Taylor Marshall’s ‘Infiltration’: A Review

Recognize and resist. In Dr. Marshall’s ‘Infiltration’ he presents as tentpoles the ‘Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita’, the testimony of former communist agent Bella Dodd, and the revelation of the Sankt Gallen Mafia. The book demonstrates, verifiably I might add, that it was the express goal of both the Freemasonic secret societies and the Communist Party to infiltrate and infect the Roman Catholic Church. In the proceeding chapters, Marshall then lays out the symptoms – also verifiable, as Marshall is generous in citing his sources – that the Church may have, in fact, been infiltrated according to the desired ends of the Free Masons and the Communists. He points to high-ranking clerics, including Cardinals, who have been discovered as documented members of the Freemasonic order, and others who espouse positions sympathetic to the pursuits of a Marxist utopia.

The Achilles’ heel of this book is that there is no formal proof throughout much of the work that the symptoms of infiltration, in the liturgy and elsewhere, were in fact due to the successful implementation of the ‘Permanent Instruction’ or the seminary scheme as corroborated by Dodd. What Marshall does, instead, is draw logical conclusions. He points out time and time again that much of what is going on in the Church, and at the highest levels of the hierarchy, would be the logical outcomes of infiltration. He makes a strong case, and it is for this reason that the weakness of his work is hardly a weakness at all. Recorded admissions of guilt might be what’s needed to verify some of Marshall’s conclusions – but those admissions we’ll certainly never get.

The themes of the book appear to converge on the work of the Sankt Gallen Mafia, the Vatileaks scandal, the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and the papal election of Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. In an almost poetic fashion, the supposed progression of this infiltration of the Church in recent history is shown to have prepared the soil for the state of the Church today; one wrought with confusion and infighting.

I never got the sense that Marshall was being dishonest or that he was concocting this piecemeal conspiracy theory to increase his own clout as a YouTube personality. In Infiltration, Taylor speaks plainly as a concerned Catholic layman. Even his prescription does not lend itself to sedevacantism or schism, but to prayer and penance. Infiltration is the type of book that you hope is not true, but if you’re honest with yourself, struggle to come up with a more compelling explanation for the state of the Church today.

It was during the fallout of the McCarrick scandal when I, as Marshall would say, “red pilled” to just how diseased the institution is. Even still, I strive to be a faithful son of the Church which is why I agree that we must recognize AND resist.

I’d rate his book 8.5/10.

But I Won’t Do That!

There’s a lyric to an old Meatloaf song that sings, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” This one line is often plucked from the larger context of the song to fit just about any commercial, film, or television situation where its meaning and application become practically universal. In the spirit of adopting a new meaning for the lyric, I want to share with you the reason that same line popped into my head after reading yesterday’s Gospel from John chapter 14.

In the Gospel, it read:

“Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words…” – John 14:23-24a

 

Living and acting in accord with God’s word, as it has been revealed to us, is the litmus test of our love for Christ. Ideally, this living and acting would be borne of one’s interior life – their lived relationship with God. Proceeding from a fervent love for Christ and His Church, the way we live takes on a greater significance and sense of mission to the extent that we adhere to God’s word in everything.

When we begin to examine our conscience and take a self-inventory, of sorts, for the day it is plain to see where we have fallen short – in what we have done, and what we have failed to do. But often times there might be one sin in particular that we bring with us to the Sacrament of Confession on a consistent basis – one habitual sin that we tend to grapple in our walk with Jesus.

Thinking about that one habitual sin, it is important to examine the circumstances that surround that act – the near occasion of that particular sin. Do you struggle with gluttony? Lust? Greed? Sloth? What sin of these, or the other deadly sins, seems to creep into each trip to the confessional? These habitual sins are rooted in an inordinate attachment to some temporal good. More importantly, they begin with a comfort with that inordinate attachment.

Comfort within our interior life leads to stagnation, and stagnation leads to the sin that separates us from communion with God. Recognizing this comfort which has led us to sin is but the first step in a long, arduous, uphill battle. Rarely do we realize how ‘normal’ a certain sin has become in our lives until we try to eradicate it. Sometimes, what we took for a harmless vice, without realizing it, has become an addiction.

Putting an end to any habitual sin, apart from God’s grace, is impossible. We, however, are called to cooperate with God’s sufficient grace to overcome our sinfulness. Our pursuit of holiness – the battle we wage for the good of our soul – begins with prayer. A consistent, disciplined life of prayer becomes our means of victory. Beyond prayer, we must drive a wedge between ourselves and the near occasion of sin. This might mean cancelling our cable subscription, putting a web filter on all of our devices, changing the way we spend, save, or obtain our money, the company we keep, or even an intentional searching out of new ways to detach from anything that redirects our affections which are due to God alone.

This might sound simple enough, but what we come to discover sooner, rather than later, is the actual depth of our love for God. Since our sin has reached the level of habit, redirecting that reflex will prove to be most uncomfortable – even painful at times. Habitual sin has become our crutch; our coping mechanism. Like most sin, the ones we deal with most frequently are the ways in which we have become Lord of our own lives – at least in those certain areas. When we lean on a sinful habit to fill any void, or just to get by, we cease in our leaning on God.

This is why we cannot hope to move forward from our sin apart from prayer and God’s grace, because we need that grace so that we might have real faith and trust that – if we let this go – God will be totally sufficient for us. I would dare to say that we fall into habitual sin because of our lack of faith and trust in God. For these reasons we must be vigilant in our self-examination, and relentless in our pursuit of God’s mercy and forgiveness. By these measures we come to know ourselves; we come to know what we would actually do, and not do, for love.

The Time is Now

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to destroy, and a time to build. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

This post is likely one of a million (or more) being churned out at the beginning of this year detailing how the respective blogger plans to change their lives in the spirit of “new year, new me.” This post is different.

Are you convinced? Neither am I.

I, like many of you reading this, have vowed year after year to get in shape, achieve any and all immediate professional goals, and to finally get cracking on that book, screenplay, and/or “other big project” that we’ve repeatedly put off until later. I, like many of you reading this, have failed time and time again.

The problem is our motivation. Vain ambition is a flame that burns out quick; disappointing ourselves is easy. We’ll have that slice of greasy pizza, forgive ourselves, and try to forget we ever made that ‘unreasonable’ resolution to begin with… If we are our own motivation, meaning we are working towards these things with ourselves in mind, our accountability is lessened and we are more likely to fall off the wagon.

In many ways, these types of resolutions only serve to perpetuate a disordered self-love. This is not to say that having a healthy desire to take care of our overall wellbeing is bad, because it isn’t. Just that having big goals that are self-serving, to the extent that we are dedicated to these goals, keep us at the forefront of our minds. And no one else.

St Paul exhorts Christians to ‘die to themselves’ and to take up a more noble cause; the cause of Christ. If I were to take an inventory of my own life, I immediately see my family as my first priority. God has blessed me with the vocation of husband and father. These roles supersede all other roles in my life. Who I am to my family is more important than who I am to anyone else, by far. They are my primary ministry. And I am finding when I forsake prayer and regular observance of the sacraments, I am forsaking them. The grace and intimacy I am able to extend towards them proceeds from the grace and intimacy I’ve experienced in my walk with God. When I fall into sin, I close myself off to God and to others. Sin, for me, has become habitual. It’s second nature. It’s easy, and it feels as though sin has become deeply engrained into who I am.

Change brings stress and uncertainty. While in college I converted from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism, got married, and gained roughly sixty pounds. As the stress of life piled up, I panicked. I stopped thinking of God as my ever-present help, and turned to indulging my flesh as a means of coping. I became physically and spiritually marred by lust, gluttony, and sloth. In some of life’s most momentous occasions, I was fighting a quiet fight of self-loathing and depression. I would lash out, and would go on to destroy friendships, damage familial relationships, and become a sad excuse for a husband and father. As my world slowly became about me it began to fall apart.

In mid-late 2016, things began to shift.

I grew tired of who I was. Each day, the desire to change grew in its intensity. Like an act of God, I stumbled upon the Nazarite Challenge. Sponsored by Catholic Balm Co. and uCatholic, this challenge was set up for Catholic men to build community with one another, to be vulnerable together, and to engage in fasting and prayer. It wasn’t lent, but I couldn’t wait any longer so I jumped in head-first. I am so grateful for the brotherhood that has been birthed from that challenge; they continue to be a solid support system for me.

This 30-day alternative to “No Shave November” set me on an imperfect path towards total transformation. The fasting I took on was not geared towards me. It was about my family. It was the kick in the butt that I needed to stop being so damn selfish. Since completing this challenge I have been praying more, thinking of myself less (which has been a challenge), and taking up, once again, the mantle I took on when I said “I do” to my beautiful wife nearly six years ago.

The biggest transformation, however, will not be in what I do, but in who I am. This year will be a time for rediscovery of purpose. Through constant surrender, my hope is to shirk all self-centeredness, and to take on holiness. To live for others, and not for myself. To understand my good mental, physical and spiritual heath is not for me, but for my family and others to enjoy.

The time for change has come. It will be painful, but it is more than necessary.

For the next year, I invite you to read along and follow me on this journey. I will be blogging about it regularly, including picture updates, tips I pick up along the way, and sharing what God is doing in and through me. This will not be a catechizing blog, as it has been in the past, but a look into my struggles, victories, thoughts, and prayers as I endeavor to die to self and follow Christ with all that I am.

The time is now, are you with me?

 

 

Image Credit: ThoseCatholicMen.com 

We Need the Ascension.

Today is one of those feast days that our Bishops have so tactfully relocated to this upcoming Sunday. Today, however, is the actual Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord. We, Catholics have feast days just about every day of the year, but for the key moments of Jesus’ time here on earth we honor such days with an emphasized feast day known as a solemnity. While not all solemnities are days of obligation for the faithful, optional solemnities become such when Bishops and Episcopal Conferences move such days to the nearest Sundays. Since… you know… every Sunday is a holy day of obligation.

This particular solemnity, that of the Ascension, carries with it a certain dogmatic weight. This means that belief in the Ascension is considered a necessary component of one’s profession of faith. Today marks the end of the forty days after Christ’s resurrection wherein He taught his followers of the kingdom of heaven in depth; He gave them the fullness of the Deposit of Faith. It also marks an event that Jesus forewarned them about numerous times. In John’s Gospel, he recounts what Jesus told the apostles:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you… “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  –  John 16:7, 12-14

The Apostles were very sad when Jesus told them he was preparing to depart, but He explained this ascension as necessary so that the Holy Spirit might come to them and give them help. Their sadness wasn’t one borne of a friend who was going away and such that “Aww, we’ll miss him!” It was primarily because, in light of all that has taken place thus far, their fearless leader was about to leave them alone. Even though Jesus promised them He would be with them always, His actual departure from them would prove to be a test of their faith. Their sadness, then, was more of a fear they experienced; a sense of hopelessness.

So often in our own lives we forget the promises Jesus has made to us in His Sacred Scripture and through the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Our faith in Jesus falls short and we place it in worldly saviors that, in the end, fail to satisfy. We are like the apostles in this sense because we know, if we read and hear, what Jesus has told us but actually living by those words causes us to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. Living our faith is much easier in theory than it is in all actuality.

With the current state of the race for America’s next president, for example, the doomsday prophets have come out in full force and many Christians have completely lost sight of themselves because our current options are just terrible. While this observation may seem a bit arbitrary, it is just one example of another way wherein we are just like the Apostles. We have become sad because the hope we have put in temporal leaders has slowly and surely eroded away completely.

The difference? None of the presidential candidates can make promises that even slightly compare to the promise Jesus has given us.

His apostles were sad, but they had to endure ten whole days of just being alone with themselves and relying totally on faith. This period of waiting for them must have felt like an eternity. They likely prayed in a very nervous manner asking, “Ok God! Ha Ha Where are you? You can come out now! We totally believe you… just come. Please!” They had to experience a time of spiritual desolation during a time wherein their very lives were at stake for even associating with the man called Christ. (sound familiar?) When the Holy Spirit finally came, whatever spiritual desolation and weakness of faith they may have endured would have come to light.

Roughly ten days from today is Pentecost Sunday; the “birthday of the Church”, if you will. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man: “To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” After this event the apostles became witnesses of the “kingdom that will have no end.” – CCC #664

This kingdom that will have no end is sacramentally expressed through the Church over which the gates of the netherworld shall never prevail. The Church, guided into the fullness of truth by the same Holy Spirit that descended onto the Apostles at Pentecost, lives constantly in the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to His disciples in John 16. We need the Ascension. We need it because of all it teaches us about our own moments of doubt, desolation, or fear. It is a necessary part of our creed because it forces us to announce with our lips not only the reality of what happened, but the reality of what is to come. Without the Ascension there would be no Pentecost, no coming of the Holy Spirit, no Church, and no Hope. The enduring element of Jesus’s most perfect sacrifice begins to come to fruition with the event of the Ascension.

We need the Ascension. Now go to confession and get yourself to Mass, ya filthy animal. (just kidding, but seriously.)

Be who God meant you to be.

Abortion. Redefinition of Marriage. Terrorism. The Dallas Cowboys. There are many terrible things in the world we live in today and quite often we feel powerless as to how we should stop these forces of evil. Just about any day of the week you might turn on the news to see the newest ‘human right’ being fought for on social media; other times there might be masses of belligerent protestors trying to get their point across. Whatever the case, as a Catholic you might feel a bit useless. Think about it. The Church is supposedly the greatest force of good on the planet but between the Lenten fish fries and the parish donut socials we find ourselves preoccupied with certain things that come across as less… significant. We might feel called to sign every petition, march in every protest, and a many number of other things but we often neglect THE most effective way to change the world.

Vocation. At this point in time, perhaps you have heard or read tons of ‘life calling’ posts and to be honest you aren’t interested in reading anything else about your vocation. Keep reading…

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.   – St. Catherine of Sienna

I think St. Catherine was on to something. Too often we find ourselves going after our own plans, our own goals, completely ignorant to what God might be calling us towards. The truth of the matter is: we are called to happiness. Our willingness to entrust our happiness to the plan of God usually depends on how we view the big man in the sky altogether. For example, if you view God as a big man in the sky, He might seem as a distant, uninvolved figure that typically leaves us to our own affairs so long as we shoot up a ‘thanks’ from time to time. It can be very hard to ‘feel’ God, especially in our lowest points of life. It is our faith that tells us He is present and that He hears us.

When we look at the injustices of the world, we can quickly become overwhelmed. The question of suffering haunts the faithful more than you would think. Most of us get by through a careful avoidance of thinking about the current state of our culture in any capacity. I think what happens when we look at the world, I mean really look; it forces us to come to terms with our views of Jesus, His redemptive mission, and our own roles in that mission. Faith is generally easy if you don’t think about it. In fact, faith doesn’t become difficult until you look suffering in the eye.

Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.” To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church. – CCC 162

In order to say, without being dishonest, that have truly have faith in God, we are called to have faith in His plan for our lives; our vocation. Our vocation is the call of God on our lives; our primary ministry. Throughout our lives, we might find hints as to what our vocation might actually be; the nudge to go into the seminary or to get married or even an urge to find out more about a certain religious order. For some of us, God’s plan might clash with our plans. We develop, over the course of our lives, based on our interests and experiences, a sense of what we would like to do; a goal that we aspire towards.

If our ultimate call, the call of God, is what will lead us to our ultimate happiness, one might wonder why it is, sometimes, at odds with our own plans. Our goals and aspirations are generally good but they are limited and flawed. We are imperfect beings, stained by sin and formed by past experiences (good or bad) and for such reasons our plans for our own lives, the ones we formulate from our own desires, simply fall short. God created us and knows far better than we do what it takes for us to achieve our ultimate happiness. God knows our purpose for existing; He knows our vocation.

People protest and sign petitions, enlist in the military and go into some form of public service for a common reason: they want to change the world and make it into a better place for everyone. Even the ‘no justice, no peace’ marches; they are honest cries for consolation and reparation for past injustices. The thing is that we are flawed, and apart from God, our attempts to make the world a better place are also flawed. The logic here is that, without God’s perfect wisdom and understanding, our noble attempts to achieve anything will fall undeniably short. Our greatest achievements, in any form, never resolve therefore the process of development is never complete. We find ourselves restless.

If you are called to the priesthood, the religious life, or the diaconate then, by all means, explore that call. Forget your plans, forget your worries; I can assure you that in no other place will you find the happiness that you so desperately desire. Maybe you’re called towards marriage or even to be perpetually single. Embrace your call, embrace God’s plan for chastity and charity in your own life. The most effective way to stand for traditional marriage and to fight against abortion is to get married, love your husband or wife, and commit to being open to children and to raise them in the light of the Catholic faith. Whatever God’s plan for you entails, be open to it and live it out heroically with complete abandon; shun the fleeting pleasures of this world. Think about your own plans for your life and know with certainty that you were made for more. Your vocation is, undoubtedly, the most prolific endeavor that could be pursued this side of eternity.

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. – Psalm 139:13-16

Can the Church Change the World?

I have a tendency towards pessimism. If any bad thing can happen, it probably will. It’s a terrible personality trait of mine that I have tackled for years through prayer and believing in God’s plan for my life and the life of others. Trusting in God can certainly be difficult at times and I feel as though I am not alone in this.

While reflecting on the Gospel reading in John I am reminded of myself, particularly, when Thomas initially doubts that Jesus had appeared to the others and doesn’t believe until he comes to see the Christ with his own eyes. We are all doubting Thomas at one point or another. Whether it is a rough patch in our finances, in our family life, our job, or even in the current state of the society in which we live, there are moments when we simply doubt that God is near to us. In these moments we tend to challenge God; in some round-about way asking Him to prove his presence to us.

Granted this is not a theistic doubt, I am not saying that the lot of us tend to doubt if there even is a God, but that in the low points of life our faith is tested. I’ve written about trusting God before and how that trust is absolutely crucial for an authentic relationship with God. What I aim to focus on at this point is the work that has been cut out for us as Christians.

If you’re a cradle Catholic and you’re reading this you probably remember going to catechism class growing up. It might have been a priest, a religious sister (or mother or brother), a paid teacher, or even a volunteer who taught most of your catechism classes. If you grew up in a typical, practicing Catholic family, catechism class was likely an extension of going to mass and praying together with your immediate family. This experience, unfortunately, is not typical for many Catholics, especially in the United States. Many cradle Catholics have rarely, if ever, experienced mass with their parents and have grown up in environments where faith was never given a place of priority. In these situations, catechism class takes the place of parents and other influential people in the lives of young people and becomes the ‘only line of defense’ against the relativism that dominates popular thought.

My father once said “Children are always learning and if parents aren’t teaching them how to live then someone else is…”

The influence of family life has (whether we like it or not) shaped us in significant ways and will, inevitably, shape our children. This begs the question as to who has influenced this generation and how this generation is influencing the next. Actor, Robert Downey Jr., recently said in an award show that we should, ‘because we can’, shape our generation. There are certainly those among us who rise to the top and set the trends of our society. The question that remains is who influenced them? What do they believe?

Believe it or not, there was once a time in America when faith played a greater role in public opinion. There was even a time when most families still shared a meal or two around the same table each day and began the tradition with a moment of prayer and thanksgiving. Times have undoubtedly changed and this is where the Church must choose: fight or flight. Up to this point, I have not told you anything remotely groundbreaking, but hopefully, I have gotten you to think for a moment about your own family and your own faith. Do you feel like you can go out and make a difference? Do you feel like even if you openly practiced what you believe that anyone would notice? There are moments when we feel as though we can do nothing and that society is doomed to implode on itself. We wait for others to make a difference claiming we need proof before we, ourselves, choose to act. We become like doubting Thomas.

If I could implore you, now more than ever: act. Live out your faith and be an authentic witness to the one who has saved you from your own mess. If you have been away from the Church for a while, come back. If you have doubts, ask questions! If you feel far from God, pray! It is not a group of people who are familiar with Catholic doctrine that will change the world; it is only by those who have been transformed by the truth it contains. The vineyard needs laborers, the Church needs intentional disciples, and the world needs the Catholic Church. It all begins with the Church and the ministry of the Church begins when we answer the call to action. It’s our turn.

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society. – St. Francis of Assisi

The Gravity of Sin

Is all sin created equal? Yes and no. You may have heard at one point or another in your life that all sin is equally grave; meaning, it all bears the same weight with regard to your salvation. While sin, in every case, opposes God, much of its effect on whether or not you’re eternally damned depends on well… you.

If I were to tell a lie, instantaneously, in order to avoid someone’s anger in a passing situation you would likely struggle to equate a ‘reactionary sin’ such as what I’ve mentioned with a premeditated murder. There are many in the fundamentalist school of thought who would assert that ‘sin is sin’ and that ‘all sin is the same in God’s eyes’. On the contrary, Sacred Scripture supports the idea that not all sin is of grave concern or ‘deadly.’ (cf. 1 John 5:16-17) The underlying truth we come to realize is that all sin points to a flaw within ourselves. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, but due to the fall we have an innate tendency towards what is pleasurable or sinful; this is called concupiscence.

The effects of our sinfulness are not altogether autonomous, because even though the nature of our sins can be radically different, their differing effects are all commonly involved. Sin is, essentially, an effort on our part that is in opposition to God, albeit direct or indirect. God is the only ‘true good’ that man can come to know and sin looks upon this ‘true good’ and chooses otherwise. Not only that, our sins are in opposition to our own human nature according to our nature’s ordering in the image of God’s divine nature. Just as Adam and eve were robbed of their paradise, so too are we robbed of perfect freedom when we sin. God created us to be free and to discover this true freedom that orients itself towards the good.

Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.” But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds. – CCC 1853

As we have already established, our sin can either be a direct or indirect effort. To further clarify, an indirect effort would be an instantaneous or reactionary sin that we failed to give full consent to, but committed it anyways. The Church recognizes these minor offenses as being venial. Venial sins wound the virtue of charity in our lives; however, they are not intentional, malicious acts towards God, who is the ‘true good.’ These types of sins point out a flaw or shortcoming in our spiritual life that must be attended to before it gets out of hand. Venial sins, as they relate to our communion with the Body of Christ are not acts that sever this relationship. We would do well to confess such venial sins, although not required, so that we might receive just penance as a preventative measure for future occasions of sin.

Beyond that, sin, as it relates to the disposition of man, can also be categorized as mortal or what the Scriptures call ‘deadly.’ Whether a sin is mortal or venial determines the vitality of man’s relationship with God. Mortal sin severs the bond between man and the larger body of Christ and, effectively, the bond between man and God. Mortal sin is to be viewed as a literal rejection or ‘turning away’ from God that results from the grave error of our choices. A murder that has been premeditated or, perhaps, the willingness to be unfaithful to one’s spouse are two examples of mortal sin. Sins that have been adequately considered and carried out regardless of the harm that may result are considered to be mortal. When man chooses such selfish behavior, he acts in complete opposition to God and his actions demonstrate a forsaking of his union with the true good.

“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss. – CCC 1864

What is sin?

My older daughter, Lucia (2 yrs.), is very… adventurous. Lucia likes to explore every part of our house that she can get to without any major difficulties. I should add that even if it is difficult she will still give it everything she’s got. A few months ago we installed child-proof locks all throughout our house, but unfortunately, we forgot a few cabinets in the kitchen. One afternoon, I was sitting on the couch working on schoolwork when, piece by piece, Lucia brought me our rice cooker. With each passing part, while holding back laughter, I would ask her to “bring this piece back to mom” and soon enough I had an entire rice cooker in my lap as I worked.

Right away, one would affirm that Lucia’s (very cute) disregard for my requests would be an action in need of correction and one would be right. Very firmly, yet in the most loving way, Rachel and I find ourselves correcting Lucia not because she is in trouble but because, as parents, we are forming her into a child who respects and trusts in our authority. Did Lucia sin when she ignored my requests to bring the rice cooker parts back? Absolutely not. She’s too young and not yet culpable for such actions. Much (if not all) responsibility has yet to burden her for her actions, given her age and ability to understand the implications of our parenting. As she grows older, however, Lucia, Audrey, and (Lord willing) any other kids we are blessed with will have to give an account for when they disobey what they have come to understand as rules in our household.

The Bible talks about sin quite often throughout the cannon of Scripture. Church teaching, throughout the millennia, has provided us with much clarity regarding the weight of these Scripture passages in our world today. Within Church Tradition we come to find that there are many absolute moral norms that hold true in any culture and in any time period. This basically means that what was a sin 1,000 years ago is still a sin today. This sin will, of course, look different in light of the vast cultural shifts that have taken place; however, the spirit of the act will have prevailed and would still be considered… a sin.

Sin, from a theological perspective, is to say “that is not the way it is meant to be…” Sin is a deviation from God’s plan and it isn’t until we recognize our ‘deviations’ or ‘shortcomings’ that we are opened up to God’s mercy. In short, sin is when we act in a way contrary to what God has in store for us. It is through God’s grace and mercy that we can recover from our deviations and be reconciled back to our created order. Pope Saint John Paul II affirms that conversion requires convincing of sin. The logic behind this is simple: If you feel as though you are without sin or that you don’t really sin… then you don’t really need a savior.

If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8

If we think for a moment on the origins of sin, we are taken back to the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. God had given them paradise and asked only one thing of them: just stay away from one tree and… they blew it. If we dissect this incident we will come to find that all the familiar characteristics of sin are found within this ‘forbidden fruit’ story. To begin we can plainly see that the first sin was not only the breaking of God’s commandment but a rejection of God’s authority. If we dig a bit further we sense an obvious frustration with the ‘limits’ that God has put on Adam and Eve’s freedom, according to the serpent. The two, after hearing that the fruit of this tree will make them ‘like Gods’, feel as though something is being kept from them; as if God was being unfair. All of the sudden we witness a level of ingratitude for the entire gift that is paradise; this points out a distrust of God’s plan. When we, like Adam and Eve begin to doubt God’s plan, or worse, think we have a better plan we become prideful in our thoughts and actions. Finally, as in all sin, we tend to develop an unhealthy attachment to some created good; a forbidden fruit.

Sin, according to Sacred Scripture is meritorious of death. Not just a physical death, but an eternal death precisely because sin separates us from God. Our relationship with God grows stronger through virtuous living especially when we walk firmly in the theological virtues of Faith in God, Hope for eternity, and Charity (love) for God and neighbor. Sin wounds charity, the virtue from which all other virtues proceed. (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13) In the most serious of sins, our actions actually bring about a turning away from God and sever our relationship with God altogether. This, of course, disturbs a ‘once saved, always saved’ notion that tends to circulate in some theological circles. I can assure you that salvation is a process and not a one-time event. Our life is a constant battle against temptation and sinfulness and we cannot win this battle without God’s grace and mercy. We must continue to struggle against self, with great courage, and realize that no matter how difficult this journey becomes… we are not alone.

Living with Passion

We’re always encouraged to “live with passion” and I would agree with that statement. A common sense question for a Christian to ask would be: what does” living with passion” look like?

Passion has driven people to achieve great things, to love relentlessly, and even to a near-successful attempt to take over Europe. Wait… what? Yeah, that’s a Hitler reference, but I think we can all agree that Hitler was definitely a man of great passion. Hitler believed in his political and social agenda with all of his being. John the Baptist was also a passionate fellow. No one would ever think to compare the two but they both had one thing in common: they were passionate.

I think we can safely assume that passion isn’t always oriented to what is truly good. As I have already mentioned, our passions can be disordered and can drive our reason and will into some very poor decisions. Our most common passion is love and such passion becomes aroused by what is seen as good or desirable. We are naturally drawn to what is, in our eyes, desirable. You might not believe this, but passions, in and of themselves, are never sinful. It is never a sin to desire something. Depending on what the particular object of desire might be, acting on a desire is where the actual ‘sinfulness’ materializes.

Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. The upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices. – CCC 1768

I have written before about the freedom that Christians enjoy in the truth of their faith. I have made note that Catholicism, in particular, is not a restrictive, legalistic cult but a religion of divine freedom, love, and most importantly: passion. We ought not to live out our faith due to some undue expectation of condemnation for our shortcomings. GK Chesterton once said that we should allow for our religion to be more of a love affair than just a well-constructed theory. (paraphrasing, of course) If our faith isn’t motivated by love then what is the point?

We can be passionate about many things. Many of these things can lead us towards death and destruction. Throughout our life, millions of voices will compete for our attention and each of them will claim to have the key to true fulfillment. There are many seemingly-noble causes that will tug at our heartstrings and, if our conscience isn’t well informed, motivate us to the point of becoming passionate about something that only serves to destroy any hope for true happiness. It is so often the case, that, what we are passionate about competes with the morality of our religion. Can we simply attribute this to a poor marketing campaign on behalf of the Church? Perhaps. (kidding!) The reason for this amounts to a lack of one particular element. You guessed it: passion.

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses…” – Blessed Pope Paul VI

We know that our faith seeks to unite us closer to God and as we mature in this faith we will, inevitably, become more conformed to the likeness of Christ. Jesus Christ was, in fact, the epitome of moral perfection; perfection in the flesh, one might say. If we are to be more conformed to the moral perfection of Christ we must, first, become more virtuous. Virtue, as the Church teaches, is a firm disposition of the soul to do what is truly good. We are not born with virtue; rather we acquire it through choosing repeatedly, with the help of grace, in accord with what is good. As we grow in virtue the temptations of our vices become easier to resist. The residual effects of our ‘old self’ can still be felt in light of grace’s transformative effects. In time, as we grow in virtue, our passions will begin to reorder themselves to what is truly good.

Moral perfection consists in man’s being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the psalm: “My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (cf. Psalm 84:2) – CCC 1770

We ought to live with passion because the alternative to living in such a way will rob us of our joy and of our faith. Growing towards a virtuous life is a painful process and our flesh will constantly put our efforts at odds with what is right. With the help of God’s grace, however, we can reorient our passions towards the desires of God. We would do well to remember that not every passion will lead us to happiness and in our prayer we should discern the upright will of God. It is when we become passionate about what is truly good that we will become powerful witnesses of our faith and only then will we sanctify all of society.

We must be passionate.