Though I’m sure the complaint could be made that I only want to gain more readers, or that it’s fun to make people feel depressed about themselves, I maintain that we’re all bad Catholics. There’s this misconstrued notion out there that, if one were to put the priest in the confessional and the sinner on a holiness chart, the priest would win. Or that the old lady praying rosaries is a good Catholic and the kid in the back, distracting her by playing loud music…well he’s getting there. Perhaps that’s not exactly what I mean…let me try again…there’s this notion that the faith gets easier the closer you get to being the priest or the lady praying a rosary in the back pew.
But, before you say, “Well hey, doesn’t it? I’m going to get over all these sins and weaknesses in my life, and then it’ll peaceful and easy,” think about the prerequisites that make a sin grave or mortal (really freaking bad, resulting in a loss of grace). It must be:
- Of grave matter
- Committed with full knowledge of the sin’s evil, rejecting God
- Committed freely
What this means is that, the greater your relationship with God, and the greater your faith, and the more knowledge you have of God and sin – the harder holiness gets. The just-beginning Catholic is not held to the same level of accountability as the Saint. It is the Saint who – with such great knowledge of God, and of sin, and with such a fantastic personal relationship with Christ – it is he who can really sin, and sin hard. From such great heights comes such a fall, because he has that full knowledge. Because he knows – thanks to his life of faith – how grave the matter may be.
That’s why I’m not shocked when I hear that the Pope goes to confession every week. Of course! How much more aware is a holy man of the reality of sin, and thus, how much more accountable for sinning! I would be sincerely worried if our Pope did not visit the sacrament of reconciliation more often than me.
So what am I saying, that we should never become Saints, for there we will fall? No! I’m saying that sainthood is tough. The world loves to portray Saints as being out of touch with the world, as being so beyond all the sin and death that well, roses just sprout from their feet and they only ever look happy when posing for portraits. No. I do believe that they are heroes, because they wrestle with sin we often do not acknowledge, understand, or even know. Once again, Catholicism proves itself as a religion of reality. Like any game worth playing, it gets harder as it goes. Like any book worth reading, it gets richer, more complex as it develops. Sound scary? Well it should, this isn’t a religion for pansies. It is a religion for humans.
And we’ll rest when we’re dead.