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One of the truisms of the Christian journey is that the holier we get, the more sinful we discover we are. This apparent paradox is because the closer we come to God, the more spotlights God shines into our lives revealing the sin hidden in the shadows, much like a ray of sunlight in a room reveals particles of dust and debris that one would never notice otherwise.

God turned a whole lot of spotlights in my life in the winter of 2008. In October that year, I had made an Ignatian retreat in Omaha, Nebraska with a wonderful community based there known as the Intercessors of the Lamb. It was a wonderful time of rejuvenation, restoration and new lessons learned and I left there revitalized in every way. I also left with a copy of a book by foundress Mother Nadine titled Bathe Seven Times, which offered a contemplative look at the seven capital sins of anger, envy, lust, pride, gluttony, sloth and avarice.

The seven capital sins, also known as deadly sins, are a classification of the most objectionable vices that were originally used in early Christian teachings to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen man’s tendency to sin. They are called capital because all the sins of commission and omission that we commit are said to flow from these seven capital sins.

However, each of these may be venial or mortal depending on the specific case. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent” (CCC 1857).

Nowhere in the Christian Bible is a specific list of the seven deadly sins given, although the sins themselves are described as such everywhere, notably in Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Corinthians. The modern concept of these sins is linked to the works of John Cassian, who listed eight principal vices as follows: gluttony, fornication, avarice, sorrow, anger, gloominess, listlessness (or low spirits), and vainglory (or boasting). Some years later, Pope Gregory I would revise this list to form the sins as we know them today.

I started reading Mother Nadine’s book on the long flight back home and the very first chapter I read—on anger—seared away any sense of self-righteousness that I may have had at that point. I had always been an angry man, often violently so, but after my conversion (see The Return of the Prodigal), I had become remarkably peaceable. I had not hit anybody in six years. I had not thrown anything at anybody in five. I had not raised my voice in anger in four. I believed I was done being angry. Reading this chapter, however, made me realize that there were other expressions of anger that I hadn’t been aware of and how much anger there still was within me.

As I read through the book, I discovered to my chagrin that I was guilty of committing every single one of the deadly sins. It was a shocking revelation, but I knew better than to feel guilty. Such exposure of ones sinfulness is not intended to make us feel bad about ourselves, but to show us what we need to change about our lives. We make the necessary corrections and move on.

Mother Nadine’s book helped me. I hope this book, inspired by hers, but very different in style and content, will help you.

May the Spirit be with you.

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