What follows is an example of a tool for examination of conscience. Such tools can be elaborate or simple. I hope to review a number of self-examinations through this blog in the coming weeks as we prepare for what George Herbert calls the “Dear Feast of Lent.”
This particular self-examination is meant for clergy, though it doesn’t take much adaptation to make it quite useful for laypersons. It takes the form of eight brief sections with a few specific considerations in each. Some of them are expected (prayer life, for example), but others are rather more surprising (how seriously am I repelling the first suggestions of sin in my daily life?).
Noting our responses to each and then taking time to journal or reflect on what these questions elicit can form an excellent preparation for a private confession as part of Evening Prayer (say), or (as in this case) a sacramental confession with a priest.
If we want a healthier Church with healthier witness to Christ, it is essential that we provide and encourage the use of sound tools for ascetic training. The current state of affairs suggests these ancient practices should be renewed in our day.
I. My daily prayers? Meditation? Preparation and thanksgiving when celebrating? Daily Office? Spiritual reading? Daily examination of conscience? First and last thoughts of the day?
II. My rule of confession? Preparation for confession? Contrition? Amendment of life?
III. Profit from my communions? Remembrance of them during the day and week?
IV. Administration of sacraments: Punctual? With care? Edifying?
V. Sermons prayerfully prepared? Focused on the texts? Misuse of my own personal struggles through the pulpit? Parish visiting? Care of children? The sick?
VI. Temperance: In food? In drink? Charity? Envy? Detraction? Sharpness in rebuke? Chastity? Custody of thought? Repelling first suggestions and temptations? Desire? Looks? Words? Deeds?
VII. Have I kept my rule of life?
VIII. What about my besetting sin?
[Adapted from The Priest’s Book of Private Devotion, 1960 edition.]