God has called each person to intimate union with him in heaven as it is written: [God] wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4). Unfortunately, many fail to attain this union with God so that our Lord exclaims: How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:14). Over the next few weeks, we will look at the various obstacles that prevent us from attaining union with God.
The first and most dangerous of all the obstacles in our journey towards God is called the predominant fault. The predominant fault is the dominant defect which tends to prevail over all of our other faults. The exact predominant fault varies for each person. However, common examples are: alcoholism, excessive anger, sexual impurity, pride or arrogance, avarice, etc. If we think of our soul as a spiritual building, the predominant fault can be thought of as the weakest point or the crack in the foundation.
In order to discover our predominant fault, we should have recourse to two things. First, we must examine our consciences, Before you are judged, examine yourself, and at the time of scrutiny you will have forgiveness. (Sirach 18:20) The easiest thing to do is to review the last few examinations of conscience that were made for the sacrament of confession. If there is a sin that continues to show up more frequently and intensely than other sins, then this is a likely candidate for our predominant fault. Similarly, we can get in the habit of a nightly examination of conscience before bed. If a sin continues to show up with frequency, then it is a likely candidate. It may also be helpful in these daily examinations to ask ourselves: towards what do my ordinary preoccupations and spontaneous thoughts tend towards in the morning, at night, or when I am alone? What is the general motive of my actions? Such questions, when reflected upon, can help one recognize what fault their soul tends towards predominantly. For example, if I notice that my thoughts often tend towards acquiring money, it is possible that my predominant fault is related to greed, avarice, or some deeper issue
which causes this love of money. Secondly, we should pray that God enlightens our minds to make known to us our predominant fault. A simple prayer such as “Lord, give me the light to know my predominant fault, the humility to admit it, and the strength to overcome it” suffices.
Due to its gravity and danger, we must do battle against our predominant fault. We have five weapons to use against our fault. The first, and most important, is the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we receive forgiveness for our sins and also the strength to avoid future sins. If possible, one should strive to receive this sacrament at least once a month.
Secondly, we must have frequent recourse to prayer as it is written let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help (Hebrews 4:16) In the morning we should pray that the Lord strengthens us against our predominant fault. In the evening we should give thanks to the Lord for his assistance in our battle against our fault. When we are tempted in regard to our predominant fault, we must have immediate recourse to prayer. In these instances, invoking the Holy names of Jesus and Mary is always a wise decision. A common practice, especially when dealing with temptations of impurity, is to pray the Hail Mary. One may also recite a Psalm (Psalms 91 & 121 are good ones). If the temptation persists, then it may be helpful to go and visit Jesus in Eucharistic adoration.
Our third weapon against our predominant fault is the practice of penances. The apostle Paul said: I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27) The penances need not be severe. For example, if one yields to their fault, afterwards they can make a prayer of reparation. Or, at their next meal they could skip dessert or
have a glass of water instead of drinking soda. These little penances offer corrections that assist us to slowly mortify ourselves of our predominant fault. Our fourth weapon is to avoid the near occasion of sin as Scripture tells us: Do not go on a way set with snares (Sirach 32:20). Near occasions of sin are situations and things which often lead us into a sin. These occasions may not be sins in themselves; indeed, sometimes they would be rather harmless to other people. However, if we are vulnerable in a particular way, these occasions may lead to our predominant fault. In order to discover these occasions, we must reflect upon our life and examine
ourselves closely. To be sure, some occasions of sins are more obvious than others. For example, if one’s predominant fault is alcoholism, then going to a bar would be an occasion of sin. However, other times, occasions of sins can be more subtle. If one’s predominant fault is excessive anger, then secular music, or violent movies may tempt one towards anger. It takes self-reflection and
knowledge of oneself to recognize patterns of behavior that develop over time.
Lastly, we must hope. This is especially the case when we have fallen for the n th time to our predominant fault. In these moments, there is a tendency to despair and to give up. One should remember what the Council of Trent said (quoting Augustine) “God never commands the impossible; but in giving us His precepts, He commands us to do what we can, and to ask for the grace to accomplish what we cannot do” and also what the Apostle said: No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13). I have full confidence that if one does their utmost and perseveres, eventually, God will give them the grace to overcome their fault.
God allows us to struggle with our predominant fault so that we will learn humility, trust in God, and develop the habit of clinging to him in all things. He does not want us to ultimately fall away from him.