June 20, 2017

Four Simple Tools to Help Navigate Your Way From Sin to Sanctity

So, you’ve got a sin problem too?  It’s not uncommon.  In fact, it has plagued every living human since the first living humans.  It’s called Original Sin.  It is part of the human condition.  Darn it.

At first we just had to live with it, while God prepare us for the solution.  Even His favorite humans, the Hebrews, were not very well behaved.  That’s what this Original Sin problem looks like.  Just as two-year-olds given rules push their limits, the Hebrew people did things like make a big golden calf to worship just after the babysitter (Moses) told them God said to worship only Him.  Then when Moses came back and found them worshipping it, and asked, “What are you doing?!??!  I just left the room for 5 seconds?!?!?!  Your Dad just told you not to worship anything but HIM!!!” they shrugged, looking as surprised as Moses, and said “We just threw some gold into the fire and this calf came out!”

Does this sound familiar, parents and babysitters of naughty children?  Well, it should be familiar to all of us because, unless you’re well on your way to sanctity (and if you’re spending your time reading this, that’s unlikely), it’s probably how your soul, like mine, behaves in the face of God’s loving will.

Even after Christ’s Redemptive work opened the gates of heaven and turned on the tap of grace from which we can drink in God’s refreshing Life, it is still hard to stay the course sometimes.  At least we’re in good company, though.  Most saints have suffered difficulties and temptations en route to heaven.

Even when we want to do what God wants, it’s hard to do!  Not because he asks hard things of us – all He asks us is to  love Him – but because we’re just so scatter-hearted.  Like a slightly disoriented navigator, we only need veer from our charted course by one degree to completely miss our target destination!  Between our condition of concupiscence and Satan constantly thrusting alluring distractions and temptations into our path, we’re going to need a safe strategy to prevent our souls from becoming utterly shipwrecked.  

But, our loving Father knows this and has given us sure help.  Not only help, but He has given us many navigational tools that can actually turn our failings to good!  Here are four simple strategies we can use to help steer you back to His course for your life.

Pray a Morning Offering

Set your course by starting your day offering everything in it to God for His purposes.  Super easy.  God so wants to help us do The Good, even our intention made at the start of the day covers us if we forget, in the moment, to offer our prayers, works, joys and sufferings, big and small, to His Redemptive work.  We don’t do this because His work needs a boost from us, but because, parent-like, He wants us to learn to become like Him (“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” Mt 5:48).  So all those little difficult moments - suddenly they're a benefit to the Kingdom of God.

Put God on His Throne of Mercy

When you get lost, find your bearings and recalibrate your course.  St. Francis de Sales wrote to one of his spiritual directees, that God’s favorite throne is His throne of Mercy (according to a little book called, How to Profit From One’s Faults by Tissot, which I can’t find now to quote directly.  I love this book, but I thought it was going to help me become rich!).  The only time He gets to sit on it is when we approach him seeking forgiveness and mercy.  If we reflect often on how tenderly He receives us when we seek His mercy, we should not hesitate through shame or embarrassment, but we should run to Him with our sins.

Far from encouraging us to sin more, in order to let Him sit there more often, the thought of His loving forgiveness will help us to love more, sin less.  Because as reassuring and refreshing as received forgiveness is, the prospect of deliberately withholding our love from one Whose being is the source of all love is absurd.  The sins we will no doubt fall into will provide more than ample occasions for God to sit upon His favorite throne.  

Use your habitual sins to become a saint

Surely I’m not alone in repeating the same sins time after time in confession.  There is probably a reason for this, besides that I’m a weak schmuck.  The reason may be that God has given us character strengths and talents that will help us fulfill His mission for us in our lives.  These are like the sails of our vessel.

As we know, in order to hit our destination, our trajectory has to be right on the mark.  Satan knows this too.  So, rather than expending a lot of energy tempting us to turn 180 degrees to commit sins that are completely out of character, he only needs to use our natural strengths and momentum, while distracting us from our course by a degree or two.  If he can get us to set our sails wrong, they will carry us forward, but not to our intended destination.  

The way I figure it, if we look closely at those habitual sins that divert us from our target of sanctity, we can figure out what strength or talent is being distorted.  Then, find a fitting use for your gift that will build up the kingdom of God and put it to work there!

What could be more satisfying than turning Satan’s own devious stumbling blocks into stepping stones to get to heaven?!  And, if we get good at this, maybe he’ll leave us alone for fear of filling heaven through his efforts.

Take that, father of lies (and bad directions)!!  Ha ha!

Keep your Eye on the Star

Lastly, every navigator knows to look to the stars to get their bearing and know the direction to go.  We too can look to the star, Stella Maris - Mary Star of the Sea.  Look to Mary, she exists to point the way to Jesus, our Savior.

Prayer to Mary, Star of the Sea
Hail, O Star of the ocean, God's own Mother blest, ever sinless Virgin, gate of heav'nly rest.  Taking that sweet Ave, which from Gabriel came, peace confirm within us, changing Eve's name.
Break the sinners' fetters, make our blindness day, chase all evils from us, for all blessings pray.  Show thyself a Mother, may the Word divine born for us thine Infant hear our 
prayers through thine.  Virgin all excelling, mildest of the mild, free from guilt preserve us meek and undefiled.  Keep our life all spotless, make our way secure till we find in Jesus, joy for evermore.  Praise to God the Father, honor to the Son, in the Holy Spirit, be the glory one.  Amen.

These four simple navigational tools can make the difference between shipwreck and smooth sailing in our daily spiritual journey.


  1. I love this analogy, especially the part about knowing your big faults and using them to your advantage!

  2. It has only occurred to me in my dotage to pay attention to why I have kept repeating THOSE particular sins for decades. And, it wasn't until I became tired to the point of frustration that I abandoned the "wash once, rinse thoroughly and hang dry" method of spiritual growth; expecting that Grace alone was enough and not realizing in my deepest core that these "bad" things were a willful misuse of good things in dangerous places that change began, and joy increased.

    All of this reminds me of my first sea voyage. I worked down in the engine room. But one day, after my watch was done I went above to the bridge to look at the Med. We were going through th Strait of Gibralter and it was evening, July. The sea was calm . You could see Gibralter clearly and Africa on the other side just as clearly if a tad further away. Except for a few birds we might have been all there was; us, the sun over our shoulders and the sea a blue green blanket all around.

    The mat was out on the flying bridge doing mate stuff. Only the wheel man, and old salt were inside. He turned to me and asked if I'd like to take a hand at the wheel while things were so calm. I hesitated a moment or two, but he assured me the mate wouldn't mind. "After all," he said, "what could happen?" So I said yes. He stepped aside, I moved over to the wheel. He pointed to the compass, gave me the heading and told me to just "hold her where she is". Then he walked out onto the starboard bridge and lit up a cigarette.

    For the next fifteen minutes or so minutes I was Master and Commander (in my own mind), until the real Master came onto the bridge and wanted to know what the #@+!! Was going on and ordered the wheelman below, called for another seaman to finish the watch, yelled at the mate and screamed at me before chasing me below, too.

    I was 30 degrees off course!

    I saw the Master in his cabin the next day for about a half hour. He treated me well, much better than I would have treated someone.

    When I think of him, I think of God, and when I think of God, I think of him.

    And you can fill in the blanks with names for the other characters in this very true story.

    But when I think of me, I always think of me in similar situations down the years where I too readily have chosen to do something I know should not have been done, or where I too harshly have treated some poor dufus who has done just the same as I would have.


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