“Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines.”
(Song of Solomon 2:15)
‘My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin.’ (1 Jn. 2:1)
“He [the Lord] does not tell us to catch the lions or the bears, but the little foxes. Lions and bears strike terror, and therefore all are careful to keep at a distance through fear of being devoured by them; but the little foxes, though they do not excite dismay, destroy the vine by drying up its roots. Mortal sin terrifies the timorous soul; but, if she accustom herself to the commission of many venial sins with full deliberation, and without endeavouring to correct them, they, like the little foxes, shall destroy the roots that is, the remorse of conscience, the fear of offending God, and the holy desires of advancing in divine love; and thus, being in a state of tepidity, and impelled to sin by some passion, the soul will easily abandon God and lose the divine grace.
… Moreover, deliberate and habitual venial sins not only deprive us of strength to resist temptations, but also of the special helps without which we fall into grievous sins. Be attentive, brethren; for this is a point of great importance. It is certain, that of ourselves we have not sufficient strength to resist the temptations of the devil, of the flesh, and of the world. It is God that prevents our enemies from assailing us with temptations by which we would be conquered. Hence Jesus Christ has taught us the following prayer: “And lead us not into temptation.” He teaches us to pray that God may deliver us from the temptations to which we would yield, and thus lose his grace. Moreover, venial sins, when they are deliberate and habitual, deprive us of the special helps of God which are necessary for preservation in his grace. I say necessary, because the Council of Trent anathematizes those who assert that we can persevere in grace without a special help from God. “Si quis dixerit, justificatum vel sine speciali auxilio Dei in accepta justitia perseverare posse, vel cum eo non posse; anathema sit.” (Sess. 6, can. xxii.) Thus, with the ordinary assistance of God, we cannot avoid falling into some mortal sin: a special aid is necessary. But this special aid God will justly withhold from tepid souls who are regardless of committing, with full deliberation, many venial sins. Thus these unhappy souls shall not persevere in grace.”
– St. Alphonsus Liguori
A Revelation Regarding Habitual Venial Sin
“In this manner, sins are increased through habitual practice, and a venial sin that could have been pardoned through contrition becomes a serious one through a person’s negligence and scorn, as you can deduce from the case of this soul who has already been condemned.”
– Jesus to St. Bridget (Bk 3, Ch 19)
A Striking Example of the Danger of Venial Sin
“It is related in the Teresian Chronicles, that Sister Anne of the Incarnation once saw in Hell a person whom she had regarded as a Saint: on her countenance appeared a multitude of small animals, which represented the multitude of defects that she committed and disregarded during life. Of these some were heard to say, By us you began; others, By us you continued; others, By us you have brought yourself to Hell.”
– St. Alphonsus: (‘Dignity and Duties of the Priest,’ Ch 5 – The Injury Done to the Priest by Tepidity)
COMMENT: In other words, this Sister’s tepidity exposed her gradually to mortal sin.
To profit from these words – which I admit are quite disturbing – we must make some distinctions. This will help us avoid confusion and scruples.
+ We must distinguish between sin and imperfection.
“An imperfection is distinguished from these sins of frailty because it is only an act of lesser generosity in the service of God and of slighter esteem for the evangelical counsels. This is the case with a man who has five talents and sometimes acts as if he had only two; his act is still meritorious, but weak (remissus), and he is more or less clearly conscious of this inferiority. What is less good in itself must not be confused with what is essentially evil; what is less good for us here and now must not be confused with what would even now be evil for us. The lesser good is not an evil, as the lesser evil is not a good. Evidently we must avoid confusing good and evil.”
– Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange (‘The Three Ages of The Interior Life’)
+ We must distinguish between habitual sin and sins of weakness.
Habitual sins are generally – but not always – those sins that we refuse to give up, or that we make little effort in overcoming. (Sometimes it happens that we fall often because we do not make good use of the means for avoiding sin e.g. confident and persevering prayer; mediation; spiritual reading; the Sacraments; examination of conscience etc.).
To cling to sin is foolish and perverse. One cannot remain in the same state forever; either we will advance in the spiritual life, or we will go backwards.
Don’t be despondent. We all fall from time to time; none of us have been immaculately conceived. ‘For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again: but the wicked shall fall down into evil’ (Prov. 24:16). Even if we have the misfortune of committing many sins, we should not be discouraged. God loves us and His Sacred Heart is always open to us.
Just remember not to make your peace with deliberate sin.
“… you will commit faults, infidelities, and imperfections; and these will help you to advance, for they will cause you to make many acts of humility.”
– Jesus to Sr. Consolata (p. 41, ‘Jesus Appeals to the World,’ St. Paul’s)
“Do not give a thought to your involuntary imperfections!”
– Jesus to Sr. Consolata (p. 36, ‘Jesus Appeals to the World,’ St. Paul’s)
“Do not always keep looking back at yourself, and on what you have done; but look beyond those defects, and love always!”
– Jesus to Sr. Consolata (p. 85, ‘Jesus Appeals to the World,’ St. Paul’s)
+ We must recognise the great duty of Religious.
St. Thomas and many others say that a Religious must strive for perfection, under pain of mortal sin. Religious will be judged with greater exactness because they have been called to practice the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience) in all their glorious perfection.
The Final Judgement
“It is stated that God will not ask for what He has not given, but I shall ask of those souls what I did not give them, because they deprive themselves of it by their sloth, by their indifference; because they are unwilling to put themselves out and to mortify themselves. I shall ask of them all that I should have given them if they had willed it, I shall ask of them the souls that they would have saved with their own if they had done what I required of them.”
– Jesus to Mary Brotel (‘Divine Communications,’ p. 25, Vol. 2)
The Purgative Way
Before entering Heaven, all souls must be perfectly purified from sin and attachment to sin. This purification should take place on Earth; but there are few souls who are this generous with God, hence many go to Purgatory before entering Paradise.
“After conversion there ought to be a serious beginning of the purgative life, in which beginners love God by avoiding mortal sin and deliberate venial sin, through exterior and interior mortification and through prayer. But in actual fact this purgative life is found under two very different forms: in some, admittedly very few, this life is intense, generous; it is the narrow way of perfect self-denial described by the saints. In many others the purgative life appears in an attenuated form, varying from good souls who are a little weak down to those tepid and retarded souls who from time to time fall into mortal sin.”
– Rev. Garrigou–Lagrange, O.P. (‘The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life’)
The Remedy for Lukewarmness
“First, the tepid must sincerely desire to be delivered from a state which, as we have seen, is so miserable and dangerous; for, without this desire, they shall not take pains to employ the proper means.
Secondly, they must resolve to remove the occasions of their faults; otherwise they will always relapse into the same defects.
Thirdly, they must earnestly beg of the Lord to raise them from so wretched a state. By their own strength they can do nothing; but they can do all things with the assistance of God, who has promised to hear the prayers of all. “Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and you shall find.” (Luke xi. 9.) We must pray, and continue to pray without interruption. If we cease to pray we shall be defeated; but if we persevere in prayer we shall conquer.”
– St. Alphonsus Liguori
An Easy, Powerful Way to “Pray Without Interruption”
“The holy desire of the soul, that is to say, good-will, is a continual prayer, because it has the power of prayer. And, whatsoever man does for the love of God and of his neighbour, may be called prayer, since love is accounted as prayer.”
– Our Lord to St. Catherine of Siena
+ Also, we should make frequent use of ejaculations/aspirations e.g. “O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy loving mercy!”
If you persevere in repeating these little prayers often, you will become a Saint. You may fall, but you will rise quickly.
‘Many people who are entangled in the nets of sins obtain contrition before they die. And their contrition may be so perfect that not only are their sins forgiven but also the pain of Purgatory is remitted if they die in the same contrition.’
– Jesus to St. Bridget
Children of Mary saved:
“He who is devout to the Virgin Mother will certainly never be lost.”
– St. Irenaeus
Sinners saved through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy:
“… in order to honour the Incarnate Word, I in My mercy have decreed that any person whatsoever, be he just or sinner, who shall have recourse to Mary with love and respect, can never be the victim and the prey of the infernal serpent. Mary is like a sweet bait set by My mercy to attract men, especially sinners.”
– The Eternal Father to St. Catherine of Siena (‘Divine Communications,’ p. 102, Vol. 2)