At exactly 8:10 every thursday morning, I visit the school. Yesterday, my plan was, head to the south building and start with the lower grades but on wednesday afternoon just before leaving the parish office to recite evening prayers, a piece of paper was left in my mailbox from the 5th graders, Mrs. Ross’ class asking me to shed some light on the difference between mortal and venial sin. I prayed for a moment and hoped, their faith wasn’t shaken. I was astonished as it was totally an unexpected invitation especially speaking of sin, a lost language in the church: a topic, which many, if not all, find uncomfortable to discuss in public and believe to be better kept in private. Knowing that humanity is a flawed nature, I wondered whether it was a set up or not and whether in the end, they just wanted to know my moral standing. I no longer was aware of the distinction if there was any, because out of love for God and fear of eternal punishment, temptation, in all its forms, is resisted, for the most part.
I started with something basic. I told the class that there are three criteria for a sinful act to be mortal. It had to fall into the following categories: grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent. Venial lacks the last two components. When I mentioned the Ten Commandments and the seven deadly sins: pride, sloth, envy, hatred, gluttony, greed and lust, as guides for the examination of conscience, the class suddenly turned out to be in a pensive mood. It was surprising. Silence normally denotes approval but as I looked into their eyes, it was confusion. Maybe, they were deeply reflecting whether saying mean things to others was venial or mortal.
I made them think…
A kid at the back raised a hand and asked about exorcism. Mrs. Ross reminded them immediately that questions should be strictly related to sin. For the sake of argument, I did field few questions but wasn’t sure if everything was right. Amen.