St. Maximilian Kolbe on Serious Sin

August 14, 2013

Have you ever struggled with a grave sin? I mean something really serious. You want with all your heart to break this sin’s power in your life, but no matter how hard you struggle and pray, you just keep falling into it. You are constantly feeling guilty, and the guilt keeps you from approaching Our Lord through fear. In confession, you find yourself humiliated to be confessing the same serious matter yet again. But no matter how much you hate the presence of this sin in your life, you just can’t stop committing it.

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Advice

We’ve all been there—struggles like this are a part of the Catholic life. But how do we handle this kind of repeated sin without falling into despair? St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day is today, has some advice.

Whenever you feel guilty, even if it is because you have consciously committed a sin, a serious sin, something you have kept doing many, many times, never let the devil deceive you by allowing him to discourage you. Whenever you feel guilty, offer all your guilt to the Immaculate, without analyzing it or examining it, as something that belongs to her…

My beloved, may every fall, even if it is serious and habitual sin, always become for us a small step toward a higher degree of perfection.

In fact, the only reason why the Immaculate permits us to fall is to cure us from our self-conceit, from our pride, to make us humble and thus make us docile to the divine graces.

The devil, instead, tries to inject in us discouragement and internal depression in those circumstances, which is, in fact, nothing else than our pride surfacing again.

If we knew the depth of our poverty, we would not be at all surprised by our falls, but rather astonished, and we would thank God, after sinning, for not allowing us to fall even deeper and still more frequently.

Learning Humility

In other words, St. Maximilian is saying that we are allowed to fall so that we learn humility. This is essential because pride is the number one enemy of the soul, and no matter how much we seem to advance in the spiritual life, it is all an illusion if we are infected with pride and self-reliance. We must first learn humility before we can make any real progress in holiness.

The problem is, if we could conquer ourselves through sheer willpower, we would quickly become self-reliant and proud. We would have no idea how pathetic and weak we really are, or how dependent we are on the grace of God for even the smallest good act.

Repeated sin, then, breaks down any illusions we have that we can do it on our own. The crushing humiliation we feel with each fall can be a good thing if it drives us to dependence on Mary, and through Mary, Jesus, for our every need (keep in mind, St. Maximilian is writing to those who have entrusted themselves entirely to Our Lady’s care).

A lesson in the school of Christ

Our Lady, seat of Wisdom, pray for us.
Our Lady, seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

Repeated sin can be painful, and in the midst of our humiliation, we may wonder if we will ever find victory. According to St. Maximilian, you will in God’s good time—if you are teachable and docile, that is.

The painful lessons of humility are only the first stage in our advance in holiness. Think of them as Holiness 101 in the school of sainthood.

Sirach, one of my favorite books of the Bible, makes this clear in Chapter 4. Beginning in verse 11, it says, “Wisdom exalts her sons and gives help to those who seek her. Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory….”

But guess what, this exaltation comes only after the trials of humiliation. The passage goes on to say, “For at first she will walk with him on tortuous paths, she will bring fear and cowardice upon him, and will torment him by her discipline until she trusts him, and she will test him with her ordinances.”

Of course, there is a danger in this testing. If we despair, an act of prideful self-reliance, we will fall away. But if we learn humility, we will be saved. As Sirach summarizes, “For there is a shame which brings sin [despair], and there is a shame which is glory and favor [humility and true contrition].”

If we pass the test and learn the lessons of humility, “[Lady Wisdom] will come straight back to him and gladden him, and will reveal her secrets to him.”


Take St. Maximilian’s advice and never despair when faced with repeated serious sin. Despair is truly the only sin God can’t forgive. Instead, purpose to learn humility and be docile to the graces God sends to you. Persevere in grace and wait patiently on Our Lord. He will deliver you in due time.

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. Topaz says

    This is so true. I was battling the same sin over and over again to the point where I was ashamed to go back to the same priest for confession. With God’s help, and through the intercession of Our Lady, I was able to finally break free. The key really is not to give up.

  2. DRE says

    Through the evening and this morning I was beset with discouragement for a habitual sin that rears its head from time to time. Having fallen recently from my own weakness I was in certain anguish and discouragement…. but this post reaffirms my commitment and I will actively await the victory of my God. Thank you for your work and this site! St. Maximilian pray for us.

  3. Alex says

    Very well put — thank you! Pride is such a difficult sin, because it comes in so many disguises.

    We strive for holiness and the manly virtues (including good habits — like shining our shoes!), but if our motive is scewed (like, I’m a good man now b/c my shoes are shiny!), then it can lead us to the grave sin of pride without hardly seeing it. Jesus’ ire was directed to those who “had it together” — followed all the rules — when he chided the religious leaders of his day.

    Yet, the acknowledged sinfulness of others actually ATTRACTED Jesus. He was drawn to the tax collectors, the prostitutes, to those who sinned gravely. When we sin, we too ATTRACT Jesus even more to us.

    EXPERIENCING his love for us, especially when we fall, is the key. Once we experience the depths of his mercy, then we will be motivated to live with purity of intention, i.e., to do everything as a response, in thanksgiving, for his mercy. As Our Lord taught us, those who are forgiven more, love more. (Luke 7:36-50). The challenge is merely opening ourselves up to his love and mercy — which then naturally leads to gratitude.

    Gratitude, then, is the remedy to pride. “Without me, you can do NOTHING,” Jesus says (Jn 15:5). Not some things — NOTHING. When that truth enters into the depths of our hearts, then we live a life of thanksgiving and generosity in response to such a great Lover! And when we fail, as you point out so well, it is just a means to actually grow more in love and dependence on Him. “O happy fault”!

  4. R. Kay says

    God has never made his existence more acutely explicit to me, given what just happened. I am struggling with a sin myself, and I was thinking about committing it when I saw this at the top of my newsfeed a few moments ago. I read this page, and I am somehow at ease about the sin. Honestly could not have come at a better time. I can’t give up now. Say a prayer for me, wont you?

  5. cougarfan75 says

    Fantastic post. I’ve been in a ocean floor type of depression over my grave habitual sin—been going on for decades. I needed to read this today. God bless you for pointing me towards the answer!

    • Daniel says

      Join the club of humanity, we all have major weaknesses, all different. I’m in the same boat, you pray for me, I’ll pray for you. Stay fixed on Jesus, we can do all things in Him who strengthens us.

  6. sara says

    a thousand sins you may fall.God will forgive you if you come again to Him in confessional..He forgive you a thousand times…dont ever forget Him His mercy is soooo huge our sins can contained within it…be in concrite heart…we are like infants to His eyes..we badly need Him..many times we fall we can go to confessional..but He dont want us to fall in hell…do pray until to reach the anchor of the end of the helps I assure you..

  7. defenderofrighteousnessuntotheLord says

    I don’t think you should post this quotation from St. Maximilian. It is clearly taken out of context and will allow people who practice habitual mortal sin to think they can continue in sin and still be forgiven. Of course this is impossible. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY the sin of the world, he does not “understand” or overlook it. Please remove this article as soon as possible and do further research into the full context of the Saint’s teaching, which I fear has here been gravely misrepresented.

    • Matt says

      It helped me. I don’t think a Catholic who understands the Sacrament of Penance and the grip of habitual sin will be confused. We will be forgiven if we are repentant, over and over and over. He does “overlook” our sin if we are contrite. And our Lord did become man and he does “understand” everything there is to understand of weakness and temptation and He meets us on our level, in relationship, to bring us to His. I don’t see how this quote can give us the idea that we can continue in sin, unrepentant, and be forgiven. Who believes that, anyway, who is a faithful Catholic? That’s the very foundation of Christianity. No quote out of context will change that. The man who wants to continue their sin, will find a way to justify it. Here, though, we are talking of the man who is falling into despair bcuz of not being able to control his sin, so he realizes how much he needs the Lord bcuz he was never in control in the first place…his humility and willingness will bring him the grace he needs to fight another day.

      • Walt says

        In my view, a cogent and accurate response to a good, but seemingly misinterpreted, comment by “defender”. Viva Cristo Rey

  8. Fred says

    Sounds like a contemplative vision of sanctification. We want the little clean up, but Our Lord and Our Lady want something more deep and substantial. With Grace and time, the well-worn path becomes over-grown and the new path of life opens up . . .

  9. Derek says

    According to the Saints, the Church, Tradition etc… Mary has raised many sinners even from despair! What a kind Mother she is! The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus has many encouraging stories.

    God bless.

  10. Chesire Cat says

    Away in the waste of White Horse Down
    An idle child alone
    Played some small game through hours that pass,
    And patiently would pluck the grass,
    Patiently push the stone.

    On the lean, green edge for ever,
    Where the blank chalk touched the turf,
    The child played on, alone, divine,
    As a child plays on the last line
    That sunders sand and surf.

    Through the long infant hours like days
    He built one tower in vain—
    Piled up small stones to make a town,
    And evermore the stones fell down,
    And he piled them up again.

  11. Tony says

    Beware if you print article, you will get the comments, too. Better to copy and paste on Word. Great Read and very good advice from a Great Saint about fighting against Sin and temptation.

  12. Luis says

    I found out that praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet has helped a lot in conquering my habitual sins.and also going to Eucharistic Adoration.. God’s mercy is inexhaustible even if our sins are scarlet red…He will forgive us..if we only seek Him in with humble hearts.

  13. Martin says

    I believe that we all as sinners, specially those of us who are caught up in the web of habitual sins, we are reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus, if one could return to Jesus with the bag load of his sins. Accidentally reading this passage this morning I got the strength to rise up in hope in God.

  14. CJ says

    Confess your sin of despair. God loves you. I think all that is meant is that God will not forgive such despair that results in unrepentance because unrepentance is the unpardonable sin. I hope I may be so bold to say that despair can lead to unrepentance. Fight despair by getting to confession and confessing it. God is merciful, but we must avail ourselves of His mercy by going to Him, no matter how awkward, humiliating, embarrassing, or uncomfortable. It is an act of the will sometimes. God bless you. Jesus loves you!

  15. Fulton Sheen Fan says

    Thank you so much for posting this. All the way from Nigeria, I thank you. I really just fell back into an old sin this morning, just as I felt I was making strides spiritually. It was so surprising and upsetting that I could lapse so easily after months of freedom.I immediately lapsed into ” oh noooo” mode, but it’s so soothing to read this and know that we can offer even the guilt of failure to Our Lady and her most merciful Son. I tell you, Catholicism has the healing balm for everything and anything. Thank God this is the faith I was born into.

  16. Walt says

    A paraphrase: “If a man is no longer tempted then there is good reason to believe that he is already Satan’s own” – St. John Vianney, Cure’ of Ars

  17. Peter says

    Defender, I really am sorry but you are wrong. Those in the grip of habitual sin hate their sin just as any addict hates their addiction. Jesus told his own followers that they must forgive others seventy times seven. He obviously didn’t mean 490 times and after that there was no forgiveness. Jesus told St Faustina that sinners must not despair even if they are habitual sinners. He said to her…I did not allot only a certain number of pardons.
    There is the story of the habitual sinner whio cries out to God to forgive him. Satan, the great accuser tells God not to take him back because he will only sin again. God replies to satan….Not take him back? Why not? You always do.

  18. Jacob says

    My brothers out there, this is an issue that cuts so close to our hearts (including mine), it makes me tear up. It is so so important, do not give up!! The spiritual battle happening inside you is the most important one you will fight in your life.

  19. Jacob says

    I want to share a thought that has helped me move up a level in the school of habitual sin (still learning, but doing better). Rather than pray vaguely for the grace to overcome it, specifically meditate on the fact that God WILL keep you from sin — He’s got it covered — if only you cooperate with his grace. Seek to believe this fact with all your heart, and it will give you peace.

    Another way to say this: don’t have a spirit of “Settling” (resigning yourself to at least partial evil), and also don’t have a spirit of Fear (fear of sin is a trick of the Devil to actually have more power over you); rather, have a spirit of Faith (God can and will help a man who seeks to do the right thing).

    For me personally, I had a breakthrough when I realized I didn’t have to fear the sin.

  20. AJBulldis says

    I definitely needed to read this today: upon reflection pride is indeed the one sin even more difficult to be healed from than any other we deal with.

  21. Dennis says

    Habitual sin is the toughest. I almost know what I will be confessing next time in the confessional. The gravity of sin is less if it’s habitual because there is not complete free will involved. I think the despair is coming from pride because of the shame and humiliation in repeatedly confessing the same sin. However God is working in all of this and increasing His graces. That’s the thing to have faith in.

  22. Doug Taylor says

    Are you all trying to crucify Christ again? Why are you dwelling on the sin that Jesus Christ died on the cross for. Rejoice! your sins are already forgiven. Thank God for the Grace he gives each one of us. You wonder why we still sin but Romans chapter 7 and all of Pauls epistles tell us. We are dead to the sin nature but we still live in a body that sins. So now what, do we all dwell on our sin and be burdened by it? NO Jesus freed us from that through faith in his blood. We all are going to sin until we leave this body. The freedom that comes from faith in Jesus Christ is according to the gospel (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus gave us his Holy Spirit, established us in the heavens, we are co heirs with Christ, He counts ours sins as though we never have sinned. He has given us everything, be hopeful in that and read Pauls epistles. Pray and rest in our hope Jesus Christ.

  23. Peter says

    Doug, thanks for visiting from the Protestant church, but your “teaching” is not that of the Catholic Church. What you are saying amounts to a licence to sin. Yes, we are forgiven if we confess and repent innumerable times. We know we dwell in the love of Christ but he requires of us try to not sin and if we do to repent and confess our sin. Jesus told the cripple at the pool of Bethsaida and Mary Magdalene to “go and sin no more”.

  24. JB says

    Thanks for this post! It was very helpful to me. May God bless and help everyone who tries to get out of habitual sin.

  25. Daniel says

    I feel somehow relieved to see this post. I’ve been struggling with the same sin over 8 or so years and it was getting to a point where it seems to control my life. There were times when I just want to give up on my struggle, but knowing that God is always giving us a second chance with the Blessed Mother close by is just comforting. Please pray for me that through God’s grace and in His good time, I may overcome this sin and any other habitual sin that I struggle with

  26. Peter says

    My brothers in Christ, I have been struggling with repeated sin for at least 10 years now but I feel that finally I have turned the corner entirely through God’s grace. The key i believe is persistence in prayer …..never, never give up. That’s scriptural too….it was the theme of the gospel reading in recent days. We are all like Rocky Balboa….or at least that’s how i tried to imagine myself. We are all battered and bruised by our sin but we are only beaten if we stay on the canvas. If we stand up again no matter how much we are bleeding, we are not beaten.
    I tell you brothers, we have to be like the widow with the unjust judge, like the guy who pestered his friend in the night for bread. In both cases the key was persistence. Please don’t fall into the grave sin of despair. Be persistent in crying out to God…ask Our Blessed Mother to help you through the Rosary.
    God is all Loving and Merciful. Cry out to him ceaselessly and He WILL answer your prayer in His timing. Rejoice!

  27. Doug Taylor says

    After reading this I feel the need to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. Have you read in the bible specifically in Romans, Corinthians,Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians,Thessalonians, and the rest of Paul’s epistles, Where Christ Jesus saved us from our sins and placed us in himself by sending the Holy Spirit to us and in Faith we accept this. Only in Faith is Christ formed in ud and through faith we grow in the Spirit. If it was based on our performance we wouldn’t be saved. There is NOTHING we can do to justify ourselves to God apart from Faith. No prayer, no immaculate, no immaculate, no “being docile”, nothing apart from faith in Christ Jesus and his work that finished sin on the cross he died for those sins we keep committing, He was resurrected in power to give us his Holy Spirit not to purify our flesh but to give us a part payment, a promise of our heavenly place with him to give us hope in this life. We are not going to stop sinning in the flesh so stop living in the flesh and start living in the Spirit.

    In James 2:14-20 James talks about how faith cannot save without works. In Romans 4:1-5 Paul says “Now to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

  28. Peter says

    Doug, thanks for your Protestant understanding on this issue. I’m not sure those of us here would go to a Protestant site and dump Catholic theology on it. I take exception to your line, “we are not going to stop sinning in the flesh”. That sounds like licence to sin to me.
    Why did Jesus say to both Mary Magdalene and the lame guy beside the pool…Go and sin no more ?
    He also said …Be perfect as My Father is perfect.
    It is my experience that habitual sexual sin can be overcome with Gods grace. The important thing is to never give up, never despair but to cry out to Jesus and His Holy Mother for help. They will NEVER fail you.

  29. brodjon says

    Lucy, there are many protestant innovations like sola scriptura which result to divisions within protestantism. It is the will of God that we will be united and not divided. Protestants should be ashamed for not doing the will of God but persist in their divisions. Did Jesus take away the protestants shame on the cross?

  30. Peter says

    I have a feeling we are getting a little distracted here. This thread is focused on guys struggling with repetitive and habitual sin. If people want to discuss Catholic vs Protestant teaching I suggest they go to other forums.
    Men struggling with habitual sin need to be supported with catholic teaching. For those struggling with sin, I would suggest beseeching Our Blessed Mother to help us through the Rosary.
    Before you pray the Rosary, read the 15 promises made by Our Lady to St Dominic to those who pray to the Rosary. It’ll blow your mind.

  31. Danny says

    Been dealing with this so much lately. I just discovered this website and this is the first article I have read. Very grateful for it. I am one of those self loathing, anxiety ridden, Catholics that ends up running back to the same grave sins as a distraction for my anxiety and fears. I have to learn to let go and give it to Jesus well asking Mary to pray on my behalf as well.

  32. Peter says

    Danny, I hear you. Many of us here struggle with the same thing. I found out that I couldn’t do it on my own. Even Jesus couldn’t carry his cross on his own …Simon of Cyrene helped him. A big breakthrough for me was Covenant Eyes…google it. My wife is now my accountability partner and can see every website I website. That has removed porn from my life for good. It’s not the complete answer, you must remain close to Jesus and Mary as well through prayer, frequent confession, the mass and the Rosary.

  33. John says

    Yes Peter! Those that get real close to Our Lady in the Rosary DAILY will eventually (but not always) be successful at swerving from repetitive sins. If fear, temptation, and sin occupy the “same” place in our hearts, then the peace of Christ Victorious will occupy that same place and do away with them provided we “tool up” with morning prayer intentions, Eucharistic Adoration, and deliberate Rosary, frequent confession and Celebration of the Eucharist. Keep your spiritual weapons in hand, in pocket, on your monitor, in your car, when you travel, near your bed, in the bathroom,etc. You are battling the Devil. Be always vigilant!

  34. Marcus says

    I suppose there are some situations where certain grave sins can happen to people. That is those with fairly serious consequences. Prayer to the blessed lady of the rosary brings consolation to those who might have gone through this in some unexpected way.


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