We continue the 52 week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father. 

This week, we start reflecting upon the fourth major habit: Major Habit 4 – Battle Against Sin and Vice which can be broken down into three smaller habits: 

  • Habit 14 – Recognize sin and make deliberate plans to stop sinning

  • Habit 15 – Fast and Abstain weekly

  • Habit 16 – Discipline and care for your Body

We turn our attention to Habit 14.  

Habit 14 – Recognize sin and make deliberate plans to stop sinning

Recognize sin and make deliberate plans to stop sinning, identifying your most prevalent/pressing sins and the vices that support them, making deliberate commitments to systematically resist sin including a firm resolve to avoid any and all of the near occasions of sin.

What is sin? – Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed or omission contrary to the eternal law of God, which is an offense against God and neighbor (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] paragraphs: 1849-1851).  Because of Original Sin (CCC 418), all men are inclined to sin (concupiscence), leaving men in a life-long battle with sin (CCC 409). When a man repeatably falls into sins, the sins become vices (evil habits; CCC 1865). 

What are the different kinds of sin? – “Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission” (CCC 1853).  

The Holy Catholic Church describes the different kinds of sins in detail:

  • Breaking the 10 Commandments (CCC 2052-2082).

  • Committing sins described in Galatians (5:19-21): “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing.”

  • The Seven Deadly Sins/Vices: Pride, Avarice/Greed, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth (CCC 1866).

  • Sins that cry out to Heaven: The blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites [homosexual acts], the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow and orphan, injustice to the wage-earner (CCC 1867).

  • Sins of Omission – Sins of Omission are the failure to keep some duty which God and His Church call men to perform. All of the Sins of Omission are a failure to fulfill Christ’s commandment to love (Jn 13:34) in some way, including the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy (CCC 2447):

    • The Corporal Works of Mercy commanded by Christ (Mt 25:31-46): Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and [bury the dead].

    • The Spiritual Works of Mercy: Instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and dead.

  • Failing to keep the Precepts of the Church: attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, annual Confession, annual reception of the Eucharist at Easter, keeping the holy days of obligation and the prescribed days of fasting, providing for the material needs of the Church (CCC 2041-2043).

  • Failing to keep Baptismal and Marriage promises to raise children in the faith. 

Are some sins worse than others? – Yes, Venial Sins injure while Mortal Sin kills. “Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it” (CCC 1855); “deliberate and unrepented venial sin” lead to mortal sin (CCC 1863).

“Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law” (CCC 1855) and if “it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of Hell” (CCC 1861). 

Eternal Damnation results from dying in a state of Mortal Sin. Men “who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell, where they suffer the punishments of Hell, ‘eternal fire’” (CCC 1035).  Many Catholic men live with grave sins that are unconfessed: the majority fail to go to weekly Mass, look at porn and are stuck in other types of grave sins. If they do these things knowingly and willingly, then they are at risk to die in a state of mortal sin.  

What is required for a man to be guilty of Mortal Sin? – Guilt of mortal sin requires three conditions (CCC 1857-1860): 1) the act must be of a grave matter, 2) a man must have full knowledge of the sinful nature of a thought or act, and 3) a man must completely consent to commit the sin.

What happens when a man falls into Mortal Sin? – When a Catholic man falls into a state of mortal sin, the Holy Spirit withdraws support of the man and remains dormant until such time as the man is cleansed of mortal sin in the Sacrament of Penance; the man in mortal sin loses all the supernatural help of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which makes him significantly more vulnerable to additional grave sins and less able to take on holy acts and grow in virtue.

What are common mortal sins that endanger men most? – While there are many different kinds of sins as noted above and men vary in their vulnerability to different sins, there are several sins which plague many men in the modern world:

  • Sexual sin – Viewing pornography (CCC 2354) and masturbation (CCC 2352) are grave sins (CCC 2396) that research confirms many men commit; many men also engage in fornication (CCC 2353).

  • Gluttony – Gluttony is the overindulgence in food or drink which is a grave sin (CCC 1866); research shows the majority of men are obese or overweight and many struggle with alcohol/drug abuse.

  • Sloth/Acedia/Laziness – Sloth is culpable lack of physical and spiritual effort and is a deadly sin (CCC 1866); research shows the majority of men do not get sufficient exercise and most Catholic men fail to even keep the precepts of the Church (see next point). 

  • Failing to keep the Precepts – The Church has precepts which are the minimum obligations a Catholic man is obliged to keep (CCC 2041-2043) or risk mortal sin; a large majority of Catholic men do not go to Mass weekly and do not receive the Sacrament of Penance even once a year (CCC 2042). 

What are key steps to making a deliberate plan to stop sinning? – The most important step in beginning to battle sin is to make the commitment to start! Here are several necessary steps to immediately take:

  • Be forgiven of sins and return to a state of Grace – Do a thorough Examination of Conscience to identify sins, have contrition and be forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. Afterwards, do a daily Examination of Conscience and receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a month.

  • Keep the obligation to attend Mass on every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation – A Catholic man receives tremendous graces from the Mass which helps him battle against sin and grow in holiness. 

  • Battle against your most prevalent sin – Ask God in prayer to reveal the sins He desires for you to now battle. Consider the damage of your sins to yourself and others. Make a commitment to battle against that sin and do a daily Examination of Conscience for that sin and track the result in a journal/notebook; make sure to avoid the near occasions of sin (e.g. situations where you are likely to be tempted). Seek additional help to battle the specific sins you are seeking to conquer (e.g. pornography, obesity, etc.). If you fall into mortal sin, immediately receive the Sacrament of Penance.

  • Longer term, root out and attack venial sins – As you battle and begin to have success with your most prevalent sins, seek God’s guidance and go deeper in an Examination of Conscience to reveal sins you should tackle next. Key to the battle is regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance.

This week’s questions – Here are some questions to meditate upon this week’s habit: 

What are my most prevalent sins and how are they hurting me and others? How do these sins separate me from God?

How might I grow in holiness and happiness if I seek God’s help to battle against my prevalent sins?

This week’s commitments Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here is this week’s challenges:

1) Do a thorough Examination of Conscience and receive the Sacrament of Penance.

2) Make a commitment to never miss Sunday Mass again.

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer – During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to recognize and take concrete action to battle against your most prevalent sins:

Blessed Trinity, help me know and understand the grave cost of my sins, give me deep contrition for my many sins and the will to battle against sin, and guide me to make and carry out a deliberate plan to battle against sin and vice in my life. Amen.