While preparing for talks on the seven deadly sins for The Thomas Aquinas Forum on Virtue in Our Current Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee February 12th-13th, 2016 and for the 20th Annual In His Father’s Footsteps Catholic Men’s Conference in Norman, Oklahoma on February 27th, I knew I would build those talks around demonstrations of the memory methods of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, so that by the end of each talk the hearers would at least know by heart the names and meanings of the seven deadly sins. When pondering how to conclude, I recalled a method St. Albert the Great used to tie a bow on his sermons. He would recite a brief prayer that summarized all the key ideas and helped his hearers remember them.
Well, something occurred to me that had not in full even when writing a whole book on The Seven Deadly Sins, and I should note as well that surely you will notice below there are eight and not seven sins listed. When Pope St. Gregory the Great formulated his list of seven “capital” or “deadly” “vices” or “sins,” and when St. Thomas Aquinas built upon it, they included the sin of vainglory instead of pride among the seven, because they believed that pride was even more fundamental than the seven deadly sins and gives rise to them all. Modern lists of the seven deadly sins, including the one in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1866) show pride rather than vainglory among the seven deadly sins. Vainglory means seeking glory and attention toward oneself for petty or unworthy things. The related but more fundamental sin of pride is a more direct turning away from God’s will and elevating one’s own will above it that opens the door to vainglory and to all manner of vice and sin.
When discussing the power of prayer to combat sin in The Seven Deadly Sins, I sometimes used a few key words from some well-known prayers to address a particular sin. Lately though I realized that the prayer I could use to conclude my talks was a prayer that all of my listeners already knew (as do you), but that perhaps they (and you), like me, never considered just how this prayer can be used to petition God’s help to conquer each and every one of the seven deadly sins, including the pride that gives birth to them all. Furthermore, this prayer has been called by theologians the greatest of all prayers, and was certainly given to us by the greatest of all pray-ers! You can find this prayer in full in the Gospel of St. Matthew 6:9-13, and we know it as The Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster, or as the Our Father.
Let’s take a fresh look at this prayer with spectacles focused on the seven deadly sins, and pray it in such a way, as Christ Himself advised us, that God might truly deliver us from the seven deadly sins, and indeed, from all manner of evils.
Parts of the Lord’s Prayer Opposing Deadly Sins
|1. “Our Father||1. Envy|
|2. who art in heaven||2. Sloth|
|3. hallowed by thy name.||3. Vainglory|
|4. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.||4. Pride|
|5. Give us this daily our daily bread||5. Gluttony, Avarice|
|6. and forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.||6. Wrath|
|7. Lead us not into temptation,||7. Lust|
|8. but deliver us from evil, Amen.”||8. All the deadly sins|
“Our Father” (we pray to “our” not “my” Father a remedy for envy, which is self-absorbed and saddened by another’s good, since it reminds us we are all members of the same family, brothers and sisters of the same loving Father, and we pray for the benefit of all), “who art in heaven, (a remedy for sloth, which is mired in earthly concerns, neglecting heavenly things and the holiness of God), hallowed be thy name,” (a remedy for vainglory in which we seek earthly glory for our own names and neglect the honor due God), “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (a remedy for pride, that font from which all the deadly sins flow, in which our will and desires come first), “give us this day our daily bread” (both a remedy for gluttony which seeks more than a day’s worth of bread at a time!, and for avarice, which seeks more than one’s share of any earthly goods – as well as a reminder of the greatest of all breads which we are receive in the Eucharist), “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (a remedy against the unforgiving anger of wrath). “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (a remedy against the temptations of lust, and every kind of evil that comes from deadly sins).