Most Oft Overlooked
Request of Fatima
“But above all, men must stop sinning.
Men must do their daily duty. This is the penance I now expect and require.”
… Message of Fatima
This message states clearly that the most important request is that we must stop sinning. This does not mean that prayers and penance are not required. In fact, they are necessary to fulfill God’s will.
In other words, it is not enough to fulfill the external requirements of the Message of Fatima if we do not amend our lives and do not have contrition for our sins. We might be tempted to say that these words are meant for others but not for ourselves. It may be true that we do not commit such obvious mortal sins as murder, abortion, missing Mass on Sunday, disobeying the teaching of Humanae Vitae or refusing to confess serious sins. Nevertheless, we should examine our conscience well and take care that we are fulfilling all the requirements of God’s Laws for our state of life.
Moreover, it is not sufficient that we try to avoid mortal sin only, because with such an attitude we will easily commit them again. We should do good works, and with God’s grace correct our venial sins and faults as well.
Certainly the most important penance is to amend our lives. Saint Ignatius Loyola says that if we overcome one fault a year we are well on the road to sanctity. The way of perfection is a life-long battle. After mortal sins have been overcome in our lives, there are deliberate venial sins to be avoided and finally there are the lesser faults to be corrected.
In order to stop sinning, we must not only WISH to stop sinning, we must WILL to stop sinning. Saint Francis de Sales points out that there is a difference between WISHING to do something and WILLING to do something. For example, a person who is allergic to chocolate may often wish to have some, but does not will to have it because of the harm it does him.
So we must will to stop sinning. Not like Saint Augustine who before his conversion prayed, “Make me chaste, O Lord — but not just yet.” We must will to stop sinning now. If we cannot will to stop, we must pray to get the will to stop.
Furthermore in order to will to stop sinning, we must will the means, the necessary aids which help us achieve this objective. Just like a man who wills to eat must go to a place where there is food, prepare it, and then put the food into his mouth and chew. It is not enough for him to wish to eat — he must actually do what is necessary to eat.
What are these means that we can take to stop sinning? One of the most important means to stop sinning is to avoid the occasions of sin. If someone will not avoid unnecessary occasions of sin then he cannot expect to avoid sin. As the Scriptures say, “He who loves danger will perish in it.” By this the Scriptures mean that if, for no sufficient reason, you come near persons, places or things that cause you to sin, you shall fall into sin. St. Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church, points out that if men avoided the occasions of sin then most sins now committed would not be committed.
To stop sinning we also need the grace of God. This need for grace is very important and often overlooked by modern man. Some people today think that crime and sin can be overcome if only we teach people the truth or learn enough about the problem. In other words, they say it is enough to enlighten the mind to keep from sinning. This is patently false for Our Lord Himself said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” It is literally and truly impossible to stop sinning without the special help of God. That grace we cannot obtain except by prayer and the Sacraments properly received.
Once we have overcome sin by these means we must continue to pray and receive the Sacraments worthily in order to continue receiving the help of God which is necessary for living continuously in the state of Sanctifying Grace.
Padre Pio, the stigmatic priest said, “the world could exist more easily without the sun than without the Mass.”