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A complete, easy-to-understand Catechism for everyone!

A Brief Catechism for Adults

Lesson 10: Mortal and Venial Sin

"Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man. But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured. Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death." (James 1:13-15).

1. What is sin?
Sin is any thought, word, desire, action or neglect (omission) forbidden by the law of God.

2. When are you guilty of sin?
To be guilty -
1) you must know that you are breaking God's law, and
2) you must freely choose to do it.

3. How many kinds of sin are there?
Two - mortal sin and venial sin.

4. What is mortal sin?
A "big" sin, a serious violation of God's law.
Examples: Getting drunk, adultery, stealing something expensive.

5. What does mortal sin do to the soul?
It drives the Sanctifying Grace out of your soul.
"What fruit had you then in those things, of which you are now ashamed? For the end of them is death." (Romans 6:21).

6. Where will you go if you die with mortal sin on your soul?
You will go to Hell forever.
"They shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Apocalypse 21:8).

7. Can all mortal sins be forgiven?
Yes, if you are truly sorry for them and do everything necessary for forgiveness.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity." (1 John 1:9).

8. What is a venial sin?
A "small" sin, a less serious violation of God's law.
Examples: Impatience, ordinary anger, stealing something cheap, getting slightly drunk.

9. What does venial sin do to your soul?
It does not drive out the Grace from your soul, but it does make you less pleasing to God.

10. Where will you go if you die with venial sin on your soul?
You will go to Purgatory.

11. Can a number of venial sins become a mortal sin?
No. (Except that a series of similar small, recurring thefts from the same person amounts to one large theft and therefore can be a mortal sin.)

12. If you do something wrong, but do not know it is wrong, are you guilty of sin?
No, if it is through no fault of yours that you do not know it is wrong.
Example: If you eat meat on Ash Wednesday, completely forgetting that it is Ash Wednesday, you are not guilty of sin.

13. Are you guilty of sin if you intend to do something wrong, even though you do not actually do it?
Yes, because even the intention to offend God is a sin.
Example: You intend to rob a bank but are frightened off by the guards.

14. What should you do if you do not know whether something is mortal or venial sin?
You should not do it; otherwise, you will commit a mortal sin, because you show yourself willing to offend God seriously.
Example: You do not know whether eating too much is a mortal or venial sin, but you go ahead and eat too much anyway.

15. What is temptation?
Temptation is an attraction to commit sin.

16. Can you always overcome temptation?
Yes, because no temptation can force you into sin, and God will always help you.
"And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

17. What should you do when you are tempted?
First, ask God to help you, and then, get busy doing something else.
"And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6:13).

18. How can you avoid temptations?
Avoid all persons, places or things that may lead you into sin, and ask God for actual graces.

19. What are actual graces?
They are "helps" from God which enlighten the mind and strengthen the will to do good and avoid evil.
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity." (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Actual graces come and go, but Sanctifying Grace remains in the soul. Sanctifying Grace is LIFE, actual grace is HELP.

20. Can you resist actual graces?
Unfortunately, yes, for you are free, and God does not force you to use them.
"And we helping do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain." (2 Corinthians 6:1).

Lesson 12: Purgatory

"And the day following Judas came with his company, to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchres of their fathers. And they found under the coats of the slain, some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. (2 Machabees 12:39-46)

1. What is Purgatory?
A place and state of temporary punishment in the next world.
Hell, on the other hand, is a place of eternal or everlasting punishment.

2. What does the word "Purgatory" mean?
It means "cleansing" (or "purging"): Purgatory is a place where the soul is cleansed of unforgiven venial sin and/or the "debt" of sins already forgiven but not yet made up for ("atoned" for).

3. How do you know that there is a Purgatory?
The constant teaching and practice of the Catholic Church, based on the Bible and Tradition, and even common sense, prove the existence of Purgatory.

4. How does common sense indicate the existence of Purgatory?
Only people with mortal sin go to Hell, and on the other hand, no one can enter Heaven with even the smallest sin. Therefore, there must be a place in the next world where lesser sins can be taken off the soul.

5. Who will go to Purgatory?
People who die with Sanctifying Grace in their souls, but--
1) who die with venial sin on their souls, or
2) who have not completed (satisfied for) the punishment still due to their already-forgiven sins.

6. What is meant by the "punishment still due to sin"?
This means that, even though God forgives your sins, He still requires that you be punished for them (i.e., "pay" for them), either in this life or in the next.
For example, a boy playing ball in his yard breaks his neighbor's window. He goes and tells the lady he is sorry, and she forgives him - but, she tells him he will still have to pay for the window.

7. Do you suffer in Purgatory?
Yes, besides not being allowed to see God face to face, the souls in Purgatory suffer a great deal.
"The fire of Purgatory," says St. Augustine, "is more terrible than man can suffer in this life."

8. How long will you have to suffer in Purgatory?
That depends on the number and seriousness of the sins to be atoned for.
"Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not come out from thence till thou repay the last farthing." (Matthew 5:26)

9. Where do you go when you leave Purgatory?
To Heaven to see God and enjoy Him forever.
"My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?" (Psalm 41:3)

10. Will Purgatory ever end?
Yes, at the Last Judgment. After that you will go to Heaven forever.

11. Can you help the souls in Purgatory?
You can shorten their stay by having Masses said for them, by praying for them and by doing good works for them.
"Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me." (Job 19:21)

12. Does the Bible say anything about praying for the dead?
Yes, we read that Judas Machabeus "sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead." (2 Machabees 12:43).

13. How can you avoid Purgatory?
Avoid even the smallest faults, do penance for the sins already forgiven, gain indulgences and receive Extreme Unction. (See Chapter 26.)

Practical Points
1. All Souls' Day is the day set aside by the Church for special prayers and Masses for all the souls suffering in Purgatory. It is celebrated every year on November 2.
2. The souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves. We should help them by our prayers and sacrifices. They, in turn, can and do pray for us.
3. The souls in Purgatory are known as the Poor Souls.

Lesson 13: Original Sin

"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned ... For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just." (Romans 5:12,19).

Read the first three chapters of Genesis.

1. What is Original Sin?
The sin committed by Adam, the father of the human race. By Original Sin, Adam lost Sanctifying Grace.

2. Who were Adam and Eve?
The first man and woman, from whom every human being on this earth is descended.

3. How did the sin of Adam affect the human race?
Because of Adam's sin, every human being is created with Original Sin on his soul and without Sanctifying Grace, since Adam was the father of the human race.
Adam's nature became "fallen" through Original Sin, and we his descendants inherit his fallen nature. "By the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners." (Romans 5:19).

4. What else did Adam's sin do?
The gates of Heaven were closed; disease, pain and death came into the world; the mind of man was darkened and his will was weakened.
"For the imagination and thought of man's heart are prone to evil from his youth." (Genesis 8:21).

5. Is Heaven still closed to the human race?
No, because of Christ's death on the Cross, God re-opened Heaven and made Sanctifying Grace available to man.
"As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22).

6. What happened to the good people who died before Christ?
They went to Limbo, a place of natural happiness in the next world, and stayed there until Jesus ascended into Heaven.
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell." (Luke 16:22).

7. How do you get rid of Original Sin and obtain Sanctifying Grace?
Baptism takes away Original Sin and puts Sanctifying Grace into your soul.
"Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5).

8. Was any human being preserved from Original Sin?
Yes, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose soul was created with Sanctifying Grace in it. This is called the Immaculate Conception.
"And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." (Luke 1:28).

Practical Points
1. From the way God punished the sin of Adam, it is clear that the sin was a serious one. If Adam had not committed it, there would have been no disease, pain or death. So, you can see what a terrible thing sin is in the eyes of God.
2. Only unbaptized babies and unbaptized persons who never had the use of their minds go to Limbo now.
3. Baptism does not restore the other gifts lost by Adam's sin, that is, freedom from pain, disease and death, and the perfect control over the lower nature.
4. The Church teaches that the human race began with one man and one woman. Any scientific theory of man's biological origin must square with this fact.

Taken from A Brief Catechism for Adults by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

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