit is the first step after Confession. We have to recognize where we're taking it for granted, where it's second nature, as Louis of Granada says.

It's a sweet victory when you overcome that habit, when you feel like you've kicked it and you're cured.

Except…except when you find yourself again resorting to that old habit, that old sin that fits so well, and there you are, back at Confession with the very thing you thought you were done with.

We're never done with sin, I've learned. The hard way.

And the sins that are habitual are a special sort of hurdle.

I've experienced that grace, and it feels miraculous, even after I've failed. Knowing it's there, having been through it, gives me hope. Sin isn't the end of the story.

But among all these obstacles, the greatest is the tyranny of evil habits. Would that I could make you understand the power with which they bind us! As each blow of the hammer drives a nail further and further into the wood, until it can hardly be withdrawn, so every sinful action is a fresh blow which sinks vices deeper and deeper into our souls until it is almost impossible to uproot them.

The Sinner's Guide (Chapter 24, Paragraph 14)

Have you ever tried to work a nail loose when it's gotten too far in? Maybe it's in your wall, and you just need to move it over a teeny bit, but there it is, wedged in and secure…which is, after all, what it's supposed to do.

Or maybe you've done a wood project and have had to secure things. You quickly learn the wisdom behind measuring twice (or five times, if you have my tendencies) and cutting once.

Louis of Granada speaks to my farm girl background with this comparison, and it stuck with me a bit after I read it.

I need to go to Confession soon, and I plan to take the hammer with me.

Reading Assignment:

Chapters 26-27

Discussion Questions:

1. When have you battled the habit of sin? What practices have helped you to experience the miraculous grace of overcoming vice?

2. Have you ever “given up” on a sin or vice? What was your experience?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

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