Anger, envy, lust, pride, gluttony, sloth, and covetousness are the seven deadly sins! They are sins that kill the life of sanctifying grace within us. As the catechism explains, the more we commit them, the more they reproduce and reinforce themselves and invite each other to join in on the destruction. It was in the 6th century that Pope Gregory the Great made this list yet they are still as deadly today as they were then with pride being the worst, the devil’s great sin, because he wanted to be like God.
But the good news is that every one of these lethal vices has an opposing life-giving virtue and the more you grow in virtue, the more you overcome these vices. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen has written an absolutely brilliant book on this topic! “Victory Over Vice” is a short, easy read but really packs a punch with its potential to totally change your life! It is definitely one of my top five favorite spiritual books!
Sheen poignantly explains the seven deadly sins through the lens of Jesus Christ’s seven last words in agony on the Cross. He clearly defines each sin, while connecting it to one of the the three theological virtues or the four cardinal virtues with thoughts that are absolute gems like these:
“The victory of David symbolized the reality of Good Friday. Pride is Goliath. Our Lord is the humble David who comes to slay pride with the staff of his Cross and five little stones - five wounds, in hands, feet, and side. With no other weapon than these five wounds and the staff of the Cross do we gain victories over the Goliath of pride on the battlefield of our soul.”
“Forgive then, and we will be forgiven. Remit our anger against others and God will remit His anger against us. Judgment is a harvest where we sow what we reap. If we sowed anger against our brethren during life, we will reap the just anger of God. Judge not, and we shall not be judged.”
“The chances are that there is a bit of jealousy, a bit of envy, behind every cutting remark and barbed whispering we hear about our neighbor. It is always good to remember that there are always more sticks under the tree that has the most apples. There should be some consolation for those who are so unjustly attacked to remember that it is a physical impossibility for any man to get ahead of us who stays behind to kick us.”
Here is a list of the seven last words of Christ on the Cross that Sheen suggests we meditate on to overcome each of their opposing seven deadly sins.
ANGER - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
ENVY - "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise."
LUST - "Woman, behold thy son! (Son) Behold thy mother!"
PRIDE - "My God! My God! Why hast Thou hast abandoned Me?"
GLUTTONY - "I thirst."
SLOTH - "It is finished."
COVETOUSNESS - "Father, into Thy Hands, I commend My Spirit."
Following are the theological or cardinal virtues that Sheen correlates with the seven last words of Christ on the Cross.
FORTITUDE - "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
HOPE - "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise."
PRUDENCE - "Woman, behold thy son! (Son) Behold thy mother!."
FAITH - "My God! My God! Why hast Thou hast abandoned Me?"
TEMPERANCE - "I thirst.”
JUSTICE - "It is finished."
CHARITY - "Father, into Thy Hands, I commend My Spirit."
In typical Sheen style, the book is wonderfully written with words that penetrate the soul as he takes the reader through a deep dive into the spiritual life and the human psyche. He takes an uncommonly direct approach while beautifully coaching and encouraging, consistently leading the reader closer and closer to Christ.
It’s a great gift to have forty days of fasting and prayer to learn about these capital sins and how they manifest themselves in your life and make great strides in overcoming them.
I highly recommend reading “Victory over Vice”. It’s like making a mini retreat right from home and is the perfect book to help you spend a little time in the desert and do a little spiritual pruning to make the most of this wonderful opportunity we have to spend these next forty days contemplating the life, passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.