Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” — 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Temptation is a constant companion that all of us walk with throughout our lives. Saint Paul referred to his personal weakness to an unnamed temptation as a thorn in his flesh, a tool of Satan that continuously tormented him. How true this is for all of us who seek to follow the narrow path. But, unlike past generations that strived for morality and righteousness, modern society no longer struggles against temptations but instead embraces them, even flaunting them, while declaring in not so many words that ‘evil-is-good’ and ‘good-is-evil’.
Satan uses temptation to dim the mind so to control the body and condemn the soul. They are traps that so easily ensnare countless souls with their false assurances of pleasure and leisure, only to drag us into the muck of sin while declaring us conquered slaves for giving into them. And yet we trust in the Lord’s mercy, grabbing hold of His hand outstretched from the cross, to lift us up again and again. Countless times I myself have fallen into this repetitive cycle, lifting myself up only to fall back down again, while secretively finding myself presuming God’s mercy will always be there to pick me up again.
But lately the Holy Spirit has been placing a sorrowful and troubling thought into my mind: What if God’s mercy, that I’ve been counting on for so long, suddenly turns into His Justice? What if I find myself continuing in this behavior even when His patience has worn out? And, most importantly, if these struggles are so painful to overcome now during this time of mercy, how much more painful (and final) will it be when His mercy gives way to His justice after The Illumination?
“You have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for granting mercy.” — Words of the Mother of Mercy, the Blessed Virgin, Given to Sr. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 635
The days following the Warning will be the toughest humanity will ever face. Following the Illumination, mankind will initially repent of their sins, mend their lives, and at last return to He who is the savior of our souls. But this will not last, for the greater the gift, the greater the test that will accompany it. Having our eyes opened to the truth also mean that there will be no more excuses for even the smallest of venial sins. The middle-ground that so many of us have lived in will be no more and every individual will be forced to choose between “love of God” and “love of self”.
"It will come about in all the land," declares the LORD, "That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. " — Zechariah 13:8-9
Thus the test will begin. As days turn into weeks and then months, people will yearn to go back to the way things were before the Illumination. A time when not knowing right from wrong was easier than knowing the truth. A battle from within will ensue, a conflict between the blind desires of the flesh that, until now, had gone unabated, and the resolve of the soul that, in recent generations, has had little experience in fully controlling the desires of the body. Battered and beaten from this inner turmoil, many will begin to give excuses for themselves as to why they need to return to their sinful lifestyles, whether it be drugs, sexual decadence, immoral lifestyles, or even simple bad habits. People will yearn for the wider, easier path of pleasure, ease and abundance they once knew. They will attempt to merge their desires of the flesh with the truths that were revealed via the warning. Thus will begin a separation where those who give in to compromise will distance themselves from those who hold fast to the truth. The faithful, admonishing their fellow brothers and sisters for compromising, will be accused of judging. They will be hated and reviled for their unwavering adherence to the Laws of God and will be separated like wheat is from weeds:
“He will thoroughly cleanse his floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” — Matt 3:12 & Matt 13: 24-30
This period of testing, for many, will be almost unbearable. The mental anguish, at times mistaken for actual physical pain, will seem to engulf our very being. Our desires, wreathing from sensual starvation, will scream in our minds for the sustenance of its own decadence. All the while, the tempter, who has been preparing for this moment for centuries, will try with all his might, along with the service of his false prophet and messiah, to break men’s resolve to change and fully enslave humanity.
The light of Christ, which has shown thru the Church for 2 millennia, will go out, taking refuge only in the hearts of those who remain faithful. For those who lose this light, this final chance of mercy, a spiritual darkness will envelope them, dimming their minds to give into their depravities. Then, a false light will appear in the distance promising them that which they so desire, the gratification of their senses united with the salvation of their souls. They will worship him, even taking on his mark and adoring his image as if he is their one true savior… God in human flesh.
“And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” — 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12
Our hearts should cringe at the thought of so many throughout the world, unprepared to let go of their vices and addictions, who will one-by-one fall back into the sins that had forced God’s hand to act in the first place. If overcoming ourselves, during this time of mercy, appears so hard and painful now, how much more so will it be when mercy has been extinguished and Satan, with his cohorts, takes his last stand in an attempt to eternally claim our souls?
So what can we do to prevent, or at least minimize, the chances of falling back into our sinful desires, especially after the Illumination? For starters, we need to understand just what sins (and their corresponding vices) are. And secondly, we will need to recognize, scientifically, why our flesh is weaker than the spirit. This knowledge will then become a foundation (with Jesus as the cornerstone) from which we can build our defenses against our disordered tendencies to sin.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." — Hosea 4:6
"For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” — Romans 7:19
The terms 'sin' and 'vice', though often used interchangeably, are not actually identical. In Greek, the word ‘sin’ is ‘hamartia’, a term archers used meaning ‘to miss the mark’. Sins are specific acts of commission or omission, which violates or distorts human nature and betrays communion with God.
Vices, on the other hand, are character traits developed through habit or practice of specific sins. They are behaviors, whether it be fornication, drug abuse, uncontrolled anger, or even laziness, that keep us repeating specific sins. (www.catholic.org)
According to the Catholic Catechism #1866: “Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished... They are: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth.” These seven vices, also known as the Seven Deadly Sins, are the fountainheads of many of the sins we commit in our lives. When not rooted out and replaced by virtue, they can indeed kill the soul. And upon death, a person´s basic character is permanently set – either towards God or against Him.
Pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the other sins. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God).
Dante's definition was "love of self, perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor." In the story of Lucifer, pride (his desire to compete with God) was what caused his fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan.
Lust is a disordered desire for, or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.
Lust is usually thought of as excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature. "...everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." - Jesus Christ (Mt 5:28)
"The Creator himself . . . established that in the (generative) function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation." — Pius XII, Discourse, October 29,1951.
Lust blinds us, causing us to miss warning signs in a relationship. We gloss over major obstacles to a good marriage because our physical desires are driving us. Lust is enslavement to the senses, to the animal part of man and deadens our spiritual senses.
Meaning to gulp down, gluttony is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything, though it is most often applied to consuming food. Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Catholic Church, argued that there was six primary ways gluttony is committed:
- Praepropere - Eating too soon.
- Laute - Eating too expensively.
- Nimis - Eating too much.
- Ardenter - Eating too eagerly (burningly).
- Studiose - Eating too daintily (keenly).
- Forente - Eating wildly (boringly).
Greed, also known as avarice or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. It is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that greed was "a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things."
“Avarice” is more of a blanket term that can describe many other examples of greedy behavior. These include disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, bribery or treason, especially for personal gain. Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are all actions that may be inspired by greed. Such misdeeds can even include simony, where one profits from soliciting goods within the actual confines of a church.
Wrath, also known as "rage", may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its purest form, presents itself with self-destructiveness, violence, and hatred. Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways, including impatience, revenge, and vigilantism.
Wrath is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest (although one can of course be wrathful for selfish reasons, such as jealousy, closely related to the sin of envy). Dante described vengeance as "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite". In its original form, the sin of anger also encompassed anger pointed internally rather than externally. Thus suicide was deemed as the ultimate, albeit tragic, expression of hatred directed inwardly, a final rejection of God's gifts.
The modern view regards sloth as laziness and indifference. It is often seen as being a sin of omission rather than of commission. Acedia, the neglect to take care of something that one should do, is translated to apathetic listlessness; depression without joy, similar to melancholy.
In early Christian thought, the lack of joy was regarded as a willful refusal to enjoy the goodness of God and the world God created; by contrast, apathy was considered a refusal to help others in time of need.
When Thomas Aquinas described acedia, he described it as an uneasiness of the mind, being a progenitor for lesser sins such as restlessness and instability. Dante refined this definition further, describing acedia as the failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind and all one's soul. Some scholars have said that the ultimate form of acedia was despair which leads to suicide.
Envy refers to the sadness or resentment at the sight of another's goods, wishing the other person to be deprived of it. It accompanies an insatiable desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. St. Augustine saw envy as "the diabolical sin. From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity."
To understand scientifically how our physical brains contribute to our willfulness to sin, it is important to first recognize that we are indeed created in the “Image of God” in more ways than just appearance. Unbeknownst to most people, just as God is 3 people in 1, we too are 3 people in 1. Now, before I am accused of heresy, please allow me to explain.
In the 1960s, Dr. Roger Sperry, a neuropsychologist, neurobiologist and later a Nobel Prize Winner for his work with split-brain research, conducted an experiment on a man who suffered from severe and life-threatening epilepsy. The surgery consisted of severing a region of the brain called the “corpus callosum”, a bundle of nerves that crisscross at the top of the brain. These nerves act like a communication network between the left and right hemispheres, or lobes, of the brain. But for his patient, it was considered the source of the misfires in his brain that was causing the epileptic fits. The surgery was a success, curing the illness, but with an unintended consequence.
His patient began to act like two persons who seemed to have different personalities, views, opinions, and skills. His hands were constantly getting into arguments with each other. One hand would button his shirt and the other would unbutton it. One hand was trying to pull his pants down while the other fought to hold them up. On one occasion he and his wife were having a discussion which became an argument. His left hand tried to hit her, while his right held it back. Where before the operation he was one person, now he seemed to be two different persons who were in conflict with each other.
Due to this procedure, Dr. Sperry discovered that one side of the human brain is animal-like in nature, unable to read, write, or talk. In most people it is the right lobe and it controls the left side of the body. Its partner, the left lobe, which controls the right side of the body, is able to do all three.
The right-lobe, being connected to our animal nature, is governed by instincts, feelings, and natural drives. Its view of the world is based on hedonism which says “what brings me pleasure is good, and what brings me pain is bad”. It expresses its feelings nonverbally through facial expression, bodily postures, and all forms of art. Being without the ability to think in words, it exists in a state of mental darkness, or Gehenna, which means ‘empty thought’.
Our left lobe, on the other hand, which, functionally speaking begins as a duplicate of our right lobe in our childhood years, as time passes, is modified and begins to specialize in speech and logical thinking. Because of this, it becomes a reflective agent on the thoughts and impulses of our right lobe. It can understand primary purposes to determine if something is good or bad. If you were to ask “What is the purpose of food?” the right lobe would say “taste” while the left lobe will say “nutrition”. And if asked “What is the purpose of sex?” the right lobe would say “pleasure” while the left lobe will say “reproduction”. The right lobe is ruled by instincts, or ‘secondary purposes’, and therefore can never please God because, although it eats to survive and engages in reproduction, it does so for all the wrong reasons.
The frontal lobe completes this trinity. When the left and right lobe come to an agreement on a course of action, the frontal lobe accepts the agreement as a command to action and thus acts upon their desires. [This is very similar to how the Holy Spirit is described as going forth from the Father and the Son, and does not return without completing that which it was sent out to do.]
If this is confusing so far, then let me help you picture this situation better. Imagine a huge, powerful man, fully governed by his own whims and desires regardless of their consequences to anyone else. Yet he is blind and is thus guided by another thin and frail man sitting on his shoulders. This man, although crippled and unable to walk on his own, can fully see and think logically. The two, though often in conflict with each other, never the less are totally dependent on each other. The blind man, representing our right lobe, is very powerful and willful and is ruled by its desire for the good. The crippled man, representing our left lobe, is unable to direct the two on its own, but instead injects logic into the desires of its counterpart based on its quest for the true. Together, they seek what they understand as the ‘true good’, or the ‘True God’. [This also implies that together they can end up seeking a false good, or a ‘false god’.]
The 3 lobes, though each being different, when combined together make up a single individual’s personality. Without the left lobe, we would be animals. With it we become rational beings. It is what changes us from arational, impulsive animals into rational beings with reflective minds that are capable of logical judgment. But this ability to rationally think is also the reason why we, unlike animals and young children, can commit sins. Our right lobe, being connected to the animal kingdom, brings forth all the desires and passions that it finds pleasurable, such as sex, food, drugs and wealth. But, being unable to recognize primary and secondary purposes, or good or evil, it is unable to sin since it doesn’t know that what it is doing is wrong. (Thus children, though they may commit countless sins, are not held accountable for their actions until the age of reason.) Our left lobe, on the other hand, knows right and wrong, and is thus responsible in making rational decisions before most actions can be carried out. Because of this, the left lobe is held responsible for any and all sins since committing a sin requires that the left lobe either agrees with, gives in, or refuses to restrain, the right lobe’s desires and impulses.
Before overcoming sin in our lives, we first need to recognize it. At times it may be difficult to determine if a particular action of ours is sinful or not. St. Thomas Aquinas’ solution to this dilemma is the principle that secondary purposes, which motivate the animalistic right lobe of our brain, are alright so long as they either help, or at least don’t interfere, with primary purposes, which motivate the rationalistic left lobe of our brain. Thus, there is no problem with good tasting “nutritious” food but there is a problem with good tasting “junk” food. Likewise, there is no problem with sexual pleasure within the reproductive context of marriage, but there is a problem when sex is practiced outside this context through fornication or in any way that undermines or totally blocks the possibility of reproduction. [This is the reasoning of the Catholic Church in its opposition to artificial birth control, fornication, masturbation, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality, or any other sexual practice which undermines or eliminates the primary purpose of the reproduction of the species. Their opposition is based on logic, not feelings.]
Another facet that needs to be recognized when dealing with sin is temptation. Temptations usually originate in the right-lobe of the brain as a desire for something it finds pleasurable, most of the time a specific vice that we are inclined to. Temptation, in itself, is generally not a sin, but instead guides us to sin by encouraging the left-lobe to consent to the desire. The right lobe, being governed by hedonism, demands that it be given what it wants. It will conjure up images, sounds, and memories, dwelling on its cravings while acting like a spoiled child throwing a temper-tantrum until its demands are met. When not resisted, temptations become an “occasion of sin” since it will likely lead a person to the sin they are trying to overcome. But when a temptation is resisted, it strengthens a soul, fortifying it against future assaults, and thus gaining merit before the throne of God.
“Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.” — Matthew 26:41
Now, if you are anything like me, you likely don’t see yourself as being “that bad of a person”. People often say things like “I never murdered anyone”, “I never stole anything”, or “I’m a nice person”, and thus we often gloss over our sins since we often aren’t as bad as those in prison or politics. (Is there really a difference between the two?) How wrong we are though, to compare ourselves against hardened criminals, since even 1 mortal sin is enough to condemn us if left unrepentant.
“Once I was summoned to the judgment [seat] of God. I stood alone before the Lord. Jesus appeared such as we know Him during His Passion. After a moment, His wounds disappeared except for five, those in His hands, His feet and His side. Suddenly I saw the complete condition of my soul as God sees it. I could clearly see all that is displeasing to God. I did not know that even the smallest transgressions will have to be accounted for. What a moment! Who can describe it? To stand before the Thrice-Holy God!” — From 'Divine Mercy In My Soul', The Diary of Sr. Faustina Kowalska
“Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” — Galatians 5:19-21
As most of us know all too well, overcoming our animalistic natures is not an easy task. Temptations can plague us repeatedly, sometimes as if non-stop. The moment one ends, another wave begins. And although we may never fully overcome them in this lifetime, we can learn to mitigate the control they have over us. To do so will require determination and prayer, lots of it. And since our weakness to sin derives from both a physical and spiritual component, we will need to exercise both these venues so to strengthen ourselves against the desires of the flesh and the temptations of the evil one.
When dealing with the physical weaknesses to sin, our right-lobe tends to betray us almost every time. It craves and desires the pleasures of the flesh and its own ego, often turning a sinful desire into a habitual vice that can become more difficult to overcome. But, being that the right-lobe is animalistic in nature also provides us with a means on how to tame it, through discipline. Since the right-lobe doesn’t have the faculties of language and rational thought, it cannot be taught simply by speaking to it. Instead, it is more like a body builder who continuously needs to add additional weight and stress to his (or her) muscles to force them to grow and adapt. No amount of logic will make his muscles grow, only brute force, increase stress and consistent determination. The right lobe requires the same type of discipline, but instead of using weights to grow, it requires willful and intentional deprivation. The best method to discipline the right lobe, by far, is fasting.
Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all the Christian disciplines. Through fasting [and prayer], the Holy Spirit can transform our lives, empowering our prayers, atone for sin, and [most of all] strengthening us against the concupiscence of our flesh (the lower appetites of the right lobe’s animal nature). Fasting even shields us against the attacks and temptations of the devil. For example, an exorcist must prepare with fasting and prayer for 3 full days before doing battle with Satan. This period of preparation allows him to suppress his animalistic nature, bringing it in line with the spirit, while strengthening himself spiritually that he may have power to command the evil spirit to be gone in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. (Mark 9: 16-29)
"Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one's flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity." — Sermon by Saint Augustine
[Fasting is an excellent tool for overcoming addictions to sex and pornography! Occasionally starving the body of food has a direct impact on sexual urges, since the stomach is right on top of the sexual organs. Why this works is anyone's guess, but it does work. Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest minds ever in the Catholic Church, said in his Summa Theologica that fasting is the guardian of chastity.]
Although fasting may discipline the physical body and its yearnings for worldly pleasures, without a relationship with God our fasting is done in vain.
“Prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father…with his Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2565
Prayer allows us to gain a better knowledge of God, and in doing so, it helps us obtain a better knowledge of ourselves, as the image of God. Through our prayers of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, we acknowledge our pettiness and insignificance compared to God's greatness and power, as well as our dependence on Him for everything that we have. Our prayers of repentance keep us aware of our sinful human nature and allow us to experience God's boundless mercy.
Although there are countless prayers of every kind, both structured and non, that are beneficial to our spiritual growth and progress, 2 prayers stand out as some of the most powerful and beneficial in regards to overcoming our sinful nature: The Rosary, and the Chaplet.
“One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, Our Lady will save the world.” — Saint Dominic
The first clear historical reference to the rosary is from the life of St. Dominic (who died in 1221), the founder of the Order of Dominicans. Tradition has it that the Blessed Mother herself asked for the practice as an antidote for heresy and sin. Over the centuries the saints and popes have highly recommended the rosary the greatest prayer in the Church after the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours.
The rosary has been called the prayer of saints. While the hands and lips are occupied with the prayers, the mind meditates on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption represented by the decades. "The Rosary is the compendium of the entire Gospel" (Pope Paul VI quoting Pope Pius XII). Pope Pius IX stated: “Among all the devotions approved by the Church none has been so favored by so many miracles as the devotion of the Most Holy Rosary”.
The demons tremble at the recitation of the Rosary of the Blessed Mother, because it is written in scripture: “she shall crush thy head” (Gen. 3:15), referring to the inevitable defeat of the evil one. When prayed faithfully, the power Satan possesses over the soul due to sin is broken. When prayed with the intention of overcoming our sinful desires, the Blessed Mother herself gave the following promise: “The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.”
"No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary" — Bishop Hugh Doyle
"Say unceasingly this chaplet that I have taught you. Anyone who says it will receive great Mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as the last hope. Even the most hardened sinner, if he recites this Chaplet even once, will receive grace from My Infinite Mercy. I want the whole world to know My Infinite Mercy. I want to give unimaginable graces to those who trust in My Mercy...."
"....When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person not as the just judge but as the Merciful Savior". -Jesus to St. Faustina
In 1935, Saint Faustina received a vision of an angel sent by God to chastise a certain city. She began to pray for mercy, but her prayers were powerless. Suddenly she saw the Holy Trinity and felt the power of Jesus' grace within her. At the same time, she found herself pleading with God for mercy with words she heard interiorly:
"Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." -Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 476
As she continued saying this inspired prayer, the angel became helpless and could not carry out the deserved punishment. The next day, as she was entering the chapel, she again heard this interior voice, instructing her how to recite the prayer that our Lord later called "the Chaplet." From then on, she recited this form of prayer almost constantly, offering it especially for the dying. In subsequent revelations, the Lord made it clear that the Chaplet was not just for her, but for the whole world. He also attached extraordinary promises to its recitation:
“Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will.” -Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1731
The Chaplet is a powerful prayer that, when combined with the prayers of the Rosary, work together as a sword and shield against Satan and his stratagems. “Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) Temptation loses its grip on a heart that is prayerful. And the more we pray, the more Our Lord will pour His love and grace into our hearts, thus giving us the strength to overcome our animalistic desires and tendencies to sin. “I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy.” (687)
Disciplining oneself to overcome sin doesn’t always need to involve doing something. Spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in silent adoration is also a great way to overcome our lower appetites along with bringing us closer to Jesus. To adore Jesus in the Eucharist in one of Satan’s worst nightmares, since most of his whiles and temptations depend on the gratification of one or more of our senses. Depriving our senses as a sacrifice to Jesus allows us to quiet our mind and listen to the soft voice of our Lord as He speaks to our hearts while, at the same time, giving Him the honor and worship due to our Savior.
"Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you & for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart...don't listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love." -St. Therese of Lisieux
Lastly, there is a final practice that will make the 'intentional' work of fasting and prayer into an habitual lifestyle where overcoming ourselves becomes second nature. This ultimate solution to overcoming sin is the practice of the 7 Holy Virtues.
A virtue is a positive trait, quality, or practice that more perfectly reflects God thru the actions of man. It is:
"an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. A virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God." (CC63)
The 7 Deadly Sins oppose the 7 Holy Virtues and are thus used as tools by Satan to prevent us from being the 'Reflection of God' to our fellow man. The practice of the 7 Holy Virtues can aid us in overcoming our fallen nature and guide us more safely on the path Jesus has laid out for us. The following is a comparison between the 7 Holy Virtues and the 7 Deadly Sins:
Prudence is called 'auriga virtutum' (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure by which all other virtues must follow. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience, aGolden Crossiming to perfect not the will (the animalistic right-lobe) but the intellect (the logical left-lobe) in its practical decisions. Its function is to point out which course of action is to be taken in any circumstance. St. Thomas Aquinas referred to prudence as ‘Right Reason in Action’. With the help of this virtue we can see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is not, and how to come at the one while avoiding the other. It inclines the prudent man to act in all things according to right reason.
Justice signifies the most important of the cardinal virtues. Unlike prudence which perfects the intellect, justice perfects the will (the right-lobe) by inclining it to render to God and neighbor what belongs to them. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion", whereas justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes fairness with regard to persons and to the common good.
Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations, overcome obstacles in the moral life, and enables a person to conquer fear, even fear of death, in defense of a just cause.
St. Thomas calls the specific virtue of fortitude that which braves the greatest dangers, and therefore that which meets the risk of life in battle. Fortitude is concerned not so much with aggredi (attack) as with sustinere (endurance): which means that the courageous man has to attend, rather to bearing up against, terrifying circumstances.
Fortitude, as one of the gifts from the Holy Ghost, is a supernatural virtue. It is moral courage against the evil spirit of the times, against improper fashions, against human respect, against the common tendency to seek at least the comfortable, if not the voluptuous. We need the courage of fortitude to also be patient under poverty or privation, entailing perseverance through all difficulties, even that of martyrdom.
Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods (such as moderating alcohol). It ensures that the right lobe (the will) masters its natural-born instincts and controls its desires to within limits according as reason dictates.
Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites." In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety." We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."
It may be defined as the righteous habit which makes a man govern his natural appetite for pleasures of the senses in accordance with the norm prescribed by reason. Thus, it is the virtue which bridles concupiscence or which controls the yearning for pleasures and delights which most powerfully attract the human heart.
Faith, objectively, stands for the sum of truths revealed by God in Scripture and tradition and which the Holy Church proposes for our belief. Subjectively, faith stands for the habit or virtue by which we assent to those truths. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." And for this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will in all things.
Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."
The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment. The words of St. Paul (Romans 8:24) are to the point: "For we are saved by hope.”
Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: "Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." It affords us joy even under trial: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation." Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.
Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
The Apostle Paul gives an unsurpassed description of charity: "charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things." (1 Cor 13:4-7)
"If I . . . have not charity," says the Apostle, "I am nothing." Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, "if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing." Charity is superior to all the virtues, as it is the first of the theological virtues: "So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity."
The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony". Charity is the embodied form of the virtues since it articulates and orders them.
The Warning is quickly approach with the passing of every day. This is the time of mercy, and we must take heed to overcome ourselves while we still are in His mercy. After the Warning, there will be no room left for sinful behavior. And if we do not work to overcome ourselves now, the evil one will seize the opportunity of our weakened state to overwhelm us into despair and lead us into the arms of his Antichrist.
The price for sin is death. This is a price we must all eventually pay. But if we wash ourselves in the 'Blood of the Lamb' and dedicat our lives to virtuous behavior we can save ourselves from the second death, a spiritual death of which there is no hope of salvation. The Lord wishes for none of His children to perish, and so He beckons us all to walk through the door of His mercy while mercy still remains to do so.
Will you heed His voice? Will you tame your sinful, animalistic nature and rise up to take your place as sons and daughters of the Most High? Or will you choose to wait... till After the Warning?
"Tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near." -Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 965