“Ask a Priest: What If I Slid Back Into Old Sins?”

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Q: What can I do to receive the Holy Spirit again? I was gifted with the Holy Spirit last year after running to God because I was so lost in life and troubled with my past mistakes. But then I slowly slid back into my old ways a month later, thinking I knew better. And now, I feel how the world is terrible enough for myself to commit the same sinful acts others do — and I hate that I am my old, horrible self again. Feeling remorse for my sins while praying and repenting has been difficult for me, and I just want to be near to God again and live my life through doing good deeds for him. – M.D.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Our struggle to overcome the “old man” takes time and patience.

You mention that you slid back into your old ways quickly, thinking you “knew better.”

A paradox of conversion is that we suddenly think we’ve slain all those vices that dragged us down. This overconfidence can quickly lead to presumption and pride – and a relapse into the old sins.

The problem is that we rely too much on ourselves and forget that it is God’s grace that sustains us.

To take steps toward humility, it would be good to commit yourself to a life of solid prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, a bit of mortification, and lots of acts of charity.

And never assume that the “old man” of your passions is gone. Temptations can spring up at any time.

Awareness of our weakness shouldn’t depress us. Rather, it should keep us humble. Life is a battle, and we have to be constantly on guard.

So don’t give in to despair if you fall. Get back up, get to confession, and move on. Only the devil wants you to wallow in self-pity and paralysis.

It might help to have a strategy moving forward. In addition to the steps mentioned above (prayer, sacraments, etc.) you might benefit from checking out the links for compiling a vocation statement and a program of life.

Think of them as roadmaps that can guide you on the spiritual journey. If you can review them with a confessor or spiritual director, all the better.

I hope that some of this helps. Count on my prayers.


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  1. Good encouraging response Father.

    I might add that ‘conversion’ and spiritual growth is a continual ‘process’ since the blessed water went over our ‘wittle gurgling head.’ Any who state ‘once saved, always saved’ is leaving off ‘work out your salvation with ‘fear’ (respect for God and all things of God) and ‘trembling.’ Why tremble? The spirit is willing but the mortal flesh is weak… and reason for that ACT OF FAITH of taking and eating of the consecrated bread, of His real presence. It’s a SLOW AND STEADY transformation process… hardly perceptible to our human eyes. . . . there will be slips, Christ understood that… and why he provided that humbling Sacrament of Reconciliation that purges 7 x 70 x, as prompted by the Holy Spirit. (behind screen, just speak it to Him and hear by His chosen apostle… speaking in the name of Father, Son, Holy Spirit: “I absolve you …” That’s for the big stuff… but if attending to the Holy Mass Sacrifice the penitential ‘rite’ expressed (confiteor) that is said (sincerely) also grants us forgiveness for all the myriad of VENIAL stuff … for being ‘in but NOT OF the world.’ (I recently came to the idea that Matthew Chapter 7 explains what it means to be ‘in the world of fleshly humanity’ and Romans Chapter 5 gives meaning to NOT BEING OF that material world but God’s world again (by His grace)

  2. Father your advice touched my heart. I’ve known people who’ve been told or scolded by priests for falling back to their old sinful habits. I know staying on a path to avoid repeating our mistakes is a constant battle. We should never let down our guard. And your advice Father was compassionate and understanding. God’s blessings. .i pray for our Pope and our priests daily.

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