A person drowning, hand held out of the sea for help

Hello Rosary lovers! In this post we will ask: can you pray the Rosary in mortal sin?

This is a GREAT question. It can really only be asked by asking this question: is it OK to pray AT ALL when you’re in mortal sin?

But to ask that question, we first need to ask: what is mortal sin?

So there are 3 questions to answer in this post, one by one.

1. What is mortal sin?

Mortal sin is defined by the Catholic Church as a condition of the soul. The best way to describe it would be to use an illustration.

Imagine someone with a terrible, life-threatening disease or sickness in their body. Mortal sin is similar to having this in one’s soul. Mortal sin is an extremely serious sickness of the soul, which threatens someone’s eternal destiny.

We could look at it another way. The Church distinguishes between venial sins and mortal sins. Venial sins are what we may call ‘lesser’ sins. These might be sins which are not quite so bad, perhaps telling a white lie.

But a venial sin could also be (and often is) a serious matter which the individual didn’t really mean or intend to do. Or it could be a bad thing we’ve done, even a very bad thing, but we didn’t know it was wrong at the time!

You can think of many such examples, and it’s only human to do bad things we don’t know are bad, or things that we do know are bad but don’t really mean. We do things like this all the time.

One example might be that someone is in a situation which causes them a lot of fear. A lot of pressure is put on them, and so they decide to tell a lie to help themselves. Or out of fear, they rob some money from someone.

Telling a lie (especially in court) or theft are serious matters. But doing these things because you were afraid would be probably a venial sin. You didn’t really mean to lie, and you didn’t want to steal, but you still made the choice to do these things. However, you weren’t entirely free to choose because pressure was put on you and/or you were scared.

Or, perhaps you don’t even know that it’s wrong to tell lies, or to steal. This can happen! Many people, for instance, do not know that a lot of sexual things many societies accept as legal are actually serious sins according to the Catholic Church.

For instance, someone has sex before marriage, but didn’t know this was wrong at the time they did it. This also would be classed as a venial sin. They simply ask God’s forgiveness and move on, though they can confess it in Confession if they wish.

So most sins are venial sins. Venial sins should certainly be avoided. They can destroy someone’s life permanently or for a long time. Some of the saints said that it was better to die than commit one venial sin. This is because a single venial sin could mean that your relationship with God is deeply damaged, and therefore you would have to spend a lot of time in purgatory in the afterlife.

A mortal sin, however, is MUCH more serious than a venial sin. A mortal sin requires three things:

1. A serious matter (like murder, adultery or blasphemy: basically ANY sin against the Ten Commandments)

2. FULL knowledge that this is very wrong and against God

3. FULL consent of the will, that is, genuine freedom of choice: you freely CHOOSE to do this thing you know is very, very wrong against God

The Church calls mortal sins a ‘radical possibility’ but they are still a possibility. When a Catholic commits a mortal sin, their soul is so deeply damaged that their relationship with God is broken. It is ruined.

This is often accompanied by a crushing sense of guilt, which perhaps a person carries with them for years. God has given us a conscience so that we often KNOW when we have done something really bad.

The way to get out of a state of mortal sin is to get to Confession as soon as possible. You can go to any Catholic Church with any priest, it doesn’t have to be your local Church or a priest who knows you.

2. Can I pray when in mortal sin?

A silhouette of a man, praying alone during a sunset

Now one of the questions of this post is: can someone pray when they are in this terrible condition of soul?

The answer is YES! Absolutely. It is vital to seek God in prayer when in mortal sin.

Prayer brings with it grace and this grace could lead to your change of heart. Once your heart has been changed, prayer and God’s grace can help lead you to the holy Sacrament of Confession, to receive complete forgiveness of your mortal sin/s.

Another way to receive wonderful grace when in mortal sin is by attending Mass. Obviously, in a state of mortal sin, you cannot take the Holy Eucharist. However, you CAN most certainly attend Mass, and the effects could be life-changing.

The graces released at Mass, even by just attending and listening, are so great that they could lead you to complete repentance. This may well lead you to Confession and your forgiveness would be complete.

3. Can I pray the Rosary in mortal sin?

And so the main question of this post: can I pray the Rosary in a state of mortal sin?

And again, the answer is an absolute YES! In fact, apart from attending Mass (which you definitely SHOULD do when in mortal sin), you can do nothing better than to pray the Rosary.

Praying the Rosary is an extremely powerful form of devotion, and even if you are in mortal sin, Mary and the Holy Spirit can work through it in such a way as to bring you back to the Confessional.

St Louis de Montfort has a brilliant quote on this:

If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory. Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if — and mark well what I say — if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.’

So clearly the great Saint – THE Saint on the Rosary – thought that we certainly SHOULD pray the Rosary when in mortal sin. Few things are as likely to save a soul from hell as the Rosary when in mortal sin.

A set of wooden rosary beads resting on a Bible, with candles burning before it


Mortal sin is a radical thing for a Catholic. It’s quite hard to get yourself into mortal sin. You would have to do something really bad, something that you KNOW is really bad, and additionally something that you fully CHOOSE to do, without any coercion, pressure or force.

Nevertheless, as relatively rare as mortal sin MAY be, it is most certainly a possibility for any Catholic. Venial sin is bad enough, and destructive enough. But mortal sin is absolutely deadly.

Thankfully, when we are in mortal sin, all hope is far from lost. There is much we can do to get ourselves back on the straight and narrow.

We can and definitely should attend Mass, as often as possible, even on weekdays. The graces received from Mass are so great that we can find ourselves longing to go to Confession as a result to get right with God.

We should call upon God through the blessed Virgin Mary to have mercy on us, especially through reciting the Rosary. This will do wonders.

But if any of this is too demanding, or if we find that we cannot even do this, a simple prayer for God’s mercy towards us may well suffice.

The crucial thing is to get back to God, to come back to the Church, and to get ourselves to Confession as soon as humanly possible.

In fact, there is even a wonderful prayer the Church offers us, to prepare us for Confession.

This prayer is so wonderful that it can even ENTIRELY forgive us of all our mortal sins (that’s right, even BEFORE Confession!), SO LONG AS we pray it sincerely and have the desire to go to Confession as soon as possible. The prayer is called an Act of Perfect Contrition, and it goes like this:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

This webpage has crucial information on how to make a successful act of perfect contrition when in a state of mortal sin. So you CAN be forgiven RIGHT NOW! Look at it now and get right with God! Then get to Confession as soon as possible, perhaps even ring a local priest and book a Confession. There is no time to lose and your salvation is moments away.

God bless you.

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