Humility / Sin

St. Maximilian Kolbe on Serious Sin

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


St. Maximilian Kolbe

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.


24 thoughts on “St. Maximilian Kolbe on Serious Sin

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!

    • Cougar,
      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. 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. 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.

    • 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.

  8. 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. 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.

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  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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