In my Naval career we repeatedly had training in putting out fires. After some disastrous fires at sea such as the one on the U.S.S. Forestall the Navy decided it was not a very good idea to limit training to a specific group and instead expanded fire fighting training to everyone. Besides learning to be competent on a hose team and using the various equipment in emergency situations we always had training on the fire triangle.
It is a good training model since it emphasizes that to stop a fire you just need to remove just one of the elements. Remove the fuel, reduce the heat, or remove the oxygen and the fire will stop. I always though that this was a good training aid and I started to think it could be an aid in other situations.
Many times on Catholic radio I have heard people ask questions about whether something is a mortal sin or not or what constitutes a mortal sin.
So the eternal fire triangle can be used to see the elements that lead to a mortal sin. By removing any element of the eternal fire triangle you can be guaranteed to not commit a mortal sin. Since mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law and causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the possibility of the eternal death of hell if one dies in this state it is a very good idea to teach and understand this correctly.
The Eternal Fire Triangle is proactive instead of reactive. By ensuring that these elements never come together in the first place you will not fall into mortal sin. If you need a good Powerpoint slide for CCD consider the Eternal Fire Triangle, though Powerpoint itself was surely inspired by one of the Devil’s minions.
One thing to remember that even when all the conditions are not met that there is still damage done and the consequences due to sin. Committing a grave sin even when you are invincibly ignorant does not let you off scott free from temporal punishments, just eternal ones.
Grave Matter. Obviously first and foremost is to be aware of what constitutes grave matter so that you may avoid it.
CCC 1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.
CCC 1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge …. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law.
CCC 1859 …It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
Grace and following the universal call to holiness are the true eternal fire extinguishers. Just avoiding mortal sin itself can get you to fall into the minimum daily allowance trap. Fear of the Lord is the beginning, but not the end of wisdom.
As the old joke goes "Only you can prevent eternal fires."