The souls fight against sin can seem complicated. A basic look at our conscience will usually reveal a multitude of sins. It can seem daunting. Where do we start? How can we possibly navigate the path to freedom and deeper union with the Lord? The Lord can break through our mess of sin and put it all in perspective so His mercy can take root in our lives and save us. So how does it happen? Well the fastest route is the route of Frequent confession. By frequent I mean weekly, or biweekly.
Here are some more tips for getting the most out of the School of perfection:
1. Take the advice as deliberate and from the Lord. So many times I have left the confessional disappointed in the counsel I recieved from the priest. Often times the Priest will focus on one particular thing you said. It may not seem like the most important thing you mentioned or it may not be the one issue you are experiencing the most emotional distress about but take the words as having come from the Lord. If the Priest focuses on something in particular then make it a focus for your life. Let that experience narrow down and prioritize your battle with sin.
2. Pray for tears. Contrition can be something intellectual. You can understand that sin in wrong and regret it without feeling a certain amount of shame or even emotion. Though an intellectual contrition is valid for confession it is not the best way to be. It would be best if we mourned each and every sin we commit. Some sins we have confessed hundreds of times and we just don't feel the emotional anguish we did when we first committed those sins. We should pray to God to bring back that emotional response into our hearts. The Desert Fathers often prayed that the Lord would bring them to tears over the even the smallest of sins. Lord, break our hearts for love of You!
3. Take notes! Confession is one of the primary ways God speaks to us. Add a section to your prayer journal for confession. After a while you will see a pattern of the Lord's mercy in your life. You will see a slow conquering of the "little sins" and this will give you confidence and faith that God will help you with the "bigger" sins.
We heartily recommend, the pious custom introduced by the Church, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of frequent confession. It gives us a morethorough knowledge of ourselves, stimulates Christian humility, helps us to uproot our evil habits, wages war on spiritual negligence and tepidity, purifies our consciences, strengthens our wills, encourages spiritual direction and by virtue of the Sacrament itself, increases grace.
Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis
If you are serious about the Christian life then no doubt you have identified those defects that most prevent you from joining God. It usually takes a long battle to rid yourself of these sins so in the mean time you should have a plan for those times when you fall.
Our adversary will use anything and everything to disrupt God’s plan for our life. God wants to be Lord of every part of our life but so does the Evil One. He may be attacking us in places or details that we would have never suspected. A thorough examination of our life can be helpful to thwart his plans.
The following are five places the Devil may be attacking you:
Pride is one of those sneaky but deadly sins. Why sneaky? Pride is sneaky because it because it’s a sin of blindness. All sin blinds us in some way but Pride especially blinds us. You see its Pride that causes us to be blind to our need for deeper conversion. Pride can be so deeply present within us that even after years striving in the spiritual life it can go undetected. I hate pride. I hate it so much because even though I am constantly reminded of my need for deeper conversion there are times when I realize a huge part of my life that needs healing, conversion and change. Pride causes this blindness. One of the main reasons Pride hurts our spiritual growth is because one of the ways it manifests itself is in a sin called “Presumption”.
The book “The Spiritual Life” by Tanquerey defines Presumption like this:
Presumption consists in an inordinate desire and hope whereby we want to do things which are beyond our strength. It proceeds from too high of an opinion of ourselves, of our natural faculties, of our knowledge, of our strength, of our virtues.
Many people will read this and immediately think something like this, “I definitely know how sinful I am”. What you should say is “Lord show me where I need more conversion”. “Lord, show me how I truly look in your eyes because I know my vision is poor.”
Pride needs to be rooted out of our lives. God resists the proud. He hurries to the humble. Remember Pride can be very sneaky. If you don’t think you struggle with Pride then that is probably a good indication you do.
Here are some ways to help you root Pride out of your life:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Sometimes the spiritual life can seem like spring cleaning. We take a look into our soul and we look into the corners and under the rugs and we don’t like what we see. Our first reaction is to turn away, turn off the lights, or put the rug back down and leave the filth in secret. This usually happens with the sins that we consider less serious or those sins that no one else can see. They happen in our mind when we react to what another person says or when in anger or envy we think certain things about people. Sometimes we can think that those sins are safe because no one will ever know about them. We keep them in the dark wrapped up inside of us. We may think they are safe there in the secret.
Unfortunately any sin left to itself will fester. A small sin like envy, arrogance or anger can tear you apart inside and leave your soul a dry desert where no spiritual growth can happen. Its hard for me to admit but there was a time in my life where I had terrible thoughts about other people when I would see them pray. I would entertain thoughts of envy, judgment, and unbelievable arrogance. These sins were my secret. I was embarrassed to share them even in confession. I would rationalize saying to myself, “well, they are just venial sins” or “they are just thoughts not sins”. So I wouldn’t confess them or even do anything to try and stop them. They were ravaging my soul leaving me prideful, selfish, and ugly on the inside. Those thoughts were my “secrets with the evil one.” It wasn’t until I took a long look at what I was on the inside that I started to realize how awful these sins can get.
Take a look at yourself on the inside. Ask yourself if you are keeping any secrets with the devil. The first step to fighting these sins is to expose them. First expose them to Jesus. ( of course H already knows but He wants us to acknowledge our sin to Him) Then we need to tell them to our confessor and we need to be brutally honest about how far we have let this particular sin go. Finally we should share them with a spiritual advisor or someone who we look to for advice.
The bottom line is that we need to expose our secret sins and clean them out. We can’t keep secrets with the devil. He is not our friend and he always works in darkness. Lets step into the light and expose ourselves as we really are. Resist the devil and he will flee! Expose him!
Below is a qoute from St. Ignatius of Loyola about our adversary. Know your enemy.
The enemy also behaves like a false lover who wishes to remain hidden and does not want to be revealed. For when this deceitful man pays court, with evil intent, to the daughter of some good father or the wife of a good husband, he wants his words and suggestions to be kept secret. He is greatly displeased if the girl reveals to her father, or the wife to her husband, his deceitful words and depraved intentions, for he then clearly sees that his plans cannot succeed. In like manner, when the enemy of our human nature tempts a just soul with his wiles and deceits, he wishes and desires that they be received and kept in secret. When they are revealed to a confessor or some other spiritual person who understands his deceits and evil designs, the enemy is greatly displeased for he knows that he cannot succeed in his evil design once his obvious deceits have been discovered.” (Rules for Discernment of Spirits, First Week, # 13)
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization for the parishes of the Catholic Community of Wexford, PA.