If you love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15
Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. Matt.22:36-40
All of the Commandments and those other things that fall under them, either go against God directly, or they harm our neighbor or society as a whole in some way or another.
MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN
MORTAL SIN is a grievous offense against the law of God. These sins are called mortal because they cause death to the life of grace in the soul. Mortal sin is a complete disregard of God’s law, so therefore, it involves hatred of God. As long as mortal sins are a part of someone’s life, then there can be no relationship with God, no love of God. So, the starting point is the resolve never to commit a mortal sin, no matter what.
A person does not commit a mortal sin accidentally, or half-aware. For something to be a mortal sin there must be: Full awareness of the gravity of the matter (you have know that it is a mortal sin), sufficient reflection (you’ve thought it out), and full consent of the will (you didn’t start to consent, and then stop). If any of these are missing, then it is either no sin (if you had no idea that it was wrong all) or it’s a venial sin. Of course, if you don’t know because you didn’t want to know, then that’s not an excuse. That’s called culpable ignorance.
VENIAL SIN is a lesser offense against the law of God. These do not take away the life of grace in the soul, as they are not a complete disregard of God’s law, but a certain degree of disrespect for it. We must try to avoid venial sin as well. Venial sin weakens the will so that we may more easily commit a mortal sin. They also lessen the life of grace in our souls.
SINS OF THOUGHT
Any deed that is a sin, has a corresponding thought that is also a sin. And some sins, such as despair, on always sins of thought. Now the fact that bad thoughts come in a person’s mind is not a sin. It is the giving in and indulging in these thoughts. As long as we are trying to turn our thoughts away, and do not want the bad thoughts, then it is only a temptation, and fighting off temptation makes us strong, and merits reward from God.
Ignorance is termed vincible if it can be dispelled by the use of “moral diligence”. The diligence requisite must be commensurate with the importance of the affair in hand, and with the capacity of the person, in a word such as a really sensible and prudent person would use under the circumstances. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the obligation mentioned above is to be interpreted strictly and exclusively as the duty incumbent on a man to do something, the precise object of which is the acquisition of the needed knowledge. In other words the mere fact that one is bound by some extrinsic title to do something the performance of which would have actually, though not necessarily, given the required information, is negligible. When ignorance is deliberately aimed at and fostered, it is said to be affected, not because it is pretended, but rather because it is sought for by the agent so that he may not have to relinquish his purpose. Ignorance which practically no effort is made to dispel is termed crass or supine.
Vincible ignorance, being in some way voluntary, does not permit a man to escape responsibility for the moral deformity of his deeds; he is held to be guilty and in general the more guilty in proportion as his ignorance is more voluntary. Hence, the essential thing to remember is that the guilt of an act performed or omitted in vincible ignorance is not to be measured by the intrinsic malice of the thing done or omitted so much as by the degree of negligence discernible in the act.
It must not be forgotten that, although vincible ignorance leaves the culpability of a person intact, still it does make the act less voluntary than if it were done with full knowledge. This holds good except perhaps with regard to the sort of ignorance termed affected.
BEING ACCESSORY TO ANOTHER’S SINS
If something is a sin, it is also a sin to be accessory to it. Ways of being accessory to another’s sins: By talking one into sin, by commanding or telling one to sin, by consenting or agreeing with the sin, by provoking another to sin, by praising or flattering a person for sin, by covering up the sin, by partaking or approving the sin; by assisting in it; by not speaking up against the sin; or by defense of the sin. . It is always a sin to desire that another do something that is a sin; however, there are situations where it is O.K. to do something that is somewhat of an accessory, depending on the situation. For example, A person works in a grocery. Most of what they sell is good, but they also sell some bad magazines. The cashier may ring up everything, including the magazines without sinning.
SCANDAL is doing anything that makes it harder for another to save his soul. Usually by giving a bad example.
AVOIDING THE OCCASION OF SIN – It is a sin to put ourselves in situations, without necessity, where we could easily fall into mortal sin.
RESTITUTION – Any sin that causes reparable damage to another must be repaired before it can be forgiven. For instance, theft cannot be forgiven until restitution is made. If a person’s reputation has been harmed by lying, then the truth has to be told etc.
THE SEVEN CAPITAL SINS
Also known as the Seven Deadly Sins, these are the source of all sins, since the excessive attachment to any temporal good may cause unrestrained and disordered ways of pursuing or enjoying it.
Pride – excessive love of our own excellence
Covetousness – the excessive desire for the things of earth
Anger- the desire for vengeance
Lust – excessive desire for sexual pleasure
Gluttony – excessive desire for food or drink
Envy – being unhappy at another person’s good
Sloth – lazines, it’s too much trouble to be good
The First Commandment
I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
Denying the existence of God (Atheism) (mortal)
Failing to seek the true Faith (mortal)
Heresy – Failure to believe what God has revealed (denying dogmas) (mortal)
Denying, or Doubting the an article of Faith (mortal)
Despair of God’s mercy – refusing to believe that God will forgive you (mortal)
Superstitious practices: fortune tellers, the occult, charms, interpreting dreams, horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, (mortal)
Going to false places of worship (mortal)
Reading books or listening to speakers that are contrary to the Faith. (mortal)
Neglecting religious instruction (mortal or venial depending on the degree of neglect)
Presumption – intentionally committing a sin with the expectation of being forgiven (mortal or venial depending on whether the sin in question was venial or mortal)
Refusing to defend God and the faith to others when they raise objections (mortal or venial depending on the situation)
Neglecting your daily prayers (usually venial, mortal if you never pray)
Praying carelessly, thoughtlessly (venial)
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Using God’s name or Jesus’ name in cursing etc. or in a light manner like OMG! (mortal)
Swearing by the name of God falsely (perjury), or carelessly or is slight matters (mortal)
Blasphemy – saying anything against God (mortal)
Talking disrespectfully or joking about God or things relating to God (the Church, saints, priests etc.) (mortal, or venial if it is only a slight matter, and is not directly about God)
All bad language falls under this commandment as well (mortal if God’s name is used, or if it is very explicit, otherwise venial)
Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath Day.
Failure to go to Mass on Sundays or Holy Days without serious reason (mortal)
Unnecessary physical work on Sunday. (Venial or Mortal according to how much or how hard)
Unnecessary buying or selling on Sunday (usually venial)
Failure to say prayers on Sunday. (venial)
Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother
Being disrespectful to parents or those in lawful authority (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
Disobeying parents (under-age children) or those in lawful authority (mortal or venial depending on the serousness of the matter)
Provoking those in authority to anger (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
Failure to obey just laws (mortal or venial depending on the seriousnes)
Failure to care for and support elderly parents or other family (mortal)
Failing to obey the laws of the Church (fasting etc.) (mortal, may be venial according to degree)
Parents failing in duties towards their children (mortal or venial depending on matter)
Thou shalt not kill.
Hatred (wishing serious harm or death to another, desiring their eternal damnation) (mortal)
Anger (mortal or venial depending on degree)
Recklessness r or neglect that might cause serious injury or death to another (mortal)
Neglecting your health or endangered your life (mortal or venial depending on degree of risk)
fighting – not in self defense or defense of another- (mortal or venial depending on if there is risk of serious injury )
Using more than the necessary force to defend oneself or others (mortal if there is unnecessary risk of serious injury)
Failing to protect others to the best of one’s ability and duty (mortal or venial depending on if there is risk of serious injury)
Seeking or desiring revenge, being glad at other’s misfortunes (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Holding a grudge (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Causing enmities between others (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Refused to speak to others (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Giving scandal or otherwise shown lack of care for someone’s soul (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
failing to forgive someone when they have asked. (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Provoked others to anger (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Getting drunk or otherwise intoxicated (mortal if there is complete loss of reason, venial it it is only impaired somewhat)
Being unkind, irritable, impatient (venial)
Having a attitude of contempt for others (venial)
Provoking language, insulting words, making fun of or belittling someone (venial)
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Adultery (sex between a married person and someone besides their spouse) (mortal)
Sodomy (homosexual acts) (mortal)
Fornication (sex between unmarried people) (mortal)
Seeking or indulging in sexual pleasure outside of marriage (mortal if there is full consent)
Anything likely to excite the sexual passions in oneself or others: indecent dressing, impure kissing, dancing, talk, touching, looking at impure pictures, or people who are indecently or seductively dressed, dances, t.v., jokes etc. Indulging in impure thoughts (mortal)
artificial birth control (mortal)
sex change (transvestisites) (mortal)
1 Timothy 2:9-10
“In like manner women also in decent apparel: adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with plaited hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire, But as it becometh women professing godliness, with good works.”
Dying hair is offensive to God:
“O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus?”
“But when thou art spoiled what wilt thou do? though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, and paintest thy eyes with stibic stone, thou shalt dress thyself out in vain: thy lovers have despised thee, they will seek thy life.”
“A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” (Deut 22:5).
“Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel:” – 1 St. Peter 3:3
Pope Pius XII: “The purity of souls living the supernatural life of grace is not preserved and will never be preserved without combat.” Many women and girls stubbornly persist in “following certain shameless styles like so many sheep.” “They would certainly blush if they could guess the impression they make and the feeling they evoke in those who see them.”
A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God. Deuteronomy -22:5
Saint John Chrysostom instructed women of all times about dress when in the fourth century he declared:
“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”
“Luxurious clothing that cannot conceal the shape of the body is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily. Clinging to the body as though it were the flesh, it receives its shape and outlines the woman’s figure. As a result, the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, although they cannot see the body itself.” Saint Clement of Alexandria
Standards of Modesty in Dress – Imprimatur dated Sept. 24, 1956
“A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”
The Cardinal Vicar of Pius XI
“The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up. O Christian mothers, if you knew what a future of anxieties and perils, of ill-guarded shame you prepare for your sons and daughters, imprudently getting them accustomed to live scantily dressed and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the harm you are making of yourselves, the harm which you are causing these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians.” – Pius XII to Catholic Young Women’s Groups of Italy
Thou shalt not steal.
Stealing (mortal or venial depending on amount stolen and who from)
Fraud, any kind of dishonest dealing, cheating, over charging, lying about quality etc. (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Damaging the property of others (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Bribery (usually mortal)
Employers defrauding laborers of a fair wage (mortal)
Employees who waste time during working hours, perform careless work or neglect to take reasonable care of the property of their employers (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Not returning what something borrowed; (mortal or venial depending on value of thing borrowed and who from)
not paying one’s bills; (mortal or venial depending on amount)
depriving one’s family of necessities by gambling, drinking or foolish spending. (mortal)
Knowingly buying or keeping stolen goods (mortal or venial depending on value of thing stolen)
Accumulating excessive debt knowing you may not be able to repay it (mortal)
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
All lying, deceit, dishonesty (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Calumny – telling lies about a person (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Detraction – telling others about someone’s faults without a good reason, harming their reputation (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
rash judgment – judging someone without sufficient evidence (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of matter)
Failing to defend someone’s reputation (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Breaking promises (mortal or venial depending on seriousness of the matter)
Unjust criticism, Gossip, backbiting, (venial)
Flattery, bragging, hypocrisy (venial)
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
Besides what it says, this commandment also forbids the same things as the sixth Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
Being covetous of others’ possessions – wanting what belongs to another (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
Avarice (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
Envying others because of their possession (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
Being greedy (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
Failing to live simply and instead giving in to materialism (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
Failing to rejoice in another’s success (mortal or venial depending on the degree)
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your moderation be known to all men.” – Phillipians 4:4-5
What is scrupulosity? In psychological terminology, it is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D.) directed toward religious matters.
“SCRUPULOSITY- (Latin Scrupulus, “a small sharp, or pointed, stone”, hence, in a transferred sense, “uneasiness of mind”)
An unfounded apprehension and consequently unwarranted fear that something is a sin which, as a matter of fact, is not. It is not considered here so much as an isolated act, but rather as an habitual state of mind known to directors of souls as a “scrupulous conscience.” St. Alphonsus describes it as a condition in which one influenced by trifling reasons, and without any solid foundation, is often afraid that sin lies where it really does not. This anxiety may be entertained not only with regard to what is to be done presently, but also with regard to what has been done. The idea sometimes obtaining, that scrupulosity is in itself a spiritual benefit of some sort, is, of course, a great error. The providence of God permits it and can gather good from it as from other forms of evil. That apart, however, it is a bad habit doing harm, sometimes grievously, to body and soul. Indeed, persisted in with the obstinacy characteristic of persons who suffer from this malady, it may entail the most lamentable consequences. The judgment is seriously warped, the moral power tired out in futile combat, and then not unfrequently the scrupulous person makes shipwreck of salvation either on the Scylla of despair or the Charybdis of unheeding indulgence in vice.” – The Catholic Encyclopedia
St. Ignatius of Loyola points out that in their spiritual and moral lives, people tend toward being lax in their faith or being scrupulous, that we have a natural inclination in one way or the other.
The devil’s tactic, then, is to tempt the person further into laxity or scrupulosity, according to their inclination. The lax person becomes more lax, allowing themselves too much lassitude, whereas the scrupulous person becomes more and more enslaved to his doubts and perfectionism. Therefore, the pastoral response to each of these scenarios needs to be different. The lax person needs to practice discipline in order to remember to trust God more. The scrupulous person needs to practice moderation in order to let go and trust God more. St. Ignatius says:
“A soul that wishes to make progress in the spiritual life must always act in a manner contrary to that of the enemy. If the enemy seeks to make the conscience lax, one must endeavor to make it more sensitive. If the enemy strives to make the conscience delicate with a view to leading it to excess, the soul must endeavor to establish itself firmly in a moderate course so that in all things it may preserve itself in peace.” (No. 350)
Scrupulous people hold themselves to such high standards and often think that they need more discipline, more rules, more time for prayer, more Confession, in order to find the peace that God promises. This is not only the wrong approach, St. Ignatius says, but a dangerous trap laid by the devil to keep the soul enslaved. Practicing moderation in religious practice and leniency in making decisions—not sweating the small stuff—is the road to sanctity for the scrupulous person:
“If a devout soul wishes to do something that is not contrary to the spirit of the Church or the mind of superiors and that may be for the glory of God our Lord, there may come a thought or temptation from without not to say or do it. Apparent reasons may be adduced for this, such as that it is motivated by vainglory or some other imperfect intention, etc. In such cases one should raise his mind to his Creator and Lord, and if he sees that what he is about to do is in keeping with God’s service, or at least not opposed to it, he should act directly against the temptation.” (No. 351)
Scrupulous people are encouraged to do the very thing that is causing our scruples! Again, so long as it’s not explicitly condemned. Not only is this practice the recommendation of St. Ignatius and other saints, but it is also consistent with the practices of modern behavioral therapy for treating persons with OCD.
Practicing moderation is hard because it feels like being lukewarm. If there’s one thing deeply repugnant and frightening to the scrupulous person, it’s being lukewarm in the practice of faith. It may even cause him or her to doubt the orthodoxy of even trusted spiritual directors.
The scrupulous person must resist these feelings and fears, St. Ignatius says. He must be humble and submit to others’ guidance to let up on himself. He must see his scruples as temptations.
The lax person may not understand this, but this is a cross for the scrupulous person. No matter how miserable we might be, it feels more comfortable us to remain stuck in our perfectionism than it is accept our limits and entrust our imperfections to God’s mercy. Practicing moderation means letting go of whatever deep-seated fears we have in order to trust in God’s abundant mercy. When Jesus tells the scrupulous person to, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me,” this is what he means.
How to Understand Moderation as a Virtue
One thing that might help the scrupulous person understand that practicing moderation leads to growth in virtue—real virtue—is to reimagine the relationship between scrupulosity, laxity, and the virtues of faith and right judgment.
St. Thomas Aquinas, teaches that virtue is the “mean” between the extremes of two opposite vices.
The scrupulous person is compelled to act as though being more religious is better (whether or not he can see his compulsions as unhealthy). Following the Apocalypse, he associates “hot” with being more religious versus “cold” with being less religious. Therefore, his idea of the “mean” gets tied up with his idea of “lukewarm.” For him, moderation isn’t virtue, but presumption, turning a blind eye to his own sin.
It’s important to realize that being “hot” isn’t the same as being scrupulous. “Hot” is being drawn in close to the all-consuming fire of God’s love. “Hot” is giving ourselves over entirely to God, living for Him and in Him.
“Scrupulosity is another obstacle to true devotion because of the uneasiness which it causes. Scrupulous persons are forever tormenting themselves and trying to decide whether they consented to evil or not, whether they prayed or not, or whether they made a good confession or not. If, as we read in the Canticle, the bed of the Bridegroom is a bed of flowers, how shall He recline in a heart that is filled with the thorns of scruples and the nettles of anxiety, and doubts? But since it is not enough to tell people to rid themselves of scrupulosity without showing them how to do it, we shall discuss the origin of scruples and their cure.
God sometimes permits this afflictions, as He permits sickness and traials, as a purgation from sin or as source of greater merit. If this be the origin in a given case, the only consolation and counsel are those which are offered for any other kind of cross or affliction that comes from God.
At other times scrupulosity is the result of a melancholy temperament, which afflicts the imagination and arouses the passions of sorrow or fear, with the result that the person experiences much uneasiness of conscience, when this is the cause of scrupulosity, the soul has greater need of a doctor, says St. Jerome, than of a spiritual director.
Again, scrupulosity is sometimes born of self-love or the inability to distinguish between temptation and consent, with the result that the one is mistaken for the other and the person thinks himself guilty of sin. When a man loves himself inordinately he is unreasonable afraid of danger and this fear, together with the ignorance to which we have referred, causes him to be afraid without cause. Scrupulosity may also be the work of the devil, for if he cannot destroy the soul’s fear of ‘God, he will try to pervert this holy fear so that the soul is afraid not only of true dangers, as is reasonable, but of those which are only apparent.
Lastly, scrupulosity may result from the soul’s misunderstanding of ‘God’s goodnesss and His great desire for our salvation, scrupulous persons undersestimate the goodness of God. They look upon God as a severe judge, looking for small points in the law so that He can punish the guilty. They do not appreciate how much God desires the salvation of men, nor do they understand that what God asks of us is a resolute heart in the performance of good and the avoidance of evil at any cost. The Christian who is conscious of this and, through the mercy of God, possesses these qualities, will seldom be afflicted with scrupulosity.” – Ven. Louis of Granada
“A soul that wishes to make progress in the spiritual life must always act in a manner contrary to that of the enemy. If the enemy seeks to make the conscience lax, one must endeavor to make it more sensitive. If the enemy strives to make the conscience delicate with a view to leading it to excess, the soul must endeavor to establish itself firmly in a moderate course so that in all things it may preserve itself in peace.” – St. Ignatius Loyola
“If a devout soul wishes to do something that is not contrary to the spirit of the Church or the mind of superiors and that may be for the glory of God our Lord, there may come a thought or temptation from without not to say or do it. Apparent reasons may be adduced for this, such as that it is motivated by vainglory or some other imperfect intention, etc. In such cases one should raise his mind to his Creator and Lord, and if he sees that what he is about to do is in keeping with God’s service, or at least not opposed to it, he should act directly against the temptation.” – St. Ignatius Loyola
“[Compulsions] Scruples are not grounded on true reasons…. Consequently, to act in despite of them…is not to act against reason but against a fantastic shadow; hence it cannot be said that such an action is unreasonable, and therefore it cannot possibly be sinful. Nay, more, it is necessary to act in this manner, else we could never get rid of these foolish fears and groundless anxieties…. When a man first goes to sea, he is afraid of the violence of the waves, he fears the rocks and dreads the storms; on his next voyage he is less afraid; and if he continues to go to sea, he loses all fear, as, by acting against his alarms, he has conquered and overcome them…. So, too, the scrupulous man, if he act in contempt of his fears and whimsical notions, rises above them and at length conquers them, and by this means gets rid of the toils wherein his scruples, with their countless nonsensical fancies, had entangled him. But if, withheld by empty fears, he abstain from acting, they will begin to master him, to make him a very slave, and to leave him no longer the least liberty of following the dictates of right reason…
[Obsessions] Other temptations there are which are not dangerous, as they are abhorrent…. Such are temptations to blasphemy, certain abominable thoughts and words against God, the saints, and holy images…. Now, with such temptations it is by no means prudent or wise to struggle or to enter on a hand-to-hand fight, saying “I will not consent; I detest, I abhor them”: both because, on account of there being no danger of yielding them consent, there is no need to offer resistance and because, by resisting, the person subjects himself to a slavery, by conceiving such an intense abhorrence of them, as most frequently only stirs them to activity and imprints them more deeply on the fancy….Not a few persons are timorous, and of so delicate a conscience, that they feel great abhorrence of all impurity, and of every action in which a grievous sin may lurk. When an image or a feeling contrary to purity presents itself to such as these, they fall into great fear and feel intense pain; they arm themselves against such thoughts…. And what is the result? The more these thoughts are driven away the more they return to the mind…. [A]s I have already observed, nothing is so apt to awaken such thoughts, or to fix them in the mind, as excessive fear. The reason of which is obvious. Fear excites the fancy and impresses it with the dreaded object.” – Fr. Giovanni Battista Scaramelli, 1687-1752
“… St. Antoninus agrees with Gerson in thus reproving the scrupulous soul who, through a vain fear, is not obedient in overcoming his scruples: ‘Beware lest, from overmuch desire to walk securely, thou fall and destroy thyself.’”- Fr. Giovanni Battista Scaramelli, 1687-1752
St. Therese on Scrupulosity.
In a letter to her cousin Marie Guerin, St. Thérèse then aged only 15 years advised her about the necessity of frequent Communion. Her cousin had confided in her that because of scruples and her conviction that she had greatly sinned, she would refrain from Holy Communion.
Pope Pius X after reading this letter declared it “most opportune”
The letter is dated 1888:
“Before you confided in me, I felt you were suffering, and my heart was one with yours. Since you have the humility to ask advice of your little Thérèse, this is what she thinks: you have grieved me greatly by abstaining from Holy Communion, because you have grieved Our Lord. The devil must be very cunning to deceive a soul in this way. Do you not know, dear Marie, that by acting thus you help him to accomplish his end? The treacherous creature knows quite well that when a soul is striving to belong wholly to God he cannot cause her to sin, so he merely tries to persuade her that she has sinned. This is a considerable gain, but not enough to satisfy his hatred, so he aims at something more and tries to shut out Jesus from a tabernacle which Jesus covets. Unable to enter this sanctuary himself, he wishes that at least it remain empty and without its God. Alas, what will become of that poor little heart? When the devil has succeeded in keeping a soul from Holy Communion he has gained all his ends . . . while Jesus weeps! . . .Remember, little Marie, that this sweet Jesus is there in the Tabernacle expressly for you and you alone. Remember that He burns with the desire to enter your heart. Do not listen to Satan. Laugh him to scorn, and go without fear to receive Jesus, the God of peace and of love. “Thérèse thinks all this”—you say—”because she does not know my difficulties.” She does know, and knows them well; she understands everything, and she tells you confidently that you can go without fear to receive your only true Friend. She, too, has passed through the martyrdom of scruples, but Jesus gave her the grace to receive the Blessed Sacrament always, even when she imagined she had committed great sins. I assure you I have found that this is the only means of ridding oneself of the devil. When he sees that he is losing his time he leaves us in peace. In truth it is impossible that a heart which can only find rest in contemplation of the Tabernacle—and yours is such, you tell me—could so far offend Our Lord as not to be able to receive Him . . . What does offend Jesus, what wounds Him to the Heart, is want of confidence. Pray much that the best portion of your life may not be overshadowed by idle fears. We have only life’s brief moments to spend for the Glory of God, and well does Satan know it. This is why he employs every ruse to make us consume them in useless labour. Dear sister, go often to Holy Communion, go very often—that is your one remedy.”
“St. Philip Neri suggests that the best remedy for scruples is to treat them with contempt. In his life it is recorded that as well as advising the accepted remedy of total submission in everything to the judgment of one’s confessor, he also advised his penitents to treat scruples with disdain and contempt. His practice with scrupulous persons was to forbid them to confess frequently. And when they did confess to him and mentioned their scruples he ordered them to go to Holy Communion without listening further to their scruples.”
“Keep your hearts well under control, beware of over-anxiety. Place your confidence in the providence of our Lord. Be fully convinced that heaven and earth shall pass away rather than that our Lord shall fail to protect you while you are his obedient daughter, or, at least, desirous to obey Him.”
As St. Francis de Sales says: “Do not be disturbed about bad thoughts; it is one thing to have them and quite another to consent to them.”
“It is not those who commit the least faults who are most holy, but those who have the greatest courage, the greatest generosity, the greatest love, who make the boldest efforts to overcome themselves, and are not immoderately apprehensive of tripping.”
– St. Francis de Sales
Rigorism is the moral system according to which, in every doubt of conscience as to the morality of a particular course of conduct, the opinion for law must be followed. In other words, one may act for liberty only when the arguments for this course are certain. The view was defended in the 17th century by the Jansenists, particularly by John sinnich, an Irishman who taught at Louvain, in his book Saulus ex-Rex. The system eliminates the use of reflex principles and hence cannot be called a moral system in the present-day sense. Rigorism exaggerated the adage: “In a doubt the safer side is to be followed.” This is correctly applied only to a practical doubt, not to a speculative doubt that can be resolved into practical certainty for liberty by the prudent use of reflex principles. Rigorism was condemned in 1690 by Alexander VIII, who listed among Jansenistic teachings the doctrine of Sinnich: “It is not lawful to follow a probable opinion, even if it is most probable among probable opinions” (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer [32d ed. Freiburg 1963] 2303).