Tag: sin

Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory and make heaven?

Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory and make heaven?

Q. Indulgences and Purgatory

Q. How can I get indulgences. As a former Protestant I’m still learning the Catholic faith. Can indulgences keep me out of purgatory? If I have to go there it’s apt to be a long sentence. I’ve got a lot of sin and I’ve done confessions but still sin. I’m a rough kind of guy, trying to get to Heaven. Needs LOTS of these indulgences. Please help.

A. Well, you’re also a very honest kind of guy. It’s good that you are aware of your sin, that’s the first step to receiving God’s mercy.

Forgiveness is Not Enough…The Grace of Indulgences

This seems like a strange subheading for this chapter, but it’s true. Forgiveness is not enough to grow holy. Here is a classic question that illustrates the point.

Often it is asked whether someone will go straight to Heaven if they go to confession, confess all their sins, and as they walk out of the church have a heart attack and die. They were just forgiven so this must mean they go straight to Heaven with no time in Purgatory! Right? Wrong.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation does in fact forgive all our sins. For that reason, someone who goes to confession and dies prior to committing an unrepented mortal sin will, indeed, go to Heaven. But getting into Heaven also requires something else. It requires complete freedom from all attachment to sin! And that’s a tall order.

Sin not only hurts our relationship with God, it also strengthens our “relationship” so to speak with sin itself. In other words, the more we sin, the more we are attached to sin. Confession forgives our past sins, and helps us overcome future sins, but we do need additional grace to be freed from the “attachment” we experience.

For example, say someone is a habitual liar. They have become so used to lying that they do it for no real reason. The habit is deep and strong and they practice it daily and throughout the day.

Now let’s say that person goes to confession and receives forgiveness for all past sins of lying. That’s excellent! But does this mean that as soon as the person walks out of the confessional they have also completely broken the habit they have formed? Certainly not. Most likely, within a few hours, they will be tempted to lie again simply because the habit is strong within them. This fact reveals to us that forgiveness is not enough, we also need a special grace to help us become detached from all tendencies toward sin. And this is where an indulgence comes in.

Catechism defines an indulgence in the following way:

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” (Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 1).

“An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin” (Indulgentiarum doctrina, Norm 2; cf. Norm 3). The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead (CIC, can. 994). (#1471)

Now there is a lot packed into this statement which may be confusing. So let’s look at it one piece at a time.

Temporal Punishment:

First of all, punishment due to sin is either eternal or temporal. Eternal punishment (Hell) is removed in confession, but temporal punishment remains. This language can be misleading. This is not a punishment from God. It’s not as if God says, “Because you did this you deserve 10 years in purgatory unless you make up for it now.” The “punishment” is “due to sin.” In other words, sin itself imposes a punishment upon us. What is that punishment? It’s attachment to sin. By sinning we become attached to the sin through our habit and this attachment is a punishment from the sin itself. God wants to break that attachment. The grace of an indulgence is specifically for this purpose.

Prescribed Actions of the Church:

All grace comes from God, but the Church is given the authority to dispense the grace of God through certain means. An indulgence is one of those means. Therefore, when the Church says that certain actions open the warehouse of grace, we can be certain that this is true. For example, one of the indulgences offered by the Church requires the following: Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, go to confession within seven days of that holy hour, receive communion within seven days, and pray for the pope. Upon the completion of these requirements we can be certain that all the grace we need to completely detach from the sins we confess is given to us. That’s right. The grace is there.

Interior Disposition:

But there is one catch to the above explanation! We have to be open to that grace if it is going to have an effect in our lives. And this is the most important part to remember (and the most difficult to fulfill). To illustrate, let’s go back to our earlier example. Say a person went to confession, completed the requirements of a full indulgence, and THEN walked outside and was hit by a car and died. Does the indulgence mean the person went straight to Heaven? Maybe, but probably not. The person would go straight to Heaven, bypassing Purgatory, if, and only if, that person’s heart was ALSO perfectly open to the infinite grace given through this indulgence. Forgiveness of sin is certain. Therefore, Heaven will happen. But whether one goes to Purgatory or not depends on how open the person is to completely detaching from all sin and all tendency to sin. This is the grace the indulgence seeks to give if we are willing to receive it. And if we do fully open our heart to it, this means we have completely converted to God and are perfectly in His grace. This, of course, must be our goal!

Types of Indulgences:

An indulgence is either “partial”or “full.” “Partial” meaning some of the grace needed for the full conversion is given, and “full” meaning that all of the grace needed is made available if the person’s heart is fully open.

So this is the glorious and transforming Sacrament of Penance, Reconciliation, Confession, and Forgiveness. It’s a gift so many fear, but a gift we ought to love. Examine your approach to this sacrament and let God speak to you, draw you to it and help you fall in love with it. If you do, you’ll find that this is one of the best ways available to encounter the love and mercy of our perfectly loving and merciful God!

Is Getting A Tattoo A Sin? The Church Stand!

Is Getting A Tattoo A Sin? The Church Stand!

Q. Three of my friends and I all turn 18 in the same month. We have been planning to celebrate by getting tattoos. My mother says getting a tattoo is a sin. Is that what the church teaches?

A. Are tattoos a sin? Perhaps the answer to this question is not as straightforward as we would like it to be. I think the best thing I can do is to offer some insights from Scripture and Catholic teaching to help you come to a good decision.

In the Old Testament we read from the Book of Leviticus the straightforward command, “ … do not tattoo yourselves” (19:28). The first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians explains that “ … your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit … ” (6:19). And the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended …, mutilations, … performed on innocent persons are against the moral law” (#2297).

So what does this all mean in regards to tattoos? First, I don’t think it means that tattoos are “intrinsically evil.” What I mean is that it would be an error to say that every tattoo in every circumstance is always wrong. Some cultures, for example, have a marking on the forehead to indicate ones marital status. Many Ethiopian Christians have the custom of tattooing a cross on their forehead to express their Christian faith. And we only need to look through the history books to see the many ways in which tattoos have been a part of many other cultures.

Culture, I believe, is one important aspect to look at when discussing the morality of tattoos. One key point is that in many of these cultural examples, tattoos are not only socially accepted, they are also often socially expected. That, of course, is not the case in the many countries. So what about getting a tattoo in your country and in your culture? Allow me to offer three considerations.

First, your body was made by God and is beautiful just as it is. To add an additional permanent marking to your body is not necessary. Some would even call it a mutilation. Doing this will not add to your bodies natural beauty. And since it is not a required part of our culture, there is no good reason to pursue one. Remember, your body truly is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We should, therefore, treat our body as we would God’s church. God has already designed and decorated this “church” in such a way that it really does not need an additional permanent alteration.

Second, if you were to decide to get a tattoo anyway, please avoid the following: Diabolical images, ugly images, shocking images, images pertaining to horoscopes, and simply put, any image contrary to the Christian faith. Any image like this would surely fall into the category of sin.

Third, make sure you are not acting out of peer pressure. Sometimes we can do things simply because our friends are doing it and we want to fit in. This is never a good reason. If our friends are real friends they will not pressure us into decisions like this nor will they look down on us if we choose not to “go with the flow.” Make sure your choice is not made out of pressure from others.

I hope that helps. If you are still confused about getting a tattoo I at least suggest you spend more time thinking and praying about it. I’m sure that if you are fully open to the will of God, He will lead you in the right direction and help you to make the right decision.

Is It A Sin To Be Angry?

Is It A Sin To Be Angry?

ANXIETY of mind (Anger) is the mental grief we feel due to our involuntary ailments. Whether the evil is exterior like poverty and illness or interior, such as lack of knowledge, dryness, depression or temptation. Then we at once begin to try to eliminate it, and find a way to shake it off. For it is natural to us all to desire good, and take off that which we take to be evil.

If any one wishes to be delivered from his troubles out of love of God, he will strive patiently, gently, humbly and calmly, looking for deliverance rather to God’s Goodness and Providence than to his own efforts. However, if self-love is the prevailing object, he can grow hot and eager in seeking relief as though all depended more upon himself than upon God. I do not say that the person thinks so, but he acts eagerly as though he actually think so. Then if he does not realize what he desires at once, he becomes extremely impatient and troubled, which does not settle matters, but on the contrary makes them worse. And so he goes into an unjust state of anxiety and distress, till he begins to see that there is no cure for his trouble. By then, you would see how a disturbance, which was right at the offset, begets anger, and anger goes on into an excessive distress, which is exceedingly bad.
Anger is the highest evil which can happen to the soul, which is a sin solely excepted. Just as internal commotions and seditions ruin a commonwealth, and create it incapable of resisting its enemies, so if our heart be troubled and anxious, it loses power to hold unto such graces as it has, as well as the energy to resist the temptations of the Evil One, who is all the more eager to fish (according to an old proverb) in troubled waters.

Anxiety arises from an unregulated want, to be delivered from any pressing evil. Birds that are caught in nets and snares become inextricably entangled inside the cage, because they flutter and struggle a lot. Therefore, whenever you desperately want to be delivered from any evil, or to get a hold of some good thing, attempt above all things to keep a calm and a restful spirit, steady your judgment and will, then go quietly and simply after your object, taking all necessary means to achieve that.
When I say “simply” I do not mean carelessly, but without keenness, uneasiness or anxiety.

Examine yourself daily , at least night and morning, as to know whether your soul is at peace or whether it has been twisted thence by any passionate or anxious emotion. See whether your soul is totally under control, or whether it has run into some unruly love, hate, envy, lust, fear, vexation or joy. And if it has gone a strayed, before everything else look out for it and quietly bring it back to the Presence of God, and again placing all your hopes and love under the direction of His Holy Will. Just as one who is scared to lose some precious possession holds it tight in his hand, so, like King David, we ought to be able to say, “My soul is always in my hand, and therefore I have not forgotten Thy law”.

Do not give way to any desires to disturb your mind under the pretext of their being trifling and unimportant; for if they have their way that day, higher and heavier matters will find your heart more accessible to disturbance. When you are acutely aware that you are growing anxious, put in yourself to God, and decide deeply not to take any steps whatever to obtain the result you desire, until your disturbed state of mind is totally in peace.

If you will be able to lay your anxiety before your spiritual director or at least before some trusty and faithful friend, you may be sure that you will find greater peace. The heart finds relief in trusting its troubles to another, just as the body when suffering from constant fever finds relief from bleeding.

7 Tips to Avoid Temptation

7 Tips to Avoid Temptation

God does not promise that we will never be tempted, but that when we are, He will provide a way of escape. However, there are things that we can do as a Christian to avoid unnecessary temptation. Many times temptation can be completely avoided by following these simple tips.


In the model prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew 6, He taught them to ask God to lead them away from temptation (Matthew 6:13). A daily relationship with God in prayer is a first step to avoiding temptation.

Use the Word of God

There are many good verses that will help you overcome certain temptations. Memorizing Bible verses targeted to combat your areas of temptation will be a protection and defense. 2 Corinthians 10:4 and 5 talk about pulling down things that get a stronghold in our life.

You need to work on memorizing a list of Bible verses that will help you avoid temptation. You cannot rely on finding a Bible at the moment of temptation. These verses have to become second nature to you.

Spend time in God’s word daily. Make it a habit. By knowing you will be confronted by the Bible in your reading tomorrow it can help you stay focused on God today.


Understand Your Personal Weaknesses

Not everyone is tempted in the same way. What is a struggle for one person may not be the least bit tempting to another person. For example one person may be tempted with smoking. For the next guy, smoking has never had a foothold on the person and therefore is not at all tempting.

James 1:14 says that we are drawn away with our own lusts. This indicates that each person has their own weak areas to deal with. You need to understand your own weakness so that you will know how to combat and avoid it.

Flee Temptation

God has promised to make a way to escape temptation. If you will look for the escape route then you can flee the temptation. Many times this way of escape is to literally walk (or run) away. Temptation often comes when you find yourself in certain situations or places. When you recognize one of those situations it is time to pack up your stuff and get out of there. (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22)

Create an Accountability Network

As Christians we have direct access to God. There is no place in the Bible where we are taught that we must confess our sins to others to have forgiveness from God. However, the Bible does teach that creating accountability with someone else can help you in your struggle against temptation (James 5:16).

You do not need to go into detail with your accountability partner about about your struggles, but they do need to know how to pray for you. Find someone who is a mature Christian. Often your pastor can fill this role, but it can also be a fellow church member. Tell them that you are struggling in a certain area. Look through the Bible together finding verses that will be a help to you. Have your friend ask you occasionally how you were doing in this area. Once a week is usually often enough. Make a promise to your friend that you will not lie to them when asked about how you are doing. You only hurt yourself when you lie to the other person. Ask your friend to pray for you—not stand in judgment.

Don’t be Discouraged

You should not become complacent about your sin. But you should also not allow it to defeat you. Sin is much more serious than eating too much dessert, but allow me to make an analogy. If you are on a diet and eat an extra cookie that you were not supposed to, does it make sense to quit your diet and eat the rest of the bag? The truth is that one extra cookie is a minor thing compared to how many good choices you made the previous week. It sounds silly to quit a diet because of 100 extra calories. Yet people do it all the time.

Realize that you probably will fall to temptation on occasion, but that is no reason to quit your Christian walk. Don’t accept your sin as if it doesn’t matter, but also realize that you have a choice in your future actions.

Confess and Repent

When you fall to temptation, go to God and confess. He already knows about your sin. You are not telling Him anything that is a surprise. But for your own sake you should humble yourself before God and confess your sin. The truth is, He has already forgiven you if you’re a Christian. Going to Him in confession makes it easier for you to have clear communication with Him.