+JMJ+ Welcome to part 10 of our current Catholic Book of the Month, The Quest for Holiness: Introduction to the Spiritual Life, by Brant Pitre. I’m on a quest to become a saint and I’m using this book as my guide. Come along with me and let’s become saints together! In the preceding weeks we’ve learned about the spiritual exercises of fasting, almsgiving and prayer that Jesus gave us in His Sermon on the Mount, to conquer (always with His grace and the sacramental life of the Church) the three temptations of pleasure, possessions and pride. Now we’ll begin to learn about the virtues and vices.
Keep in mind that all of this pertains to the beginning of the spiritual life. If we haven’t begun facing these temptations and vices and remedying them as Jesus commanded us, then we have not really begun to live the spiritual life, no matter how many prayers we recite or how many good deeds we think we’ve done. And if we’re not in a state of grace, then what we do may have some natural value but it doesn’t have supernatural value. I’m thinking here about another book I read long ago.
…God wills that we ourselves, with His assistance, prepare our soul for [grace], receive it from His hand, preserve, cultivate, and increase it.The Glories of Divine Grace, by Fr. Matthias Scheeben.
More on that later. Maybe we should do at least part of that book sometime.
There are seven particular sins that need to be rooted out, especially in the beginning stages of the spiritual life.Intro, 298, ebook.
These are the seven capital sins, called capital because they stand “at the head” or origin of many other sins. Caput is Latin for head (not to be confused with the German kaput). The list of seven capital sins are (according to the standard list in the West):
- Envy (not jealousy)
- Avarice (greed)
Dr. Pitre answers the question that many will ask at this point: Where is that in the Bible? The answer is, while there is no explicit list of them, Proverbs 26:25 does speak of seven abominations (Hebrew sheba‘ to‘ēbōth, Greek hepta ponēriai) in the human heart and does explicitly teach against each of the capital sins. Dr. Pitre has an interesting chart showing the Proverbs verses that teach about the seven capital sins and the virtues that remedy them on pages 306-307 in the ebook.
In the New Testment we have the parable about the seven evil spirits that can dwell in a person’s soul. See Matthew 12:43–45; and Luke 11:24–26. (Some count the capital sins as eight by counting the original unclean spirit with other seven that he brings with him.) Here Dr. Pitre gives anothe chart, this one for the parables where Jesus talks about the seven capital sins and the remedies for them. (I won’t reproduce all of these charts for copyright reasons, but we’ll go through the lists later in the series.)
The takeaway here is to remember that the capital sins are called capital because they are the origin, the root causes or gateways of many other specific vices (p. 314). So what we have to do is root out those causes, thereby also rooting out other sins that are caused by them.
Now that could be thought of as the generic path we all must follow as disciples but what about us as individuals? This is where examining ourselves comes in and discerning our predominant fault because not every sin affects every person the same way. Not all of us are drawn to the same things or have the same weaknesses.
It’s a good idea to remember that we often have blindspots when it comes to our own faults. Oh, how plain to our eyes are the faults of others! But this is a very important step on the way.
As we begin to realize what our predominant fault is, we have to cultivate the virtue that opposes it.
In order to better understand the faults committed that come under the Seven Capital Sins, let the contrary virtues be considered. So also, to better avoid these sins, one should resolve to endeavor by devout exercises to acquire and retain the seven virtues contrary to them.Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola, no. 245 (emphasis added in Intro, 320, ebook).
On that note I thought I’d share a video of a series of conversations on the Discerning Hearts podcast with Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OFM, who leads Ignatian retreats and has authored several books, too.
Video, “What is an Examen”-The Daily Prayer of Discernment: The Examen Prayer with Fr. Timothy Gallagher. Link opens as a playlist if you view it on YouTube.
There’s more in the book than I can cover in these posts. You can get a copy of your own in hardcover or Kindle ebook format using the links at the end of this post. View other parts of the series on the annotated Table of Contents page. Use this link for this book’s posts.
Next time, the chief sin: pride.
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading. I pray that you and I will stay holy and virtuous this Lent, and may these spiritual helps aid us to become who the Lord intends us to be: SAINTS. God bless you and may His Peace be always with you. +JMJ+
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Notes and Links
- The current Catholic Book of the Month is Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre: Hardcover, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- There are a lot of books on the spiritual life listed in a post I did a few years ago on Dr. Pitre’s audio course on Spiritual Theology. There are links in that post for some of those books in PDF format for free at archive.org.
- “What is an Examen”-The Daily Prayer of Discernment: The Examen Prayer with Fr. Timothy Gallagher. Link opens as a playlist if you view it on YouTube.
Images: In the banner, The Road to Emmaus (or The Way to Emmaus), by Robert Zund, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Mankind’s Eternal Dilemma: The Choice Between Virtue and Vice, by Frans Francken (II), vie Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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