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Thursday, August 23, 2007



In chapter 39 of her autobiography, St. Teresa wrote the following:

Oh, that someone could reveal this to those who commit the most foul and dishonourable sins and could make them realize that their sins are not hidden; that, committed as they are in His Majesty's own presence, God justly grieves for them; and that we are behaving in His sight with the greatest irreverence! I saw how truly one single mortal sin merits hell; it is impossible to understand how grave an offence it is to commit such a sin in the sight of such great Majesty and how alienated such things are from His nature. And thus His mercy becomes ever the more clearly seen, for, though He knows that we are doing all this, He none the less bears with us.

I have no doubt that St. Teresa's writings are strictly in accord with Church teaching concerning the distinction between mortal and venial sin. She is a Doctor of the Church. Mortal sin destroys all sanctifying grace in the soul (1 John 5:16). Venial sin leaves the soul wounded, but not deserving of Hell (by the grace of God still remaining in the soul).

I am not sure who was responsible for the following quote:

Although St. Teresa acknowledges that she had committed no mortal sin, she did acknowledge that she was 'lukewarm' and that she knew that she was destined for hell if she didn't change her ways...

But, perhaps, the implication is that being lukewarm will eventually lead to mortal sin.

Lukewarmness, acedia, or spiritual sloth and topor lead to the abandonemnet of spiritual exercises and eventual loss of faith - which culminates in the rejection of God and despair of his mercy. The habitual sinner, aware of his alienation from God through human weakness, has a better chance for salvation than the lukewarm. Remember the Publican and the Pharisee; or consider that the Lord vomits the lukewarm out of his mouth - as the Book of Revelation asserts.


I forgot to sign my name to the sloth and acedia thing, and how the Lord vomits the lukewarm from his mouth comment.

A Simple Sinner

I second what Terry writes. Perhaps St. Theresa understood that her tepid faith would not make her stronger.

I recall hearing a recording of Bishop Sheen where he said one sentence that I took with me: "IF today you are as good a Christian as you were one year ago, you are NOT as good a Christian as you were one year ago." IF we don't grow we actually digress.

Perhaps Theresa understood that without growth and fervor, the day would come that she would be challenged by moral sin that she had not developped the mortal turpitude to withstand.


Like all saints...she was not God/perfect..and all her words were not infallible or perfect [not to mention that she spoke in Spanish not English as the quote appears here]. She responded to God's call and battled a lukewarm church. That is one of the things that is so incredible about her. She actually went over the church politics and followed God's call in her heart. I know as catholics we love all this venial, mortal, indulgence...all of which Jesus never mentioned or alluded to! It makes God seem like a big capitalist! You buy him or loose him..according to what you do or don't do. The idea behind it is good...however it can be driven to absurdity very easily.


Jean wrote:

Like all saints...she was not God/perfect..and all her words were not infallible or perfect [not to mention that she spoke in Spanish not English as the quote appears here].

I don't believe St. Teresa's writings contain anything that is at odds with Church teaching. The quote about St. Teresa being lukewarm and destined for Hell appears to have come from the host of the radio show or a caller. Maybe, Loyolalaw can elaborate on that. Also, Spanish (even 16th cent. Spanish) is not a difficult language to translate into English.

Jean wrote:

I know as catholics we love all this venial, mortal, indulgence...all of which Jesus never mentioned or alluded to!

Maybe Jesus didn't say it, but St. John the Evangelist clearly alludes to it:

5:16. He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask: and life shall be given to him who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death. For that I say not that any man ask.

5:17. All iniquity is sin. And there is a sin unto death. 1 John 5:16-17.


I do not know that I agree with the quote above from Bishop Sheen.

I understand Jesus' lamenting those who are lukewarm, and his wishing that one is either hot or cold, but also, by the same tolken, our Church teaching does say that when one is not in mortal sin, has been baptized and has faith (if not an infant), one is in a state of grace.

Very simple.

We Catholics do not believe in the sanctification in the same sense as Protestants - that one is saved at a given moement, and the ensuing sanctification (separate) that follows thoughout one's life is only the the good nature of grace working within us, but that justification and sanctification are totally separate.

We Catholics teach and believe - as St. Paul taught - that justification and sanctification are a part of the same thing.

While one might become more holy throughout their life, or in Protestantspeak, their 'walk with Jesus', according to Catholicism, this is not actual sanctification. We teach that sanctification normally comes through baptism.

All of this directly ties into the teaching that Bishop Sheen says, and has been tied to St. Theresa and her 'lukewarm' quote.

I understand the notion that this year, I desire to be a better Christian than the year before, but it is unnecessary. One is either in a state of Grace, or one is not.

Catholic teaching on Grace, justification and sanctification do not seem to gel with the notion that we must be better Christians than the year before. We are either in God's grace, or we are not. The Grace meter does not get lessened as the years go on. It either is, or is not.

At some point we must or can be confident - as St. Paul states that he was - that we are going to heaven.

I will ansewr in anticipation to a protestation that will surely naturally occur to some, with respect to this last remark: The confidence I allude to (and I remind you as does St. Paul), does not mean presumption. Nor do I minimize the reality of hell.

My Catholic faith does not and should not be a constant, ringing, fearful state of doubt regarding God's grace and mercy. I believe that this teaching, which is within certain Catholic circles, is going too far, and is not within the entire context of the Sacred Scripture.

Nor is it logical.



One of my favorite movies is A Man For All Seasons--the version with Paul Scofield playing the role of St. Thomas More (not the Charlton Heston version). I don't know if St. Thomas More really said it, but when Thomas More is about to put his head on the chopping block the following dialog takes place:

Sir Thomas More: I forgive you, right readily. Be not afraid of your office: you send me to God.
Archbishop Cranmer: You're very sure of that, Sir Thomas?
Sir Thomas More: He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him.

I have always liked the last line (even if it is fiction). I think we can have a certain confidence and trust. And, you are correct about the state of grace thing. It is Church teaching--dogma. However, when St. Paul said:

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation. -Philippians 2:12

I think he was warning us against the kind of presumption one finds among the Fundies who say they are saved and going strait to heaven because they bought a King James Bible from the local Barnes & Noble and were "born again." But, I know that is not what you are saying.

Also, with regard to Bishop Sheen and St. Teresa, they were probably just trying to make the point that we need to keep advancing in the spiritual life so that we become "greater souls" with an ever greater capacity to receive sanctifying grace.

If we are lukewarm we stagnate and risk backsliding into mortal sin. I have been told the reason priests go bad is that they do not pray (say their Office). Maybe it is like working out at the gym. If you don't keep working out, your muscles will become weak again ("use it or lose it").


So I'm reading ch XXXII in a critical Spanish edition of El libro de la vida, and I don't know where the comment from the host is coming from.

In Ch XXXII, God gives St Teresa this vision. In the vision she intimately feels and experiences Hell--including the fact that she knows (in the vision) that she deserves these tortures because of her sins and that the tortures will never end. After the vision, she states that God wanted her to see/experience from what/where His mercy had liberated her (grammar a bit torturous bc I'm translating and it's late). Basically, she says it's one thing to read about hell, but quite another to experience it. This was one of God's best mercies that He granted to her because she profited so much from it--afterwards, things suffered in this life seemed like nothing in comparison. This also gave her a zeal for saving other souls from these torments.

Anyway, I don't see where that quote comes in about lukewarmness. She does go through a list of sins she hasn't committed (gossip, envy, greed)--or at least not to the level they'd be a grave offense against God (mortal sin, I assume)--and that even though she was sinful, she always had fear of God. Nevertheless, she sees that because of her sins she deserves more punishment, that it is very dangerous to become complacent and think we're saved when really each day we're falling into mortal sin (note: she goes from the singular "I"--my sins deserve more punishment--to the plural "we"--it is dangerous for all of us to be complacent). We should avoid temptation and God will help us, as He helped her. She prays that God not let her out of His hand so that she return to sin (fall again). The rest of the chapter is how she feels called to found new discalced houses.

In reading this excerpt, we should take into consideration some context. Teresa was asked to write her spiritual autobiography, especially concentrating on the favors God had granted her. She takes this as an opportunity to advise her sisters in her way of prayer (we see her advice to others who wish to advance in prayer throughout the book). She has just finished saying how this experience scared the heck (ha, ha) out of her, how she's still scared as she writes this. Then she tells US not to be complacent after she's said one of the mercies of this vision was that she took care not to be complacent.

Last point: God has already graced her with intimate union in prayer with Him (multiple times) by the time she writes this book. She confesses constantly and occasionally over-scrupulously (she often complains her confessors are not rigorous enough). Teresa knows quite well the difference between mortal and venial sin--she often takes her confessors to task for not differentiating properly between mortal and venial sins. I would venture to say she is talking here about punishment for past, forgiven sins, and so therefore is saying that her past sins were so bad that she merits extremely terrible punishment in purgatory. I'm an Iberian medieval- and early-modernist, trained in literature, not theology, but that's my translation/2cents.


Spanishgrad, that was really helpful!

A Simple Sinner

"Also, with regard to Bishop Sheen and St. Teresa, they were probably just trying to make the point that we need to keep advancing in the spiritual life so that we become "greater souls" with an ever greater capacity to receive sanctifying grace."

That was rather exactly my point.

And what I offered of St. Theresa's fear was - just my thinking - perhaps she understood that if she remeained "lukewarm" the day would come when a temptation would come a long that she would give into.


I agree with subsequent replies to my last post.

Thanks all.


Patrick. Nice way to reinterpret St John the evangelist according to terms that came about in medieval catholicism. let us remember that neither St James or any of the apostles were catholic. They were Jews who believed Jesus to be the Messiah. I know that is something we as catholics forget. Also...Spanish is a much richer languange than English when it comes to nuances/words. Where English has one word to include many, Spanish has many.



That interpretation of 1 John 5:16-17 is not my own. The Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following under article 1854:

Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,(129) became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.

129 Cf. 1 Jn 5:16-17

By the way, I speak Spanish.


Correction to lines 1 & 2 above: The Catechism of the Catholic Church


Spanishgrad thanks for the context of Teresa's quote. It's her Spiritual Autobiography and not a commentary on the Sentences. In her piety she is shown by God what she (believes) she deserves for any offense (sin / doesn't matter venial or mortal) against her beloved "Majestad" (Majesty / Lord). To offend God is to offend God and for the person as advanced in the spiritual life as she was is tormenting no matter how small the offense. But as you point out - the reason why God initiates this vision is not to show her where she is going but to show her how Merciful he is. She only surrendered herself more to her beloved Majesty to the point of experiencing spiritual marriage.



I am not arguing that is the way it is shown in the Cathecism. I am trying to show that the verses quoted are not necessarily talking about concepts which came up much later on and which were very foreign to the biblical author.


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