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St. John Vianney on Envy and other Hidden Sins June 27, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, mortification, reading, Saints, Society, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

From the Sermons of the Cure of Ars, some helpful direction on the sin of envy, and other sins we often try to hide from ourselves, with satan’s help.  The focus of this excerpt is more on that tendency to deny our sins to ourselves.  Certain sins we may readily admit: others we may seek to explain away or pretend are not.  This was the failing of the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, his inability to see his own sin of pride.  Envy, in this age of relative plenty (and even superabundance), may not be the problem it was in St. John Vianney’s day (or, it may be worse), but if you’re anything like me, you will, over time, find more and more deeply buried sins as you go through the process of eradicating some of the more obvious ones:

We have already seen that this vice [envy]  indicates a mean and petty spirit.  That is so true that on one will admit to feeling envy, or at least no one wants to believe that he has been attacked by it.  People will employ a hundred and one devices to conceal their envy from others.  If someone speaks well of another in our presence, we keep silence: we are upset and annoyed.  If we must say something, we do so in the coldest and most unenthusiastic fashion.  No, my dear children, there is not a particle of charity in the envious heart.  St. Paul has told us that we must rejoice in the good which befalls our neighbor.  Joy, my dear brethren, is what Christian charity should inspire in us for one another.  But the sentiments of the envious are vastly different.

I do not believe that there is a more ugly and dangerous sin than envy because it is hidden and is often covered by the attractive mantle of virtue….Envy is a public plague which spares no one.

We are leading ourselves to hell without realizing it.

But how are we then to cure ourselves of this vice if we do not think we are guilty of it?  I am quite certain that of the thousands of envious souls honestly examining their consciences, there would not be one ready to believe himself belonging to that company.  It is the least recognized of sins.  Some people are so profoundly ignorant that they do not recognize a quarter of their ordinary sins.  And since the sin of envy is more difficult to know, it is not surprising that so few confess it and correct it.  Because they are not guilty of the big public sins committed by coarse and and brutalized people, they think that the sins of envy are only little defects in charity, when, in fact, for the most part, these are serious and deadly sins which they are harboring and tending in their hearts, often without fully recognizing them.  

“But,” you may be thinking in your own minds, “if I really recognized them, I would do my best to correct them.”

If you want to be able to recognize them, my dear brethren, you must ask the Holy Ghost for His light.  He alone will give you this grace. No one could, with impunity, point out these sins to  you; you would not wish to agree nor to accept them; you would always find something which would convince you that you had made no mistake in thinking and acting the way you did.  Do you know yet what will help to make you know the state of your soul and to uncover this evil sin hidden in the secret resources of your heart? It is humility. Just as price will hide it from you, so will humility reveal it to you.

———–End Quote———–

Again, there isn’t a hidden purpose to this point, I simply found the notion of unacknowledged sins a valuable one to convey.  It’s not a topic one finds frequently addressed even in very good literature on the spiritual life.

And now, on a side note, I found a truly deplorable book on St. Catherine of Siena for you to avoid.  The book is called St. Catherine of Siena by Alfred W. Pollard, and it rather nastily attacks so many of the Saint’s great miracles and devotions as either false or ridiculous excesses of fervor that I must warn everyone to avoid this book.  The book was bought in the bookstore of a certain traditional parish, which would normally be a seal of approval, but I have to say I think a mistake has been made in this case. Even most of the author’s “compliments” towards the Saint are backhanded at best, and takes an excessive interest in the political dimensions of the great Dominican tertiary’s activities, which formed only a very small part of her life (and uses those activities to attack the papacy and the notion of the Papal States, generally).  I am not entirely certain whether the author was Anglican or not, but the book carries no imprimatur or nihil obstat and was published in London, so it’s quite possible he was.  Anyway, I recommend all stay far from this book except maybe those already very well versed in the Saint’s life who can dissect fact from opinion, derogation from endorsement.


1. tg - June 28, 2016

Thanks for this post. I bought a little TAN book on the seven capital sins. It covered envy. This sermon is excellent. Until recently, I didn’t think I was ever envious or jealous but now I know it’s not true, I have been.

2. Baseballmom - June 28, 2016

Love these posts which help me to grow closer to Christ. Thank you so much…. God has been good to me in pointing out my envy, that is such a blessing.

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