How to Be a Good Sinner

Sometimes my readers make me feel knee-high to a grasshopper. They manage to lead lives of great generosity and holiness in the midst of circumstances I would find unbearable. Here I am in the monastery, well-fed (too well-fed, to be honest), surrounded by books and music and gardens, with a handsome hound (a.k.a. Bro Duncan PBGV) and a very holy nun (a.k.a. Quietnun) to cheer and chivvy me by turns, the liturgy and sacraments of the Catholic Church to inspire me and the Rule of St Benedict to guide me, yet I still don’t quite make the grade. I fail as often as I try. I am a sinner through and through. And that’s not a little bit of hyperbole, like that of the Spaniard who had ‘El Gran Peccador’ carved on his tombstone, it is the simple truth.

Can anything redeem that bald statement, or is it all negative? I think being a sinner, and knowing and acknowledging that one is a sinner, means one is open to grace, which is what really matters. Our very need cries out to God for help, and we know he will never spurn our cry. I like to quote the example of the Desert Father who described his life as falling down and getting up again. To be a good sinner all we need do is follow his example, trusting in the mercy of God and asking his help to amend for the future. Grace will work its miracle in us, if we allow it.

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11 thoughts on “How to Be a Good Sinner”

  1. Something that we need to admit to ourselves. Sinners we’re born and sinners we are. But as you point out, God’s mercy and grace are infinite and no matter how unworthy we are, it’s available in abundance for us, each time that we fall.

    Acknowledging our own failing can sometimes be difficult, we might have an amount of conceit that gets in the way of such admissions, but if we know ourselves and our human weakness, we can overcome that particular venial sin and be reconciled with God, daily, hourly or even by the minute if we can be open to that grace given so freely.

    The Sacrament of Reconciliation is of course available for those of us who have deeper things that we need to discuss with a priest, but ultimately and repentant heart is pleasing to God, we just need to hold onto that thought as we progress through life and all of the ups and downs that it brings. The fit of pique because something hasn’t gone our way, the snub to someone we meet who we’re to impatient to listen too, the hundred small selfish thoughts we might have in a week. All are things that we can acknowledge with a heart open to God’s healing grace.

    A short act of contrition can be all that it takes….. what a gift of God’s grace. 🙂

  2. Know exactly how you feel. Have had a bad week at work – lots of anger and resentment going on – then I read about people suffering from poverty in other parts of the world and feel ashamed of myself and my silly non-problems. Wisdom it seems, is very slow coming but it is good to know I am not alone in the falling down and getting up again business! The main thing is to keep getting up.

    • One of the problems at work is described by St Benedict as ‘murmuring’ you know the sort of constant grumbling or griping about an individual or organisation. It can be soul destroying and it certainly doesn’t help the atmosphere.

      Quite a few years ago I was working in an office where the atmosphere was dreadful. I was always an early bird, and usually the first one in. One morning I arrived earlier than usual and simply prayed for peace over every desk and workstation. One person was moved and the atmosphere changed markedly. I’ll pray that it soes in your situation too.

  3. We each have it our own journey to take don’t we? The lord gives us the strength we need. To keep getting back up and stumbling after the lord is as you say what it is all about?

  4. Dear Sister,

    I feel that you are deeply loved and it’s OK to receive because of that love. There isn’t a sin that love can’t treat with its generosity, or that generosity be more than you were meant to receive from God, however large or small His gifts.

    If we never fell, we would never feel the joy of being lifted back on our feet. I praise God for His grace and mercy.

    I thank Him for the abundant love that you receive that enables you to carry out your prayerful work.

  5. I like the thought ‘every day we begin again’ so we get up, fail, begin again, fail and so it goes on, but with the help of God’s grace, forgiveness and acceptance we just try harder next time.

  6. I am vulnerable and weak….I fail to overcome temptations. News about gods grace is the only thing that gives me hope but at times I doubt If I am taking it for granted. Want to overcone my weakness of sining again and again……what can I do?

    • The best thing you can do, if you are a Catholic, is to go to Confession. It won’t magic away all your fears and anxieties, but God is never outdone in generosity. If you feel burdened with sin and temptation, take it to Him in the sacrament. In the meantime, we will pray for you.

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