by Thomas A. Droleskey
Each of us is a sinner. Not one of us has been preserved from the stain of Original Sin before our Baptism and the vestigial aftereffects thereof, namely, the darkened intellect and the weakened will. Each of us has committed Actual Sins. Many of us, most sadly, have committed Mortal Sins. We spend our entire lives on the face of this earth with our fellow sinners. It is thus the case, ladies and gentlemen, that sinners must deal with sinners every day of their lives until they die. Each of us must seek to root out the weeds of sin from our lives by cooperating with the graces won for us by the shedding of the Most Precious Blood of Our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that flow into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces. We must keep it uppermost in our minds that none of us is any better than anyone else and that it is more than possible for a person scaling the heights of sanctity to suffer an unexpected fall into Mortal Sin.
The fact that we are sinners, however, does not mean that we are incapable of performing the Spiritual Works of Mercy for our fellow sinners. That is, there will be times in our lives when we will be required to offer a word of correction or reproof to someone who is steeped unrepentantly in a life of repeated Mortal Sins. The mere fact that we are sinners ourselves who are in need of making much reparation for our past and present sins does not mean that we are disqualified from attempting to exhort others to quit their lives of sin and to get themselves into the Sacred Tribunal of Penance to make a good and integral Confession of their sins so as to be "born again," if you will, into a life of Sanctifying Grace, which is the prerequisite for receiving Holy Communion worthily and for saving one's very soul at the hour of his death.
This is important to bear in mind when those whom God's Providence places in our lives, including our own relatives and friends, attempt to stop us dead in our tracks if we are remonstrating with them about their own persistence in some particular sin or sins. Many Catholics find themselves quite flustered when their own sinfulness is used against them as they attempt to convince others to become Catholic or to return to the Faith by means of the Confessional. Such a childish tactic should not be foreign to us, however: many children use the faults of their own parents against them in order to exculpate themselves from obeying their parents' commands. Let me explain.
My own father, who was born on October 10, 1919, and died on September 5, 1992, used the faults of his very mean-tempered mother, who was a major figure in the Rosary Confraternity at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Queens Village, New York, as one of the excuses he was looking for to quit the practice of the Faith when he was veterinary college at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in the late-1930s. My father did not realize then--and he probably did not realize even after he returned to the Faith upon marrying his second wife nine months after my mother's death in 1982--that the bad example of someone does not mean that the good Catholic advice they offer is invalid. My father also used the excuse that the Jesuit fathers at Brooklyn Preparatory School in the 1930s told the boys in attendance there not to drink even though they had "the hooch" to the residence hall every day. The good fathers lost credibility in my father's eyes because he did not want to make proper distinctions and wanted the "freedom" that came from living outside of the true Church. (I credit the prayers of my late great-grandfather, John Jacob Droleski--yes, the name was spelled that way at one point, a Polish emigre to the United States of America in 1871, for helping me to take my catechism lessons at Saint Aloysius Church seriously. John Jacob Droleski walked four miles to Mass--and back again--every day of his life until two weeks before he died at the age of ninety-seven in 1949.)
Similarly, there are many people in our our day who have quit the practice of the Faith following some unpleasant or, tragically, morally aberrant experience that they may have had with a member of the clergy or one in the consecrated religious life. How many "My nun was mean" stories have you heard uttered by people to explain why they are now going to places such as "Pastor Jim-Bob's Salem Oasis of Salvation and Eternal Glory Church?" It is one of the oldest tricks of the devil to convince us that we are excused from following the true Faith and living in accord with the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and the natural law because those we disparage as "holier than thou" actually have feet of clay like the rest of us. None of us should fall for this trick at any time.
There is a world of difference between the case of one who is truly sorry for all of his sins, despising each and every one of them for how they caused Our Lord to suffer in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death and for how they caused His Most Blessed Mother's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart to be thrust through and through with Seven Swords of Sorrow, and is trying to cooperate with Sanctifying Grace to do penance for his sins and to scale the heights of sanctity and the case of one who wants to persist in sin unrepentantly. As sin is a rebellion of the creature against his Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier, one is rendered into a state of anger by unrepentant sinner. The adversary, who hates God and thus hates us because our immortal souls are made unto the very image and likeness of God, wants to use this anger to good advantage in order to intimidate anyone who might encourage those in his grip, whether temporarily or on a more chronic basis, to reform his life by turning or returning to the Catholic Faith and giving up their lives of sin.
Saint Mary Magdalene sinned much. Saul of Tarsus, soon to become the great Apostle to the Gentiles, Saint Paul, presided over the stoning of Saint Stephen. Saint Camillus de Lellis literally gambled away the shirt on his back once before he returned to the Faith. Great sinners can become great saints. People can reform their lives. It is the conversion stories of reformed and reforming sinners that inspire lukewarm souls to grow in fervor and inspire those steeped in unrepentant sins to seek out God's ineffable Mercy in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance and to consecrate themselves to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The old saw, "It takes one to know one," applies very much to the case of our life here in this vale of tears as members of the Church Militant on earth.
Although everyone on the face of the earth is a sinner, those of us who have been given the completely gratuitous, unmerited gift of the Holy Catholic Faith must understand that we do have an obligation to pray and to work for the salvation of others. Authentic Charity for others is an act of the will, the ultimate expression of which is the salvation of the souls of others. Indeed, we love no one authentically, including ourselves, if we do, think or say anything, whether by omission or commission, that interferes with the salvation of his immortal soul. We thus have a very solemn obligation to perform the Spiritual Works of Mercy for those whom God's Providence places in our paths while we are alive here as members of the Church Militant on earth.
Once again, the Spiritual Works of Mercy are:
- To instruct the ignorant.
- To counsel the doubtful.
- To admonish sinners.
- To bear wrongs patiently;
- To forgive offences willingly;
- To comfort the afflicted;
- To pray for the living and the dead.
Each of us has venial faults and failings. These belong between a penitent and his confessor. Some of us may have lifelong struggles against this or that venial fault. We must bear with each other's faults with patience, understanding that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ bears most patiently with us, the souls for whom He shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross. This is what Our Lord meant when He told us to take the beam out of our own eyes before we remove the speck from our brother's eyes.
Mortal Sin, however, is a different case. It is when people we know are persisting in Mortal Sin unrepentantly, worse yet celebrating it publicly and claiming that they have a "right" to live according to their sinful desires, that we have an obligation to approach them, doing so after fervent prayer and perhaps even after speaking to a true bishop or a true priest about the approach we should take in a particular circumstance, making sure to carry with us a blessed Rosary, a Green Scapular and a blessed Miraculous Medal. A failure to speak when required to do so could make us an accessory to the sin of others if only by silence.
We must, therefore, never see to it that we are accessories to the sins of other by one or more of the following nine ways by which we can be such accessories:
- 1. By counsel.
- 2. By command.
- 3. By consent.
- 4. By provocation.
- 5. By praise or flattery of the evil done.
- 6. By silence.
- 7. By connivance.
- 8. By partaking.
- 9. By defense of the ill done.
There are different approaches that are to be taken with different people at different times, which is why it might be necessary to seek out solid pastoral guidance before speaking to someone steeped in unrepentant Mortal Sin. A pastor of souls, for example, may have to preach with the thunder and the force of Saint Vincent Ferrer against sin and apostasy to instill the genuine Fear of the Lord in the souls of his listeners, ensuring that those listening to him understand the gravity of sin and how God hates it and much it hurts their immortal souls and might wind up estranging themselves from God for all eternity at the moment of their Particular Judgments. A pastor of souls who preaches with force against sin will also explain that the Mercy of the Divine Redeemer Himself awaits erring souls in the Sacred Tribunal of Penance, where the very same pastor of souls, who is a sinner himself in need of having his sins absolved in the Confessional by some other priest, is ready to serve as the dispenser of the merits of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. Our Lord Himself has so arranged things that He has chosen sinners to be the instruments of Absolving other sinners:
He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20: 21-23.)
To exhort others to quit their lives of unrepentant sin is not to assert that we are sinless. A sinner, indeed, a terrible sinner who is ashamed of his sins, writes these words. It is to attempt to make some small degree of reparation for these terrible sins to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary that exhortations are made to denounce the public promotion and celebration of sin by those who are persisting in it unrepentantly. Our Lord desires us to help effect the conversion of our fellow sinners, as He explained in the Book of Ezechiel:
And if the watchman see the sword coming, and sound not the trumpet: and the people look not to themselves, and the sword come, and cut off a soul from among them: he indeed is taken away in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at the hand of the watchman. So thou, O son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and shalt tell it them from me. When I say to the wicked: O wicked man, thou shalt surely die: if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked man from his way: that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand. But if thou tell the wicked man, that he may be converted from his ways, and he be not converted from his way: he shall die in his iniquity: but thou hast delivered thy soul. Thou therefore, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: Thus you have spoken, saying: Our iniquities, and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them: how then can we live?
Say to them: As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways: and why will you die, O house of Israel? Thou therefore, O son of man, say to the children of thy people: The justice of the just shall not deliver him, in what day soever he shall sin: and the wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him, in what day soever he shall turn from his wickedness: and the just shall not be able to live in his justice, in what day soever he shall sin. Yea, if I shall say to the just that he shall surely live, and he, trusting in his justice, commit iniquity: all his justices shall be forgotten, and in his iniquity, which he hath committed, in the same shall he die. And if I shall say to the wicked: Thou shalt surely die: and he do penance for his sin, and do judgment and justice, And if that wicked man restore the pledge, and render what he had robbed, and walk in the commandments of life, and do no unjust thing: he shall surely live, and shall not die.
None of his sins, which he hath committed, shall be imputed to him: he hath done judgment and justice, he shall surely live. (Ezechiel 33: 6-16.)
Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes: cease to do perversely, Learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow. And then come, and accuse me, saith the Lord: if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. If you be willing, and will hearken to me, you shall eat the good things of the land. But if you will not, and will provoke me to wrath: the sword shall devour you because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaias 1: 16-20.)
I do not want to go to Hell for all eternity, although I recognize that my sins could very well place me there, which is why I must beg God for His Mercy every day of my life and seek to live more penitentially as I implore His Most Blessed Mother in each Ave Maria to pray for me "nunc et in hora mortis nostrae." Our Lady told Jacinta and Francisco Marto and Lucia dos Santos that her Divine Son wanted her to institute devotion to her Immaculate Heart to save sinners from Hell. We must pray many Rosaries to help save poor sinners, starting with ourselves, from Hell. Saint Paul really meant it when he wrote the following in his Epistle to the Hebrews:
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10: 31)
It is no act of condemnation or judgmentalness to warn others about how their lives of unrepentant Mortal Sin offend God and wound their own immortal souls, thereby disordering the world in which we live. God does not "accept us as we are" when we are in states of Mortal Sin. God wants us to reform our lives, which is why He has sent His Most Blessed Mother to us at Fatima. He is extending His Mercy to us through the Immaculate Heart of Mary and her Most Holy Rosary. We must pray for the conversion of sins as we work to denounce the public promotion and celebration sins, especially those that cry out to Heaven for vengeance (willful murder, the sin of Sodom, withholding the wages of the day laborer, defrauding widows). And we must never be intimidated by those who do not understand the horror of what each of our sins, including our "least" Venial Sin, caused Our Lord and His Most Blessed Mother to suffer during the events of the Paschal Triduum.
No matter what names we are called and what degree of suffering we must endure for defending the truths of the Faith in the midst of the public promotion and celebration of sinful behavior, whether such vice is perverse or natural, we must beseech Our Lady to help us to reform our own lives on a daily basis as we live out in Fatima Message in our own homes, which we should seek to have enthroned to her Divine Son's Most Sacred Heart and her own Immaculate Heart if they have not been so enthroned already. It looks good on our "resume" when we help our fellow sinners to reform. It does not look good on our "resume" when we turn aside from opportunities to help others, even if only by giving them a Green Scapular and resolving to pray "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death" for that person for the rest of our lives, who are steeped in lives of unrepentant Mortal Sin.
Our devotion to Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary will help us to become so conformed to the pattern of the Holy Cross of her Divine Son that our efforts to help others leave lives of sin will be truly Christ-like, full of His authentic compassion, which understands the weakness of fallen human nature while never reaffirming the sinner in his sins, for our fellow erring sinners, and at the same time full of uncompromising zeal to help the sinner into the Confessional (or to Baptismal font) as soon as possible.
Each of us must strive for spiritual perfection, never being content for a single moment with sloth. Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary will help us to avoid the sloth that leads us to be timid when faced with an opportunity to help our fellow sinners to reform their lives. Saint Louis de Montfort put it this way in The Secret of the Rosary:
The chief concern of the Christian should be to tend to perfection. "Be faithful imitators of God, as his well-beloved children," the great Apostle tells us. This obligation is included in the eternal decree of our predestination, as the one and only means prescribed by God to attain everlasting glory.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa makes a delightful comparison when he says that we are all artists and that our souls are blank canvasses which we have to fill in. The colors which we use are the Christian virtues, and the original which we have to copy is Jesus Christ, the perfect living image of God the Father. Just as a painter who wants to do a lifelike portrait places the model before his eyes and looks at it before making each stroke, so the Christian must always have before his eyes the life and virtues of Jesus Christ, so as never to say, think or do anything which is not in conformity with his model.
It was because Our Lady wanted to help us in the great task of working out our salvation that she ordered Saint Dominic to teach the faithful to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ. She did this, not only that they might adore and glorify him, but chiefly that they might pattern their lives and actions on his virtues.
Children copy their parents through watching them and talking to them, and they learn their own language through hearing them speak. An apprentice learns his trade through watching his master at work; in the same way the faithful members of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary can become like their divine Master if they reverently study and imitate the virtues of Jesus which are shown in the fifteen mysteries of his life. They can do this with the help of his grace and through the intercession of his blessed Mother.
Long ago, Moses was inspired by God to command the Jewish people never to forget the graces which had been showered upon them. The Son of God has all the more reason to command us to engrave the mysteries of his life, passion and glory upon our hearts and to have them always before our eyes, since each mystery reminds us of his goodness to us in some special way and it is by these mysteries that he has shown us his overwhelming love and desire for our salvation. "Oh, all you who pass by, pause a while," he says, "and see if there has ever been any sorrow like to the sorrow I have endured for you. Be mindful of my poverty and humiliations; think of the gall and wormwood I took for you in my bitter passion.
These words and many others which could be given here should be more than enough to convince us that we must not only say the Rosary with our lips in honor of Jesus and Mary, but also meditate upon the sacred mysteries while we are saying it.
God has so arranged it that sinners must deal with their fellow sinners to help them get home to Heaven. With a firm reliance upon the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary and of her Most Chaste Spouse, Good Saint Joseph, the Protector of the Faithful and the Patron of the Universal Church, may we never use the bad example of others to quit the practice of the Faith and may we never shrink from the opportunities that present themselves on a daily basis to help others get home to Heaven through the Catholic Church no matter how many times we are condemned by those whose unrepentant sins cause them to displace the anger they have within themselves and to aim that anger at us. May we never let human respect or sentimentality deter us from exercising the obligations imposed by the Spiritual Works of Mercy, understanding that we must work on a daily basis to reform our own lives and to live penitentially so as to make reparation for our own many sins.
Saint Saint John Leonard (also known as Saint John Leonardi) founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (C.C.D.) in 1571, yes, the same year as the Battle of Lepanto, to help form children in the ways of the Holy Faith. He relied upon the good offices of the Mother of God, to whom he was so tenderly devoted, to help him in this task. We must, as always, form ourselves and our children in the ways of the Holy Faith, which makes no concessions to sin or apostasy or error, so that all men on the face of this earth will live below in light of the eternal destiny that awaits them if they die in states of Sanctifying Grace, namely, the glories of the Beatific Vision of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in Heaven for all eternity.
Sanctity, not sin, is the path to Heaven. May our efforts to help our fellow sinners pursue sanctity and to despise sin always be given to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary so that the world in which we live will cry out cum una voce (with one voice):
Vivat Christus Rex! Vivat Maria Regina Immaculata!
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us now and the hour of our deaths. Amen.
All to you, Blessed Mother. All to your Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you. Save souls!