How little I think of committing venial sin, and how soon I forget I have done so! Yet God hates nothing more than even the shadow of sin, nothing does more harm to my spiritual progress and hinders any real advance in holiness. My God, give me an intense hatred and dread and horror of the smallest sin. I want to please You and love You and serve You as I have never done before. Let me begin by stamping out all sin in my soul.
We could not take pleasure in living in the company of one whose body is one running, festering sore; neither can God draw us close to Himself, caress and love us, if our souls are covered with venial sin, more loathsome and horrible in His eyes than the most foul disease. To avoid mortal sin I must carefully guard against deliberate venial sin, so to avoid venial sin I must fly from the shadow of imperfection in my actions. How often in the past have I done things when I did not know if they were sins or only deliberate imperfections and how little I cared, my God!
COMMENT: In today’s quote Fr Doyle lays before us the need to steadily advance in virtue and to fight against sins and imperfections. If we are to advance in the life of the soul we need to progress from the battle against mortal sin to a battle against even venial sins and from there eve to a battle against imperfections. Obviously mortal sins are deadly to our spiritual life and are to be avoided at all costs. But venial sins are also very damaging even though they do not destroy the life of grace within us. We can so often easily yield to them because they are “only” venial sins.
Fr Doyle was not alone in pronouncing the dangers of venial sins. The great St Teresa of Avila tells us:
One venial sin can do us greater harm than all the forces of hell combined.
And she should know, for she spent many years of religious life with indifferent virtue. Certainly in her early years she lived a life that was more admirable than most of us today, but after her “conversion” at around the age of 40 she was appalled at the weakness and lukewarmness to which venial sins had lead her.
The Venerable Louis of Granada gives a similar warning:
Venial sin, however slight, is always prejudicial to the soul. It weakens our devotion, troubles the peace of our conscience, diminishes the fervour of charity, exhausts the strength of our spiritual life, and obstructs the work of the Holy Ghost in our souls. I pray you then to do all in your power to avoid these sins, for there is no enemy too weak to harm us if we make no resistance. Slight anger, gluttony, vanity, idle words and thoughts, immoderate laughter, loss of time, too much sleeping, trivial lies or flatteries – such are the sins against which I would particularly warn you. Great vigilance is required against offenses of this kind, for occasions of venial sin abound.
Fr Doyle gives us the path we are to follow:
To avoid mortal sin I must carefully guard against deliberate venial sin, so to avoid venial sin I must fly from the shadow of imperfection in my actions.
It sounds easy, but it is tremendously difficult, and even though we are sure to commit venial sins and imperfections we must still fight against them, using the means God gives us and relying on His grace.