How Can I Get Out of My Patterns of Sin?


Dear Sister Mary Colombiere,

How can I deepen my relationship with God when I am stuck in patterns of 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.

Dear Friend,

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?
  • 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,

Sister Mary Colombiere, O.C.D

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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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