Pope Francis presided over a penance service in the Vatican on March 17, hearing the confessions of several lay people, and going to confession himself.
The celebration was an anticipation of “24 hours for the Lord,” organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. This initiative is an invitation for churches worldwide to make confession available for a full 24 hours.
A three-step outline for doing an examination of conscience to prepare for confessions was provided at the Vatican event.
Read it here (in Italian).
Following three initial questions, the examen focuses on three main areas.
1. Do I approach the sacrament of Penance with a sincere desire for purification, conversion, renewal of life, and a more intimate friendship with God? Or do I consider it rather as a burden, which I am only rarely willing to bear? 2. Have I purposefully forgotten or kept silent regarding grave sins in my most recent confession, or earlier confessions? 3. Have I fulfilled the penance that was imposed on me? Have I made reparation for the damage that I’ve done? Have I sought to put into practice my resolutions to amend my life according to the Gospel?
In the light of the word of God, let each person examine himself…
I. The Lord says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart”
1. Is my heart truly oriented toward God? Can I say that I love him truly above all else, with filial love, in faithful observance of his commandments? Do I allow myself to get too absorbed by worldly things? Do I always act with the correct intention?
2. Do I have firm faith in God, who has given us his Word in his Son? Do I adhere fully to the doctrine of the Church? Do I concern myself with my Christian formation, listening to the word of God, participating in catechesis, and avoiding whatever could be a threat to my faith? Have I always professed my faith in God and in the Church courageously and fearlessly? Have I given proof of my Christianity through my actions in private and public life?
3. Have I prayed in the morning and at night? Is my prayer a true heart-to-heart conversation with God, or is it only an empty exterior practice? Have I remembered to offer to God my activities, my joys, and my sorrows? Do I also turn to him confidently for help when I am tempted?
4. Do I revere and love the holy name of God, or have I offended him with blasphemy, with false oaths, or by using his name in vain? Have I been irreverent regarding the Virgin Mary and the saints?
5. Do I keep holy the Lord’s day and the Church’s holy days of obligation, taking part in liturgical celebrations and especially Holy Mass with active, attentive, and pious participation? Have I avoided doing unnecessary work on Sundays? Have I observed the precept of confession at least once a year and Communion during the Easter season?
6. Do I have “other gods”—namely, things I am more interested in, or in which I put more confidence, than in God, such as: wealth, superstition, Spiritism, or other forms of magic?
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II. The Lord says: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
1. Do I truly love my neighbors, or do I treat them badly, using them for my own interests and treating them in a way that I would not want to be treated? Have I caused scandal with my words and my actions?
2. In my family life, have I contributed with patience and true love for the good and tranquility of others?
For each member of the family:
For children: Have I obeyed my parents? Have I respected and honored them? Have I helped them in their spiritual and material needs? Have I worked hard at school? Have I respected people in authority? Have I given a good example in every situation?
For parents: Have I looked out for my children’s Christian education? Have I given them a good example? Have I supported them and guided them with my authority?
For spouses: Have I always been faithful in my heart and actions? Have I been understanding during moments of stress or anxiety?
3. Do I know how to give from what is mine, without petty selfishness, to those who are poorer than me? To the extent that it depends on me, do I defend the oppressed and help the needy? Or do I treat my neighbor with pride or harshness, especially the poor, the weak, the old, the marginalized, and immigrants?
4. Am I aware of the mission that has been entrusted to me? Have I participated in works of apostolate and charity of the Church, and in my parish life and initiatives? Have I prayed and contributed to meeting the needs of the Church and of the world, for example: for the unity of the Church, for the evangelization of peoples, and for the establishment of justice and peace?
5. Do I have at heart the well-being and prosperity of the community in which I live, or do I care only for my personal interests? Do I participate, as much as I can, in initiatives that promote justice, public morality, peace, and works of charity? Do I fulfill my civic duties? Have I paid my taxes regularly?
6. Am I just, committed, honest at work, and willing to lend my services to the common good? Have I given fair pay to all those who work for me in any capacity? Have I been faithful to contracts and promises?
7. Have I been obedient and respectful to legitimate authorities?
8. If I have a responsibility or have management duties, do I seek only my own interests, or do I strive for the good of the others, with a spirit of service?
9. Have I practiced truthfulness and loyalty, or have I done harm to others with lies, slander, slurs, reckless judgments, and the revelation of secrets?
10. Have I attempted violence against the life and physical integrity of others? Have I offended their honor, or denied them what is rightfully theirs? Have I procured abortion or counseled a woman to abort? Have I remained silent in situations where I could have encouraged people to do good? In my married life, am I respectful of the teachings of the Church regarding openness to and respect for life? Have I done anything against my own physical integrity (for example, by sterilization)? Have I always been faithful with my mind as well as my body? Have I held on to hatred? Have I been conflictive? Have I used insults and offensive words, thus encouraging disagreements and rancor? Have I omitted to witness to the innocence of others, in a guilty and selfish way? While driving, have I put my life or that of others at risk?
11. Have I stolen? Have I been so unjust as to wish to steal from others? Have I damaged my neighbor’s belongings? Have I given back anything I might have taken, and made reparation for the damage done?
12. If people have done me harm, have I expressed my willingness to be reconciled and to forgive, out of love of Christ? Or have I harbored hatred and desire for revenge in my heart?
I know we encounter Christ in confession, but I wasn’t expecting THIS!
III. Christ the Lord says: “Be perfect, as the Father is perfect”
1. What is the fundamental orientation of my life? Am I encouraged by the hope of eternal life? Have I sought to rekindle my spiritual life through prayer, reading and meditation on the word of God, and participation in the sacraments? Have I practiced self-denial? Have I been ready and willing to abandon my vices, and keep my passions and perverse inclinations under control? Have I overcome my tendency to envy? Have I controlled my gluttony? Have I been presumptuous and proud, looking down on others and always putting myself first? Have I imposed my will on others, violating their freedom and disregarding their rights?
2. What have I done with my time, my energy, and the other gifts I have received from God as the “talents” mentioned in the Gospel? Do I make use of all these means to grow every day towards perfection in my spiritual life and in service to others? Have I been passive and idle? How do I use the internet and other means of communication?
3. Have I endured, with patience and with faith, the sorrows and the trials of life? How have I sought to practice self-denial, to complete what is missing to the passion of Christ? Have I observed the law of fasting and abstinence?
4. Have I kept my body pure and chaste, according to my state of life, knowing that it is a temple of the Holy Spirit, destined for the resurrection and glory? Have I guarded my senses and avoided contaminating my spirit and body with perverse desires and thoughts, or with unworthy words and actions? Have I allowed myself to indulge in readings, presentations, entertainment, or other forms of amusement in contrast with human and Christian honesty? Have I scandalized others with my behavior?
5. Have I acted against my conscience out of fear or hypocrisy?
6. Have I sought to act always and everywhere with the true freedom of the children of God, and according to the laws of the Spirit? Or have I allowed myself to be dominated by my passions?
7. Have I omitted a good deed that I could have done?
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