The First Effect of Sins of Omission

“I have already shown how sins that are venial lead to sins that are mortal,” says Cardinal Manning, “so I will now show how sins of omission lead on to sins of commission.” To illustrate this, he elaborates on slothfulness, which is the habit of tending towards the sin of sloth. In particular, he discusses slothfulness in praying.

To begin, he notes that we have a duty to pray, for “just as breathing is the sign of life, prayer is the sign of the life of the soul. Prayer means the union of the soul with God, the converse of the soul with God, the soul speaking with God.” Accordingly, “every day, a man who is a Christian, and living in a state of grace, will pray to Almighty God not only morning and night, but at other times in the day. Prayer will be his habit.”

“Now what is the effect of sins of omission in respect of prayer? Let me suppose that business, professions, pleasure, worldly distractions, begin to break the habit of prayer. Perhaps at first a man only shortens his prayers; or he does not even shorten them, he says them more hastily. He says them materially as before, but not mentally, for his heart is somewhere else.”

“Little by little his mind gets the habit of wandering, and then he begins to complain that he cannot pray. When he kneels down, his heart is in his house of business, or in the pleasures of last night, or in the amusements of to-morrow. He is, as we say, in the state of distraction or of dissipation; his mind is scattered, he has lost his recollection.”

“What is the next step? He begins to talk much, to scatter his words without consideration. . . . Men who begin to lose their habit of recollection before God become chatterers among men. Solitude becomes irksome; to be alone is torment; to be silent is a pain.”

“He is not dwelling with God; the three lamps grow dim; faith, hope, and charity burn low. . . . So long as he has his face averted from God, all the activity of his mind and being is turned from God to creatures. . . . This is just the state that our Divine Lord has described, when He says: ‘Any man putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is not fit for the kingdom of God’ (Lk 9:62).”

Quotations from Henry Edward Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, 2d ed. (London: Burns and Oates, 1874).

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