Praying and mortal sin


#1

I was baptised Catholic, and I am joining the RCIA programme this September, so God willing I'll be confirmed Easter 2013.

I have not yet been to confession, although I'm planning to do, and also I'm thinking of going to confession at a different parish. On my conscience I have some mortal sins. Now the other day I read that when you have mortal sins, God cannot be near you because your soul is tarnished. So in the meanwhile, before I go to confession, does this mean that my prayers go unheeded because of the stain on my soul?

Also, my dad (who is anti-Catholic) scoffs at the role of confession because he says that people can do all kind of bad things, and then confess it, and then they no longer need to be guilty about it then or make reparations. And basically because of confession a person could do bad things repeatedly, knowing that it will be 'wiped clean' during a confession. Is this true?


#2

Welcome home!

I've never heard that prayers go unheard in a state of mortal sin, so I cannot comment on that. Sounds a little superstitious and silly to me, though. Bear in mind in many parts of the world, confession isn't available because the nearest priest is hundreds of miles away. Yet acts of perfect contrition still suffice to absolve those people of their sins until they can reach one. This would not be true if their prayers went unheard, no?

Your father's remarks betray a misunderstanding of the nature of sacramental confession; I'm guessing he is either non-Catholic or else was terribly catechized. Absolutions are invalid where the penitent lacks sincere contrition for their sins and/or where they lack a firm resolution to amend their life by avoiding sin and the near occasion of sin. A person who sins deliberately, knowing they can just go to confession the next day, is very likely impenitent and thus cannot be absolved whether or not the priest pronounces the words of absolution. Likewise with a person who "priest-shops," hopping between parishes until they find a priest who will pronounce the words of absolution for a sin they adamantly refuse to repent of. It is true confession frees us of the burden of guilt (meaning we no longer need to be guilty), but your father is wrong that this frees us of the need to do penance. In fact priests are obligated under canon law to assign a penance after every confession except in limited circumstances, and the penitent is always obligated to carry that penance out.


#3

We have the example of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the Temple (Luke 18:10-14). The tax collector stood far off and would not even raise his eyes to heaven. Yet, his humble admission of his sinfulness justified him before God, while the Pharisee's piousness and sacrifices had not justified him. God judges your heart, and the more you humble yourself, the louder your prayers become.


#4

I will also add that what happens when we sin is that we are putting ourselves before God, separating ourselves from him. Seeking absolution with a true contrition is us accepting God as first in our lives again, allowing us to receive his freely given Grace.


#5

Thanks for your answers! I understand the situation better now :slight_smile:


#6

[quote="SilverCamellia, post:1, topic:295907"]
he says that people can do all kind of bad things, and then confess it, and then they no longer need to be guilty about it then or make reparations. And basically because of confession a person could do bad things repeatedly, knowing that it will be 'wiped clean' during a confession. Is this true?

[/quote]

There is one thing I love about God: you can't hide anything from Him ;) If you confess something without repentance and the intention to make reparation (something, by the way, that we are always called to do, as explained in the Catechism, beyond the penance we receive from the priest), the Lord would not absolve you from those specific sins.

To repent is a radical choice: when the Apostle says we are not under the law but under grace, he means just that. I no longer need the Law of Moses to tell me not to desire my brother's things, because I love him. If I steal from him, repent, and confess, it means I acknowledge that stealing from my brother is wrong per se, not just that what I did that one time was wrong...

[quote="SilverCamellia, post:1, topic:295907"]
the other day I read that when you have mortal sins, God cannot be near you because your soul is tarnished. ... does this mean that my prayers go unheeded

[/quote]

Where in the world did you read such thing? It is entirely flawed! God always, always listens to you, as if you were His only son. Christ Himself said that he had come to call sinners to repentance, and the apostle writes:

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.

You may learn in RCIA that there are two kinds of grace: the sanctifying grace and the actual grace.

While I invite you to deepen your knowledge by following the links, I can tell you that we
receive sanctifying grace for the first time at Baptism and that we lose sanctifying grace when we fall in mortal sin (which means grave matter, full knowledge that something was a mortal sin, and deliberate consent to commit the mortal sin). However, the merciful Lord gives us another gift, a transient gift that moves the soul to seek restoration of sanctifying grace. Your repentance is already a supernatural act of faith that is made possible by this gift of the Holy Spirit :) Through Reconciliation, we receive again sanctifying grace, by the merits of our savior and Lord, who will forgive not once but as many times as necessary.

If you have a chance, do read "Divine Mercy in my soul", the diary of St. Faustina Kowalska. Then you will grasp much better how profound is God's love towards sinners...!


"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
"

"I am, I am he that blot out thy iniquities for my own sake, and I will not remember thy sins."

"... that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins..."

"*As the Father has sent me, I also send you ... Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. *"


#7

Thanks, R_C, for your reply and your information about the two types of grace.

Today I went down to my church, intending to make my first confession (and prompted to do so by actual grace?). But when I told the priest it was my first confession, he pulled back the curtain and, knowing I am participating in the RCIA course when it begins, told me that usually those on the course make their first confessions towards Christmastime, so it looks like I won't be able to confess until then :(


#8

You are very welcome, and your posts are very edifying.

I hope the following quote from CCC 1452 brings you some happiness:

When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

:)


#9

i began searching CAF this morning for this same topic, so i hope you don't mind if i chime in as well?

i am also baptized but not Catholic and have just begun RCIA. several months ago i met with my priest regarding some particular mortal sins that continue to weigh heavily on my soul and asked about confession. i was told i am not allowed access to the sacraments of the Church until i am confirmed at the Easter vigil.

what i would like some perspective on, from anyone more knowledgeable than myself (all of you), how do i resolve mortal sin outside of the confessional?

i see paragraphs 1450, 1451, 1452 in the Catechism and i understand that "perfect contrition" (in 1452)..."obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes a firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible." i assume that means i am making a firm resolution to attend sacramental confession next spring, but..

1452 also defines perfect contrition- "when it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else.." which makes me wonder...

how can one have assurance that one's contrition arises from a love by which God is loved ABOVE ALL ELSE? i can assure everyone that i probably love myself more than anything 99.99% of the time!

i mean, i can see a St Theresa or someone else having perfect contrition, but me? come on....

i'm really struggling with this, with my wife, as we both wait to hear from the marriage tribunal, and we both try to learn more about the Catholic faith.. we have been attending Mass with our children about 2x per week since April 2012 and trying to read and study what we can find.

thanks


#10

If you're in the state of mortal sin, you are cut off from God. God hears your prayers, but doesn't answer them. That being said, out of his goodness, you can pray for the graces to go to confession and to be brought back into the fold. Aside from this, your prayers are not efficacious, and merit you nothing. When you commit mortal sin, even one, you place yourself in a very bad position and open yourself up to commit every sin possible. The only thing keeping anyone from committing any sin, is grace.

This is coming straight from Catholic theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.

[quote="number2wilkins, post:9, topic:295907"]

how can one have assurance that one's contrition arises from a love by which God is loved ABOVE ALL ELSE? i can assure everyone that i probably love myself more than anything 99.99% of the time!

i mean, i can see a St Theresa or someone else having perfect contrition, but me? come on....

thanks

[/quote]

It's impossible to know if your contrition is perfect. This is why the Sacrament of Penance is the normal means of being absolved of our sins. Perfect contrition requires special graces from God, and is exceptionally rare, contrary to popular belief.


#11

It is very nice of you to be so humble, but remember that we are not called “simply” to compare ourselves to the saints, rather, we are called to something much greater: the imitation of Christ. We are all called to sainthood, each of us in a very special way, and we also know that such call is not a call for the impossible, since Christ, who asked us to “be perfect”, also told us that such burden was easy and light. It is fundamentally a call for love - agape love that is unconditional, just like the love that Christ has for us.

To answer your question: *nobody *- especially not the saints, whose greatest virtue was perhaps humility, often confessing weekly - can be sure that their contrition is perfect. There will always be inferior reasons that move us to contrition. That is why the ordinary way is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Before the coming of Christ, no man could dare to forgive sins - we know the Lord was accused of blasphemy for doing so - and after His glorious resurrection He gave this authority to His apostles, clearly stating that He was sending them just as the Father had sent Him.

There was another person, a young girl, just turned 21, who felt the same way. She wrote:

Unfortunately, when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passersby.

Nevertheless, she received a special light from the Holy Spirit, and she then wrote:

Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. It is impossible for me to grow bigger, so I put up with myself as I am, with all my countless faults. But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new.

Indeed, the merciful God gave her the answer, that she may share it with us all:

I am determined to find an elevator to carry me to Jesus, as I was too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection. In Holy Scriptures, I sought the elevator I wanted, and I read: ‘Whoever is a little one, let him come to me.’ It is your arms, Jesus, which are the elevator to carry me to heaven. So there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must become less and less.

The only way I can prove my love, is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

How wonderfully simple sound these words! Such powerful is this little way to sainthood described in the “Story of a soul” by the little flower s. Therese of Lisieux, that Holy Church proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church, despite the fact that she was only 24 years old when she passed away, whispering to her Beloved: “My God, I love You

Psalm 90

*Since he clings to me in love, I will free him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: “I am with you”.
*


#12

i am thankful for the responses, but i fear i didn't make myself very clear..

"To answer your question: *nobody *- especially not the saints, whose greatest virtue was perhaps humility, often confessing weekly - can be sure that their contrition is perfect. There will always be inferior reasons that move us to contrition. That is why the ordinary way is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Before the coming of Christ, no man could dare to forgive sins - we know the Lord was accused of blasphemy for doing so - and after His glorious resurrection He gave this authority to His apostles, clearly stating that He was sending them just as the Father had sent Him." === i tried to quote this section, it didn't seem to work for me=====

i am certain my contrition is less than perfect (understatement) and was wondering where one goes with one's mortal sins when one does not have access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

that is what i was trying to get across.. it seems as though i find myself in a kind of limbo, a halfway position, where i don't have access to forgiveness..

looking at 1453 in the Catechism, "such a stirring of conscience (imperfect contrition) can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution...imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance."

this points me back to the sacrament of Penance for forgiveness of mortal sins but i am not allowed the sacrament of Penance until the end of RCIA.. this is the crux of my dilemma.. where does one go, feeling the burden of mortal sin, who is not allowed confession and absolution??

thanks again for your input.


#13

In the private revelation of the Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska, He told her to paint Him with two rays irradiating from His heart, his right hand blessing - the painting of the Divine Mercy - and below, these words: Jesus, I trust in you.

What does the Lord tell us, poor sinners, with His promise of mercy? While only the reading of her diary, "Divine Mercy in my soul", is able to truly allow us to start grasping the answer, I can tell you that it shows us - perhaps more clearly than ever - the Lord's ineffable love towards sinners moved to repentance. To them, forgiveness is always open, because, as St. Thomas Aquinas once said, Deus non alligatur sacramentis - God is not tied to His Sacraments.

Your concern is understandable: the Lord establishes His Church on earth, and gives Her wonderful gifts, the seven Sacraments, among which is Reconciliation. Where does one go, when one is not allowed to confess? Where else shall we go, if not to Christ?

Was not our pastor St. Peter who, with a similar question, made his profession of faith?

And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.

You may have already learned in RCIA that when you confess, the priest is not acting as himself, but in persona Christi: it is to Christ Himself that you are confessing, it is Christ Himself who absolves you. Until that blessed day, there is nothing to do other than pray and hope, living with a penitent heart. If you do so, rest assured that Christ Jesus is not far from you - close your eyes, and you may find Him in your heart.

This is my advice: fear nothing, trust in Christ!

Didn't the Holy Spirit speak through the psalmist saying:

A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. The Lord is near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit.

And didn't the prophet Isaiah speak of the Christ with these words:

thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, and whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."

And didn't the Church accept as authentic the private revelation of our Lord to St. Faustina, announcing the infinite depth of His divine mercy towards sinners, and his immense, eternal love towards penitent souls? As you read these words from her Diary, ask yourself: now that you have repented and are firmly resolved to confess as soon as Holy Church allows you to do so, have you anything left to fear?

Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me. ...] Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. ...] When I was dying on the cross, I was not thinking about Myself, but about poor sinners, and I prayed for them to My Father.

[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. ...] Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy.

[W]rite that I am more generous toward sinners than toward the just. It was for their sake that I came down from heaven; it was for their sake that My Blood was spilled. Let them not fear to approach Me; they are most in need of My mercy.


*"Suddenly, God's presence took hold of me, and at once I saw myself in Rome, in the Holy Father's chapel
and at the same time I was in our chapel.
I saw the Lord Jesus in our chapel, exposed in the monstrance on the high altar.

The same celebration was held in Rome, in a beautiful church, and the Holy Father, with all the clergy, was celebrating this Feast

Then, in an instant, I was caught up to stand near Jesus,
and I stood on the altar next to the Lord Jesus,
and my spirit was filled with a happiness so great
that I am unable to comprehend it or write about it"*

http://www.stjmod.com/uploads/5/3/7/4/5374971/4475512.jpg?167 http://newsaints.faithweb.com/CCS/Can%2030%20April%202000.png http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSP9UVLJn0f9UnX3e1kRj-LcH691KG7qFIvzdhV2T66pEmvcqsOHA


#14

[quote="Deo_Gratias42, post:10, topic:295907"]
If you're in the state of mortal sin, you are cut off from God. God hears your prayers, but doesn't answer them. That being said, out of his goodness, you can pray for the graces to go to confession and to be brought back into the fold. Aside from this, your prayers are not efficacious, and merit you nothing. When you commit mortal sin, even one, you place yourself in a very bad position and open yourself up to commit every sin possible. The only thing keeping anyone from committing any sin, is grace.

This is coming straight from Catholic theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.

It's impossible to know if your contrition is perfect. This is why the Sacrament of Penance is the normal means of being absolved of our sins. Perfect contrition requires special graces from God, and is exceptionally rare, contrary to popular belief.

[/quote]

I understand and agree that it is the teaching of the Church that one in mortal sin cannot merit, for it is only in, with, and through Christ (His divine life..I.e. sanctifying grace...empowering our soul) that we can produce good fruit that is pleasing to the Father. That being said, if while in a state of mortal sin, I implore the Blessed Mother or a saint to intercede for so and so or for such and such a situation, could they not, if they so choose, by their own merits, not mine, intervene? For example, if I am in a state of mortal sin, I can ask that a priest visit a friend to give them Last Rites...my "intercession" did nothing for my friend directly, but my request prompted the priest, by his own free will and merits, to intervene and save my friend's soul. Could this not apply to Our Lady and the saints? Also, even though we can't merit grace while in a state of sin, can't the Lord, out of His infinite mercy, deign to give us various actual graces? I've certainly experienced many answered prayers even while in a state of sin - and know it wasn't my merit that brought those answered prayers about!

Also, I once read that any prayers and offerings that we sincerely make while in a state of mortal sin, assuming we have firm intention of seeking absolution as soon as possible, can result in merit the moment we return to a state of grace - retroactively as it were. Any thoughts on this?


#15

thanks R_C, beautiful reply… please don’t think me argumentative, i understand what you’re telling me and that it is Christ who forgives sin through the Priest, but if my only recourse is to pray to Christ for forgiveness since i’m not allowed the Sacrament of Penance, then why concern myself with the Sacrament of Penance at all?

i come from a Lutheran background and the Lutheran churches i’ve been involved with always have a public confession / absolution as a part of their Sunday liturgy, private confession is retained and utilized by some but it isn’t necessary for forgiveness of sins because the general / public confession works just the same… being new to Catholicism, it sounds like youre telling me to go straight to the source, as it were, by asking forgiveness from Christ himself, like we did in the Lutheran Church…(it was still through the pastor, he granted absolution for the congregation) if that works for me now, why bother with confession / absolution from a priest when i’m allowed access to the sacraments next year?

why can’t i then just keep praying for myself? i really want to understand… what it seems to me so far is that i am in a state of limbo, not a member of Church but yet still bound by the rules, as it were, without access to forgiveness of sins as controlled by the Church until they decide to let me in… does that make any sense? it’s early, and i haven’t had my coffee yet!


#16

I understand your point of view. However, as you yourself wisely point out, nobody - especially not us - is able to know that they have attained a perfect contrition. Furthermore, Holy Church teaches that such a perfect contrition would only obtain forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes your firm resolution to confess.

Remember that the Church did not come up with the Sacraments...rather, so to speak, it is Christ who came up with the Church and with the Sacraments.

I know that after the 1500 there have been a great number of reformed communities that have renounced to some or all of the Sacraments, but the Catholic Church has remained strong and faithful to the will of Christ. While as Catholics we know that the Holy Spirit enlightens the Magisterium in discerning the truths of the faith, in this case the Sacrament of Reconciliation is especially well described in the Gospels.

You say: "without access to forgiveness of sins as controlled by the Church until they decide to let me in". Well, isn't that the will of Christ? Consider these two quotes (emphasis mine):

I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church ...] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. ...] If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

Notice how the Lord said that He was giving the Church not just authority to bind, but also to unbind, and while this may be a difficult passage, the following one is even more clear: the Lord describes the authority to forgive sins that He received from the Father, and that He is now granting to his apostles: to forgive and to not forgive. Christ has given His Church and His apostles the explicit authority over this Sacrament in matters of discernment.

The authority to absolve sins is not granted to all the faithful, but exclusively to those who have received the Sacrament of the Holy Orders, that they may act not as themselves, but in the person of Christ. Thus the issue here is not so much in the necessity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but in that of the authority of the Holy Orders - also lost in the reform.

All of this may be overwhelming, so let us step back for a minute and focus on your specific case: why is Holy Church not allowing you to receive the Sacrament? Is it because She is acting against God's will? Is it because you do not deserve to be absolved? Of course not. You are a catechumen in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, the fullness of which is only found in the Catholic Church. The issue revolves around the Sacrament of Baptism: has your Baptism been recognized by the Church as valid? That is, will you also be baptized, or will you receive only Confirmation and First Communion?

Perhaps you want to clarify this matter and then talk to the priest again. If Holy Church acknowledges your Baptism, then perhaps you will be allowed to confess. Otherwise, by virtue of obedience you will have to wait some time. If this bothers you, please ask the priest for some spiritual direction on this matter - that he can give you already. My only advice is this: do not begin your path into the Church in a rebellious way, but live with a penitent heart under the virtue of obedience, and slowly you will learn to love the Church that the world hates so much.


#17

thanks again for your reply!


#18

number2wilkins, I didn't find this to be true in my case - I was told I would not be allowed to go to my first confession until the RCIA group had prepared for it - but it would be worth asking your own priest.

R_C, thanks for your posts to number2wilkins, I've found them useful too :)


#19

Hi there,

God hears you when you pray no matter where you are in your life. It doesn't matter if you are the worst sinner or the best saint! God does not "give up" on you no matter what you have done: mortal sin or not. Think of the parable of the prodigal son! God is interested in your future, not your past.

The best remedy for serious sin IS prayer. As for Reconciliation, your father's misconception is a common one. The idea of Confession isn't to go, blab your sin, do the same things again, then get washed clean again the following week and repeat the process with no intention of changing. Nope. The idea is to change your habits little by little, or in great strides, depending on what you are capable of and where you are at at the time. God grants the grace in Confession to wipe clean all of your past sins and transgressions and to give you a fresh start. The truth of the matter is that most of us will sin again, so will need Confession again..even the Pope confesses once a week. The idea is to take a long, hard look at your life and reflect, and to work for change following Confession, through repentence, prayer, and amending your life however necessary.

Most people in RCIA, coming back to church (that was me two years ago) have done a lot of things that going to church shines a spotlight on. Getting trapped in a cycle of shame and guilt won't help you. Working to amend your life and thanking God for the graces He gave you to get you where you are now is more productive.

God Bless,


#20

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