Fr. Alan Mackey describes the chains of sin and the means of escape.
After time spent in the confessional, a priest, in due time, will begin to recognize that the genesis of a great deal of suffering is due to sin. The abuse of free will, while enticing at the beginning, leads one away from our Heavenly Father, who is the source of what is true, beautiful, and good. That separation, predictably, brings with it shame and suffering. Suffering because of our sins is not the same thing as penance or the crosses that come from a loving God. No, the suffering that is consequential to our personal sin and lukewarmness is one that is a foretaste of hell, and one we should avoid and rid our lives of. It is a suffering that we can and should avoid. The sort of suffering that can be sanctifying comes from outside of our control and is related to sin in a broad way—to the evil in the world generally. The kind of suffering caused by our own sin comes from inside of us and is related to sin in a particular way—through our own evil.
God, our Father and Creator, knows well our human nature. Therefore, He has placed on the heart of man the Natural Law and given us a moral code in the Ten Commandments and the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church to guide us to heaven. These are not encroachments on our freedom, but sure guides to keep us away from danger, because the rejection of traditional Catholic teaching creates a vacuum that the devil is all too eager to fill with his tyranny.
“…recover…a way of living that… imbues our homes and our hearts with authentic spirituality [and] unites us to the rhythms of the Church’s year—indeed, to the rhythms of the heart of Christ.”
This tyranny causes the soul, meant to be with God for all eternity, great suffering.
Traditionally, the Church on earth has been referred to as the Church Militant. This term was a prudent reminder to the catholic that we are at war with the Devil, the Flesh, and the world. The outcome of that war will determine where we will spend eternity. Unfortunately, in modern times this apt description has been eschewed, as the necessity to fight for one’s salvation is seen as an outdated notion from an unenlightened time. However, circumspection dictates that we recount the admonition of St. Paul who tells the church at Philippi, “…to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). For we can never forget that,
“we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (6:12).
The Fight is Home
All of us have an enemy of our souls whose modus operandi is elucidated by St. Peter when he stated that, “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In a culture that denies the supernatural in general and spiritual warfare in particular, the enemy of our souls enters into a numb and comatose environment.
Leon Trotsky, a progenitor of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and founder of the Red Army was famously quoted as saying: “You may not be interested in the dialectic (culture war), but the dialectic is interested in you.”
You may not be interested in Satan, but he is interested in you. If you are a husband and a father, then he is interested in your soul and the souls of your family. For the devil undoubtedly understands the authority structure of the family. He will attempt to pervert the family by spiritually debilitating the father. For Satan is simultaneously perverted and perverting.
So, we must fight or the consequence of cooperation is misery and enslavement to sin in this life and eternal damnation in the next.
Understand the Enemy
In order to fight efficaciously and not swing wildly and aimlessly, as St. Peter did with his sword in Gethsemane, we must know the tactics of our enemy. Without knowledge of the enemy of our souls, an enemy who never sleeps, we become easy prey.
The ordinary activity of the Devil’s attack is through temptation. St. Gregory the Great said that the three stages of temptation are suggestion, delight, and then consent. The temptation and fall of Eve is instructive to those who desire to resist the temptations of the Ancient Serpent. Lucifer made a suggestion to Eve, that if she ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, she would not die but would become like God. How? She would be able to determine right from wrong. What a subtle suggestion: God lied to you, so if you disobey God, you will become a god. You will determine what is right and wrong. Eve did not reject the suggestion, but instead took delight in its claims. Eve had access to a plethora of trees, but at the fraudulent suggestion did not want to be denied the forbidden fruit. When delight is taken at the suggestion then what follows is very predictable; consent of the intellect and will to the temptation.
Eve then presents the fruit to her husband Adam. Instead of protecting his wife from the fallen angel’s temptation and maintaining the order God had set in the Garden of Eden, he effeminately accepts the fruit from his wife, knowing the consequences of disobeying God’s authority.
A consequence of sin that is not frequently examined is the deleterious effect it has on the faculties of the soul. If one is habitually inclined to a particular sin, especially mortal sin, a vice will develop. A virtue is a good habit; a vice is a bad one. A habit develops when actions are repeated. So, by persisting in sin, we develop a bad habit and that bad habit becomes ingrained in the soul as a vice. It therefore becomes difficult to uproot and we find ourselves less free. We are less free because the intellect becomes darker, making the correct moral choice more difficult to ascertain. Repetitive patterns of sin weaken the will, making it harder to perform a virtuous act. Vice kills freedom.
Our society rejects virtue, thinking that self-restraint is essentially inhibiting, but it is necessary to recognize that the virtuous man is a free man. He is not bound by his passions and emotions, which can deceive and lead to actions that cause untold suffering to oneself and, if a husband and father, to the Godly order the father establishes in the home. A father, guided by his passions and vices, is not free to make the moral choices consistent with his vocation as the spiritual and physical protector of his family. This has appalling consequences to the lives of his wife and children, as it is God’s ordaining will that the father is to lead his family to heaven. How can he lead if he is controlled by vice? How can he guide if he is restrained by his passions? “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered” (Mark 3:27).
If one finds himself chained by his passions, the reaction cannot be one of despair, but an effort of reversing course. We have a liberator in Jesus Christ. It is through the grace of the sacraments, the practice of small mortifications every day, the accountability and strength of brotherhood, and performing the virtues opposed to vices rooted in our soul that we find freedom. A devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Auxilium Christianorum, and her rosary, will help us crush the Ancient Serpent. She alone was given the mandate to crush his head, thus Lucifer hates her with a demonic rage but fears her with the same intensity. It is through the grace of Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary that our intellects will be enlightened and our will strengthened. That is freedom and strength the world cannot give.