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How can I get out of patterns of sin!?

Dear Sister Carmen, how can I deepen my relationship with God when I am stuck in patterns of Beham, (Hans) Sebald (1500-1550)sin that I can’t seem to break? I’ve asked this question to several people at different times, but I really can’t seem to figure this out or make any progress. I am really grieved over this. Thank you for your help.

It seems to me that your grief over patterns of sin is already the beginning of conversion and spiritual growth. Recall the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:18-19 when the son realizing his sinful situation says, “I will arise and go to my father and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.’”

Your question obviously indicates that you have good desires and the fact that you are sincere in yearning to deepen your relationship with God presupposes that you have already established a relationship with Him. Our good desires, however, must include self-knowledge and humility.

Self-knowledge opens to us the reality of the mystery and ugliness of sin as well as to the mystery and beauty of grace. Teresa envisioned the human soul as a castle containing many rooms. Outside the castle there was darkness and fearsome reptiles and creatures trying to impede our way into the castle. The key to the entry of the castle is prayer and reflection.

Once inside we become aware of light emanating from the deepest center, that innermost room, where dwells the Glory of God. However, some of these fearsome creatures manage to squeeze in with us, for they are the temptations, the bad habits, the patterns of sin that accompany us and although the Light continues to stream from the center of the castle, we still experience darkness for that which accompanies us into the castle blocks the light trying to reach us.

There is much work to be done in the first room. We wage a daily battle between the person we wish to be, the person we really are and the person God created us to be. To come to self-knowledge we must be very willing to be honest and this requires humility. What am I really like? How do others see me? Do I spend my time trying to be someone I am not? Do I feel guilty being who I am? How much of the false values of the world around me have I absorbed?

The Prodigal Son was lured away from his loved ones by the false promises of happiness. It wasn’t until he had hit rock-bottom that he realized that he had sacrificed an authentic relationship with himself, with others, and with God for fleeting pleasures. Only when he ran out of money and his “friends” deserted him was he able to see the superficiality of his life.

Each of us needs to identify the vipers and poisonous creatures that block our passageway as we seek to move through the castle into the other rooms seeking the One who waits for us at the Center just as the father of the Prodigal Son, in the center of his home, looked longingly for his son’s return day after day until one day he saw him coming in the distance.

  • Can I identify the blockages that hinder my movement forward?:
  • What external occupations fill my mind causing me to neglect prayer and reflection?
  • Am I addicted to noise (e.g. music, television, radio, etc.)?
  • Am I afraid of solitude filling the emptiness within me with busy-ness?
  • What patterns of sin do I need to break and what concrete measures am I taking to help myself?
  • Do I make use of the sacramental graces provided by frequent confession?
  • Have I considered the help of a spiritual director to assist me in breaking the pattern of sin and to aid me in practicing virtue?

What elements in my life am I willing to surrender in order to remain in and be attentive to God’s Presence?

It was only when the Prodigal Son made a firm decision to “arise” and go to his father that he began the journey that would take him to the treasure he had not recognized. As the father waited patiently for his son’s return, so also God is even more patient as we move through the rooms leaving behind us the paltry treasures we have accumulated in order to find the Pearl of Great Price at the center. Are we willing to sell all for this Treasure?

Until next time,

Sr. Carmen Laudis OCD

PS: To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters visit our web site: www.carmelitesistersocd.com and for more information please contact the sisters at contact@carmelitesistersocd.com, or 626-289-1353 Ext. 246, 920 East Alhambra Road, Alhambra, California 91801.

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  • Alex Campbell Phd

    Thank you for your beautiful words of guidance and support Sister!

  • Aileen

    The beautiful image from St Teresa really touched me and will be a great help on my own spiritual journey. Thank you.

  • Teresa

    Thank you Sr Carmen. You have summarised the Interior Castle so well!

  • Mary

    As the father waited patiently for his son’s return, so also God is even more patient as we move through the rooms leaving behind us the paltry treasures we have accumulated in order to find the Pearl of Great Price at the center. Are we willing to sell all for this Treasure?Is it the head or the heart that keeps me clinging to the paltry treasures?  In contemplation it is obvious that surrender is the way but I lack trust to be fully obedient and keep the Pearl.  Satan is so good at tempting me with fear that I justify my clinging instead of taking responsibility for lack of obedience.  When I reflect on my lack of obedience I wonder what will it take to get there.  Christ gave everything to show the way to purification but when I do not follow Him does that mean I don’t want it?  Jesus you are the light in my life, please help me trust and stop blocking the rays you wish to reach others. Thank you for your patience.

    • Anonymous

      Mary, this is so real- what you are expressing here. I think alot of progress in the spiritual life comes slowly and we have to be patient with the work God is doing in our souls and trust Him to do it, but also to try to become more docile and cooperative in it at the same time. (I think this is kind of a mystery, how much God does and how much I am responsible for, and how it all comes about…) The most important things I have learned in the process so far, arw that when I sin, especially with the SAME stuff over and over again- to grieve appropriately over the damage I do, but with an unflagging hope in Christ’s mercy, and with an eyes wide open recognition from the depths of my heart of my TOTAL need for Him to rescue me and for His grace to sustain me. 
      Going on a silent retreat (spiritual exercises with the Legionaries of Christ) has helped me know myself better, and frequenting (about every 2 weeks) the sacrament of Reconciliation has also really helped me see patterns and their underlying causes, and the ways in which the enemy sets me up so to speak. Then as I ‘autopsy’ the situations around past temptations and failures in daily prayer, I can see what led to what, more clearly. Then hopefully I can apply this awareness to being better prepared when I am being ‘ set up’ in the future. 
      (The enemy is not at all creative. I think he is lazy and bored, but still sneaky. I don’t think his tactics really vary much. He doesn’t revel in a brilliant plan, he revels in degradation, and if he can just set the same pattern in motion and see you squirm, well, its a party for him. Ick.)
       At the same time, I am working on actively overcoming the primary fault that is at the crux of so many of my difficulties by developing the opposing virtue God has shown me (usually during that same silent retreat) will be the antivenin to the serpent’s sting. Actually, it is more than antivenin, it’s an over and abundant cure and restorative. But again all of this is a process and it requires time, and interior application on my part– and also for me, as something of an experiential learner… repetitive action in mind, soul, and body!! 
      God wants to save us, and we want His will to be done- in this we ARE winning the war. We can trust Him to see it accomplished because He has said He will do it, and He does all things well!!- in my most difficult moments, that is where I try to rally my soul. I hope this is helpful– Mary, God loves you more than you know!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000067803665 Judeen Harthun

    pattern of sin… it depends what it is .. there is a generational sin… I have been prayed over for this.. wow my life changed.. I had uncontrolable angery things would just set me off preaching… and yelling.. the change was like night and day..there is other sins.. there is a vidio by twin preists.. that tell on the wounds of a person growing up.. and some sin is connected to that .. a unforgiveness… I also have expereinced this and is used all the time in koinonias and prison minestry… by the power of the forgiveness and prayer. the personality is healed.. yet another sin is from our weakenesses… boy this too is so hard.. I try to avoid the problem but this neverheals one from it… pray for graces and virtues and fleeto God , Jesus Name , offer the tempation up for people in purgitory..if the devil is tempting you he will stop for your going through it and using it for saving of souls.resit… say no right away… be firm the devil will try to seek another weakness to get to you… the rosary is powerful weapon… the life of Chrirst , to the blessed trinity and also marys prayers with you….. when you have no strength seek  the rosary and saints to pray with you

  • Aadams0503

    Dear Sister Carmen,
    I have never heard the Interior Castle explained better.
    Thank you

  • Susan

    Thank you Sr. Carmen for your maternal guidance!  Indeed prayer and reflection are so crucial, vital in fact.  I taught a course on the ’7 deadly sins’ several years ago that helped multitudes of women get ‘free’ from patterns of sin.  The odd thing was the incredible joy and laughter that was happening week after week, from studing the sins!  What we realized is that the language of the 7 Capital Sins are not common to an entire generation.  We also taught what Virtues to ask heavenly aid for in the quest to be freed from patterns, many times very, very deep patterns of behavior.  We prayed through an extremely detailed Examination of Conscience on each sin.   As the freedom came, so too did frequent Confession.  I have never laughed so much in any ministry of sharing in my life!  To my delight, that study has never ceased to be a topic of conversation around the parish where I minister and after a two year distance from that study, I have been pressured to teach it again!  I can hardly wait.  The laughter and excitement of being set free was infectious.  Oh that we might have more of these ‘good germs’ among us!

    • Maria Uceda

      Susan! I listed to that CD of the 7 Deadly Sins and always wanted to translate so as to share with Catholic Latinas. Do you have handouts, a course outline and/or facilitator’s manual that I could translate? I would give you a copy so that you may find a bilingual facilitator to work under you so as to bring these life-giving messages in Spanish. I am president of The Works of Our Mother of the Americas, a Catholic ministry devoted to strengthening family life within faith-health partnerships. My email is maria.uceda@lasobras.org and phone is 972-399-9393. You can learn more about Las Obras by visiting http://www.lasobras.org. I do pray to hear from you soon!

  • troubled one

    St. Francis of Assisi never reconciled with his father, as far as human records indicate.  Sometimes you just have to divorce yourself and get as far away as possible, especially when someone else’s mental illness is the obstacle. You can’t pray that away, as much as anybody would like those things to “go away.”

    When a relationship is like sticking your finger in a light socket or trying to kiss a snake, there is simply no peace to be had.  You have to see if one’s absence itself can cause a conversion in another person–if anything can shake some sense into them.

    • Anonymous

      No, we can’t ‘pray it away’, but we must trust that God, who loves us more than we can begin to imagine, has a reason for having allowed things to happen.

      We can accept our inability to do anything about a situation…..place it at the foot of the cross………….and pray for the ability to see the situation through God’s eyes.  What are we to learn from it?

      There are many in situations like you describe…….and it is very difficult; yet we must pray – it’s the one thing we CAN do – for ourselves and others involved…….for whatever forgiveness and healing is needed. 

      • Jack g

        Thank you sister Carmen, I very much enjoyed this summary and that remind me of a book by Thomas Dubay, “The Fire Within”, I am recommending it highly.
        I will stick with Becky on it. In my spiritual journey I have had and still have a rough ride on many occasions, especially when it comes to the fight with pride. By now I realized that I will never win and that I have to learn how to give it all to Christ and not let the soul to be excessively troubled. Well easier said then done but I hope I have more time to master the peace within. Pride is an easy doorway to all other sins/weaknesses and we can only keep the good fight trusting the Lord. He never said we have to be perfect and He said He came to the sinners and the sick, so I am. With me the current problem is to accept that what I know to be true. Again easier said then done, but I won’t give up. 
        I know that there always will be something to disturb us and I actually believe that we need it, for if we had it all perfect and figured out, we would make a throne of pride in the midst of our humility. A friend of mine said that today.
        Total abandonment seems to be the only way out and at the same time a way in for Christ. St. Faustina knew that well, but she also had many weak moments in her spiritual journey, same goes for all the saints, and they are saints not due to their being perfect, but due to the ability to abandon themselves to Christ in all tribulations.
        The 33 day consecration to Jesus through Mary is one of the keys, She is the Mystical City of God.
        With love of Christ, jack g.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Petnel/1631911661 Mary Petnel

    Thank you Sister for this wonderful essay.  I struggled with a great sin, an attachment to a person if you will, for over 7 years.  It was only through frequent confession and praying the rosary that I was finally freed from that sin and attachment.  I have been free for over a year now and I praise the Lord for His unfathomable love for such a poor creature as myself.

  • Mary42

    Thank you for this educative Post. Once one has identified the  blockages which hinder one’s spiritual growth and eliminates them from one’s life, the fight to conquer Cardinal Sins, Root Sins and sinful tendencies begins to bear fruits. Living a full Sacramental Life is an excellent way to obtain the necessary Graces and strength from God to progress in Conversion. For me, it was hard struggling alone but I was determined not to give up, no matter how many times I fell.  The greatest Grace God sent me was getting a Spiritual Director on the advice of Fr. John. Although the slips and falls are frequent,  he has been there to encourage me and his advice and guidance is invaluable.  At each monthly Session, we discover a new side of the real me, thus enabling me to know which vices to attack.  As my Confessor as well, he has ensured I follow my Sacramental Life faithfully.  The daily Prayer pattern we set of the Divine Mercy  3.00 O’ Clock Holy Hour followed by another hour of Intercessory Prayers and Meditation and ending with the Holy Mass together with weekly Confession have been a great help to me. In the past, Satan fought me with self-doubt and discouragement. My Spiritual Director taught me how to just surrender myself to the Mercy of God and stick to my Prayer Schedule.  My Eucharistic Apostolate of the Divine Mercy has changed my life as I now have a new way to serve God, taking the Message of Divine Mercy to the Parishes in our Archdioceses and Dioceses. As Eucharistic Apostles, living and spreading the Message of Divine Mercy help us all to remain in touch with Christ in a very personal.  During our weekly Cenacle Prayer Meetings we share our life experiences and the struggles each one faces in our individual life situations, thereby supporting and encouraging one another as we all strive grow spiritually following the example of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska

    • angeldia

      I love the Diary of St. Faustina! I’ve always had problems with guilt and i’m pretty sure I had scruples when I was in high school. (I’m in college now) I always keep going “I can’t believe I didn’t really understood this great parable of the “Prodigal Son” until now”. It was always so ackward and difficult to go to confession. The same struggle she had in finding a confessor and spiritual director is now mine as well! I’ve always kept everything in a journal though ever since I was like 7 years old. It’s only been a few years (5 years to be exact) that I have come to really understand and be more involved in the Church. “If only I knew this or that a few years ago….” is something I find myself saying a lot now. I’ve noticed a big difference now that I got to Mass everyday with my parents. I find it easier to fight the temptations to sin I’ve had before but whenever I realize I’m still doing the same bad habits or something else ….I feel so bad. I haven’t been able to find a good priest for spiritual direction but hopefully I’ll find someone. Your post here greatly helps me remember how important it is to go to confession and have someone of faith to talk to. Thanks!

      • LizEst

        angeldia – for those sins that are still the same bad habits, try putting some virtue, something good in the place of them. This will weaken them and, by bringing them to the sacrament of confession regularly, you will have the joyful grace, hopefully, some day to find that they are no longer an issue or a sin for you.

        Have you seen Dan Burke’s book “Navigating the Interior Life”? There are charts in there that will help you find what your root is. Knowing what this is will help you advance in the spiritual life. There are also excellent tips on how to find a good spiritual director, how to prepare for your meeting and what questions to ask. I heartily recommend it to you.

        God bless you, angeldia. You are on the right track!

  • Pam Terwilliger

    This is the answer for which I have searched.  Thank you so much.  

  • Pconlinadams

    Sister
    Thank you for the article on “how can I get out of a pattern of sin”.  This week I went to confession and I am going to try to go weekly.  I think this sacrament could be very helpful for stopping a pattern of sin. The sin that I confessed this week was  a revelation to me even though I am over 60 years old.  The sin was the breaking of the first commandment.  “I am the Lord thy God thou shalt not have strange Gods before me”.  I realized that my busy mind was putting, food and work and clothes and errands all before God.  We must do those things but we should look at all as a gift from God and not be consumed by our to do’s.   And we need to be still.  Thank you,

    • Anonymous

      I can relate to what you are saying here- in examining my conscience and preparing for Confession, I have found at times some surprising idols I have constructed in my heart and mind that masquerade as God or His will concerning my responsibilities, duties and priorities— these normal things we are doing and are focussed on, if we give them a disordered sway in our lives, can keep us from really knowing Jesus and being close to Him.

  • Alexander Wang

    thank you Sr. Carmen for your beautiful article. it really makes me to reconsider many of my  bad habits and how much i strive to get rid of them. may i get your permission to translate your atricle into Indonesian so my indonesian brothers and sisters may get the same benefit of reading your clear and concise guidance? i will put citation properly. Thank you. God bless

    • Anonymous

      Feel free – just be sure to provide a link back to this site

    • Smcolombiereocd

      Dear Alexander,

      You are free to translate this or other articles I submit. What belongs to the Holy Spirit is free for all!

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