Sinning Bravely: Start Like You Mean to Finish

Sinning Bravely: Start Like You Mean to Finish July 10, 2014

Some time ago, my husband went to confession with a particularly thorny sin on his soul.  The kind that he wanted to avoid, and yet seemed to be utterly unable to shake.  Father used an expression that we both contemplated thereafter at long intervals: Sin bravely.

Apparently it’s a Lutheran thing, and I assure the scandalized reader that Father B. is neither Lutheran nor proposing that we go through life with sin as our goal.

Rather, I inferred, in the battle against sin, we stay in the fight, courageously, even when sin seems to pursue, to hunt us down, to never ever go away.  Even when, time and again, we make true the words of Confiteor.


The tendency is to make sins into little gods.  We let the sin own us when we declare it invincible.  I cannot defeat it and God cannot redeem it?  That’s turning sin into an idol.  I fight, God fights, one of us can win this.   If not me than He.


Elsewhere I was in a conversation about a writer whose opinions on hot Catholic parenting topics make mine seem downright liberal.  I did the usual making-fun thing that is the mark of a weak intellect, then turned my brain on and gave the situation some analysis. I quote myself:

. . . this line of thinking always struck me as an over-reaction to the legitimate question of, “What are we preparing our children for?” In that it’s easy to go along with the usual thing, and then realize too late that the usual thing put you in exactly the wrong place. He’s terribly mistaken in his conclusions, but it’s possible his premise was a reasonable one.

I’m only half joking when I squirm during the act of contrition at the part about “avoiding whatever leads me to sin.”  I have, after all, a solemn duty to care for the four of them, and not divorce the fifth without grave reason.  That’s not what the prayer means, though I suppose if I switched to the act that has more hellfire in it, I could spare myself some mental gymnastics.

The trouble, though, is that Christianity requires me to live differently.  I keep running into difficulties with myself when I ignore that fact.  When I try to figure out how to have my holiness and my nice comfortable 21st Century American lifestyle, too.   So many sins I build right into my day, my week, my decade.  Carefully setting myself up for perhaps the big fall; more likely the smouldering, unquenchable sorrow.

File:Andrea Solario - Mary Magdalen - Walters 37509.jpg

Artwork by Andrea Solari [Public domain,], via Wikimedia Commons. Click through to the file description for an art history lesson.

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