July 5, 2010

Desperate, But Not Serious

One of the greatest challenges I have with penitents--and with myself!--is those who struggle with discouragement over committing the same sins again and again. Often it's a habit of misusing our speech, such as lying or gossip or detraction, or maybe it's a sin against purity. It's the same confession over and over, and sometimes there comes to be a dullness and a frustrated boredom that is often more spiritually dangerous the sin itself.

What can be done in this situation?

First of all, we must remember to treat internal invitations to discouragement or despair as temptations themselves. But when it comes to the patterns of sin themselves, sometimes I think our troubles were described by one of those early MTV songs by Adam Ant: We are 'desperate, but not serious.'

We are desperate to do something about our trouble; we don't want whatever it is in our lives. But, for some reason, we have not yet found the willingness to fearlessly re-arrange our days and mercilessly refuse to make provision for our habitual fault. Maybe we need to avoid the occasions and near occasions of sin. Maybe we need to avoid certain places or people. Maybe what we really have is an addiction over which we have lost any hope of control and need to find the humility to ask for help. Our desperation tells us that we no longer want the misery of sin, but our failure to get serious reveals that we aren't yet ready to make holiness an absolute priority in our lives.


doughboy said...

wow you read my mind. it's not a coincidence i came to your blog today. thank you - i have a new prayer now: God please give me the grace to cooperate with your Grace, and the will, to get serious about making the necessary changes in my life.

Lee Gilbert said...

There is a book by Watchman Nee called "The Normal Christian Life" which addresses this very problem. Although the author was a minister of the Christian Missionary Alliance, the doctrine within it is fully compatible with Catholicism, and in fact Fr. Edward O'Connor CSC of Notre Dame's Theology Department said at one point that Nee writes like a father of the Church.

His basic idea is that Christ did not come to reform our fallen human nature, but to nail it ot the cross. This solves the sin problem, because he who is dead no longer commits sins. The question is how to appropriate this reality.
He shows the way.

This is not about forensic justification, covering the manure pile with a blanket of snow, but of liberation from the power of sin. Absolutely, it works.

Brother Charles said...

Lee: Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out. I'm very interested in these questions, e.g. does the Cross pay our cancel our debt? And how we need to surrender to being sinners in order to be saved.

carl said...

Fr, in this situation does the penitent have the contrition necessary for the absolution to be valid? I struggle with this and worry that my pattern indicates some insufficiency on my part with regards to resolution not to sin.

Brother Charles said...


Contrition is usually in place...but what we need is willingness to capitalize on the grace of contrition we have been given.