RCIA this week is the third week of Advent and the last meeting until after the new year. The topic was sin and how it came into the world via the fall of man. As one might expect, this topic weighs heavily on anyone who is contemplating their spiritual place in the universe; and that is especially true for those whom are seeking to find a place in the church. Rather than go over what was discussed or review the class in a journalistic style, I will simply tell you of my own struggle with the topic.

Many people who come to RCIA have questions about sin, redemption, justification, and the like. I was no different in my concerns. Having always possessed a heart that is sensitive to the desire to do good and a truly repentant spirit after committing a sin, I had to settle my questions long before darkening the doorstep of the local parish. I am not perfect, and I have the unfortunate gift of remembering nearly all my past transgressions as I have a memory that was once classified as photographic. While being a asset in classes and academia, being able to recall almost every event with image clarity is no blessing when it comes to remembering the short comings of one’s past.

As a result of my memory, I spent many restless nights once I came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church was, in fact, the church setup by Christ Himself and that I would have to join it if I were to truly call myself a follower of Christ. The thing I feared more than anything else was the phrase, “mortal sin.” Not having a full understanding of the Church’s definition of mortal sins, it sounded ominous and unsurpassable. After all, to get a mortal wound, is to be wounded to death; so the phrase had some connotation of finality. I wondered if I had ever committed a mortal sin. I agonized thinking that I may have found the truth, only to be refused before I began.

In my worry, I read many posts from priests and returning Catholics on the Coming Home Network Forums at chnetwork.org. Several of them recommended a radio show called “Catholic Answers Live” with Tim Staples and Patrick Madrid. At the time, there was no Catholic Radio station that I could receive very well, so I listened when I could online. During one such show, Patrick Madrid touched on my exact topic. Patrick discussed the paragraphs from the Catechism from approximately paragraph 1852 to 1870. He explained that to be a mortal sin, it must be grave, it must be done with full knowledge and deliberate consent of action.  He went on to say that even then, a mortal sin can be forgiven, as can all sins save blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Upon hearing this, I felt as if a great weight was lifted from me. Like many others, I know that I have sinned, and that I will likely commit other sins before my final hour. However, after reading the Catechism and hearing the explanation, I was able to rest in the knowledge that I can be forgiven.

To an outsider, the Catholic church can be intimidating and can even be frightening if you come from a background that makes claims about the church that are simply untrue. The topic of Sin and the Fall of Man is one of those topics that can elicit the most fear. Yet, when you get a proper understanding of not only what the Catholic church teaches, but how its members live that teaching; you will find a completely different organization is waiting to help and to nurture all people to faith in Christ. The best advice I can give is to start researching the Church, the history, teaching, traditions, and more. Listen to Catholic Answers Live, go to The Coming Home Network site, visit a Catholic bookstore, or just go ask a local parish priest and ask if you could have a view minutes to talk. You will find that many if not all of your fears can be answered and resolved; but it will still be up to you to make the first step.

-A Brother in Christ