Catholic Things

Chasing Nenes


When I was in Hawaii, I saw this woman with her little girl on the hotel grounds. The little girl was chasing after a nene, a Hawaiian goose and Hawaii’s state bird. I immediately thought that the girl shouldn’t have been chasing the bird since I’m pretty sure they’re a protected species on the Hawaiian islands.

When I remembered this memory, it got me to thinking:

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It doesn’t have to be as simple or specific as chasing nenes. But I think we do have a tendancy to chase after things that are off limits, aren’t ours, or just generally things that we shouldn’t chase.

It could be simply out of curiosity. We could chase after it and learn later that it’s off limits to us. Or we could very well know that it’s off limits and still choose to chase after it.

Yea, um, could you provide an example, please?

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She probably didn’t know any better. She probably just saw a bird that looked really cool and might’ve either wanted to get a better look at it or play with it. This is an example of just being curious of something. We think it’s cool and want to get a closer look at it or want to interact with it. It’s only later that we learn that we should’ve left it alone and not messed with it in the first place.

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Let’s stick with the nene example. We could know that chasing a nene isn’t the best idea. We know that it could bite or otherwise hurt us. Or our interaction could hurt it directly or indirectly hurt an entire population of nenes. Yet we still make the choice to mess with it, disregarding the consequences.

Does any of this sound familiar with our faith lives?

It should.

We as humans fall into sin. But as we know, there are two different types of sin: venial and mortal. Both are sins, it’s just that venial aren’t as serious as mortal. They both damage our relationship with God. They either hurt it or break it.

An example: chasing after the nene but not knowing that’s not a good idea. Venial. Chasing the nene knowing full well we’re not supposed to do it, knowing the consequences, and yet choosing to do it anyway. Mortal.

Chasing nenes probably isn’t necessarily a sin, but it’s still frowned upon. And I think you get my point through my choice of analogy.

Venial sins aren’t as serious, only causing a small amount of damage to our relationship with God. This could be things such as getting impatient while driving, a moment or two of cussing, that kind of thing. Things that aren’t too bad but still damage our relationship with God in some way.

Mortal sins are incredibly serious. They’re things that completely break our relationship with God. They’re things that we know are wrong, we know how bad they are, and yet we freely choose to do them anyway. Mortal sins include (but aren’t limited to) things like murder and adultery.

Okay. But why would we fall into these things in the first place if we know they’re bad?

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Nenes are, in my opinion, a pretty bird. They’re beautiful and rare. They catch our attention. And I think this is why we’re drawn to them.

Sin is similar. It’s something that catches our eye. Something about it draws us in, even if we know that it’s off limits.

We see something that’s possibly appealing, we know it’s wrong, yet we do it anyway.

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