Wednesday, January 19, 2011


A Detailed Catholic Examination of Conscience
A good Catholic Catholic examination of conscience can be a great help in making a new start in the life of faith.
We use an examination of conscience to help call to mind our sins and failings during a period of quiet reflection before approaching the priest in Confession.
It's important for a good Catholic examination of conscience to be thorough. This will help you learn about things that you may not be aware of. It's also a chance to develop your conscience. This is a critical aid for the beginning Catholic.
To make an examination:
  • Set aside some quiet time for reflection.
  • Start by praying to the Holy Spirit, asking for help in making a good examination to prepare for Confession.
  • Read through the items on this list and honestly reflect on your behavior for each item.
  • If necessary, take this list or some brief notes (keep them private!) to Confession to help you remember things.
A Catholic examination of conscience traditionally follows the outline of the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Catholic Church.
The Ten Commandments
First Commandment
I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.
Have I...
  • Disobeyed the commandments of God or the Church?
  • Refused to accept what God has revealed as true, or what the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
  • Denied the existence of God?
  • Nourished and protected my faith?
  • Rejected everything opposed to a sound faith?
  • Deliberately misled others about doctrine or the faith?
  • Rejected the Catholic faith, joined another Christian denomination, or joined or practiced another religion?
  • Joined a group forbidden to Catholics (Masons, communists, etc.)?
  • Despaired about my salvation or the forgiveness of my sins?
  • Presumed on God's mercy? (Committing a sin in expectation of forgiveness, or asking for forgiveness without conversion and practicing virtue.)
  • Loved someone or something more than God (money, power, sex, ambition, etc.)?
  • Let someone or something influence my choices more than God?
  • Engaged in superstitious practices? (Incl. horoscopes, fortune tellers, etc.)
  • Been involved in the occult? (Seances, ouija board, worship of Satan, etc.)
  • Formally left the Catholic Church?
  • Hidden a serious sin or told a lie in confession?
Second Commandment
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Have I...
  • Used the name of God in cursing or blasphemy?
  • Failed to keep vows or promises that I have made to God?
  • Spoken about the Faith, the Church, the saints, or sacred things with irreverence, hatred or defiance?
  • Watched television or movies, or listened to music that treated God, the Church, the saints, or sacred things irreverently?
  • Used vulgar, suggestive or obscene speech?
  • Belittled others in my speech?
  • Behaved disrespectfully in Church?
  • Misused places or things set apart for the worship of God?
  • Committed perjury? (Breaking an oath or lying under oath.)
  • Blamed God for my failings?
Third Commandment
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
Have I...
  • Set time aside each day for personal prayer to God?
  • Missed Mass on Sunday or Holy Days (through own fault w/o sufficient reason)?
  • Committed a sacrilege against the Blessed Sacrament?
  • Received a sacrament while in the state of mortal sin?
  • Habitually come late to and/or leave early from Mass without a good reason?
  • Shop, labor, or do business unnecessarily on Sunday or other Holy Days of Obligation?
  • Not attend to taking my children to Mass?
  • Knowingly eat meat on a forbidden day (or not fasting on a fast day)?
  • Eat or drink within one hour of receiving Communion (other than medical need)?
Fourth Commandment
Honor your father and your mother.
Have I...
  • (If still under my parents' care) Obeyed all that my parents reasonably asked of me?
  • Neglected the needs of my parents in their old age or in their time of need?
  • (If still in school) Obeyed the reasonable demands of my teachers?
  • Neglected to give my children proper food, clothing, shelter, education, discipline and care (even after Confirmation)?
  • Provided for the religious education and formation of my children for as long as they are under my care?
  • Ensured that my children still under my care regularly frequent the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion?
  • Educated my children in a way that corresponds to my religious convictions?
  • Provided my children with a positive, prudent and personalized education in the Catholic teaching on human sexuality?
  • Been to my children a good example of how to live the Catholic Faith?
  • Prayed with and for my children?
  • Lived in humble obedience to those who legitimately exercise authority over me?
  • Have I broken the law?
  • Have I supported or voted for a politician whose positions are opposed to the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church?
Fifth Commandment
You shall not kill.
Have I...
  • Unjustly and intentionally killed a human being?
  • Been involved in an abortion, directly or indirectly (through advice, etc.)?
  • Seriously considered or attempted suicide?
  • Supported, promoted or encouraged the practice of assisted suicide or mercy killing?
  • Deliberately desired to kill an innocent human being?
  • Unjustly inflicted bodily harm an another person?
  • Unjustly threatened another person with bodily harm?
  • Verbally or emotionally abused another person?
  • Hated another person, or wished him evil?
  • Been prejudiced, or unjustly discriminated against others because of their race, color, nationality, sex or religion?
  • Joined a hate group?
  • Purposely provoked another by teasing or nagging?
  • Recklessly endangered my life or health, or that of another, by my actions?
  • Driven recklessly or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs?
  • Abused alcohol or other drugs?
  • Sold or given drugs to others to use for non-therapeutic purposes?
  • Used tobacco immoderately?
  • Over-eaten?
  • Encouraged others to sin by giving scandal?
  • Helped another to commit a mortal sin (through advice, driving them somewhere, etc.?
  • Caused serious injury or death by criminal neglect?
  • Indulged in serious anger?
  • Refused to control my temper?
  • Been mean to, quarreled with, or willfully hurt someone?
  • Been unforgiving to others, when mercy or pardon was requested?
  • Sought revenge or hoped something bad would happen to someone?
  • Delighted to see someone else get hurt or suffer?
  • Treated animals cruelly, causing them to suffer or die needlessly?
Sixth & Ninth Commandments
You shall not commit adultery. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
Have I...
  • Practiced the virtue of chastity?
  • Given in to lust? (The desire for sexual pleasure unrelated to spousal love in marriage.)
  • Used an artificial means of birth control?
  • Refused to be open to conception, without just cause? (Catechism, 2368)
  • Participated in immoral techniques for in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination?
  • Sterilized my sex organs for contraceptive purposes?
  • Deprived my spouse of the marital right, without just cause?
  • Claimed my own marital right without concern for my spouse?
  • Deliberately caused male climax outside of normal sexual intercourse? (Catechism, 2366)
  • Willfully entertained impure thoughts?
  • Purchased, viewed, or made use of pornography?
  • Watched movies and television that involve sex and nudity?
  • Listened to music or jokes that are harmful to purity?
  • Committed adultery? (Sexual relations with someone who is married, or with someone other than my spouse.)
  • Committed incest? (Sexual relations with a relative or in-law.)
  • Committed fornication? (Sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex when neither of us is married.)
  • Engaged in homosexual activity? (Sexual activity with someone of the same sex.)
  • Committed rape?
  • Masturbated? (Deliberate stimulation of one's own sexual organs for sexual pleasure.)
  • Engaged in sexual foreplay (petting) reserved for marriage?
  • Preyed upon children or youth for my sexual pleasure?
  • Engaged in unnatural sexual activities?
  • Engaged in prostitution, or paid for the services of a prostitute?
  • Seduced someone, or allowed myself to be seduced?
  • Made uninvited and unwelcome sexual advances toward another?
  • Purposely dressed immodestly?
Seventh & Tenth Commandments
You shall not steal. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
Have I...
  • Stolen? (Take something that doesn't belong to me against the reasonable will of the owner.)
  • Envied others on account of their possessions?
  • Tried to live in a spirit of Gospel poverty and simplicity?
  • Given generously to others in need?
  • Considered that God has provided me with money so that I might use it to benefit others, as well as for my own legitimate needs?
  • Freed myself from a consumer mentality?
  • Practiced the works of mercy?
  • Deliberately defaced, destroyed or lost another's property?
  • Cheated on a test, taxes, sports, games, or in business?
  • Squandered money in compulsive gambling?
  • Make a false claim to an insurance company?
  • Paid my employees a living wage, or failed to give a full day's work for a full day's pay?
  • Failed to honor my part of a contract?
  • Failed to make good on a debt?
  • Overcharge someone, especially to take advantage of another's hardship or ignorance?
  • Misused natural resources?
Eighth Commandment
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Have I...
  • Lied?
  • Knowingly and willfully deceived another?
  • Perjured myself under oath?
  • Gossiped?
  • Committed detraction? (Destroying a person's reputation by telling others about his faults for no good reason.)
  • Committed slander or calumny? (Telling lies about another person in order to destroy his reputation.)
  • Committed libel? (Writing lies about another person in order to destroy his reputation.)
  • Been guilty of rash judgment? (Assuming the worst of another person based on circumstantial evidence.)
  • Failed to make reparation for a lie I told, or for harm done to a person's reputation?
  • Failed to speak out in defense of the Catholic Faith, the Church, or of another person?
  • Betrayed another's confidence through speech?
The Precepts of the Church
First Precept of the Church
You shall attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
  • (see examination under the Third Commandment)
Second Precept of the Church
You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
Have I...
  • Made a good Confession of my mortal sins least once a year?
  • Purposely omitted telling my mortal sins in my last Confession?
  • Performed the penance I was given?
  • Made reparation for any harm I have done to others?
Third Precept of the Church
You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.
Have I...
  • Fulfilled my Easter duty to receive Holy Communion at least once between the First Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday?
  • Received Holy Communion while in the state of mortal sin?
  • Fasted an hour before receiving Holy Communion?
  • Received Holy Communion more than twice in one day?
Fourth Precept of the Church
You shall keep holy the Holy days of Obligation.
  • (see examination under the Third Commandment)
Fifth Precept of the Church
You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.
Have I...
  • Done penance every Friday, if not abstaining from meat, then some other form of penance?
  • Abstained from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent (if I am 14 years of age or older)?
  • Fasted on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (if I am between the ages of 18 and 59)?
  • Spent time in prayer, doing spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and practicing self-denial?
Sixth Precept of the Church
You shall contribute to the support of the Church.
Have I...
  • Contributed a just amount of my time, talents and money to support my parish and the work of the Church?
Seventh Precept of the Church
You shall observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage.
Have I...
  • Been living in a valid and licit marriage according to the laws of the Catholic Church?
  • Abandoned my spouse and family by separation or divorce?
  • Kept company with someone whom I cannot marry in the Catholic Church?
  • Given scandal by living with a member of the opposite sex without the benefit of a marriage blessed by the Catholic Church?
  • Entered into marriage with more than one person at the same time?
This detailed Catholic examination of conscience should help you reflect on how you are responding to the demands made by the love of God.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

the Battle of Prayer

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.
In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.
We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of "this present world" can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the "love of beauty" (philokalia), is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life.
Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have "great possessions,"15 we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

Facing Difficulties in Prayer
The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.16
In positive terms, the battle against the possessive and dominating self requires vigilance, sobriety of heart. When Jesus insists on vigilance, he always relates it to himself, to his coming on the last day and every day: today. The bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; the light that must not be extinguished is that of faith: "'Come,' my heart says, 'seek his face!'"17
Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb. "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if dies, it bears much fruit."18 If dryness is due to the lack of roots, because the word has fallen on rocky soil, the battle requires conversion.19
Facing Temptations in Prayer
The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: "Apart from me, you can do nothing."20
Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia. The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."21 The greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is, it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.
Filial trust is tested - it proves itself - in tribulation.22 The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition, for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard. Here two questions should be asked: Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard, how is it "efficacious"?
Why Do We Complain of Not Being Heard?
In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Are we convinced that "we do not know how to pray as we ought"?23 Are we asking God for "what is good for us"? Our Father knows what we need before we ask him,24 but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be able truly to know what he wants.25
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."26 If we ask with a divided heart, we are "adulterers";27 God cannot answer us, for he desires our well-being, our life. "Or do you suppose that it is in vain that the scripture says, 'He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us?'"28 That our God is "jealous" for us is the sign of how true his love is. If we enter into the desire of his Spirit, we shall be heard.
Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.29
       God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.30
How is Our Prayer Efficacious?
The revelation of prayer in the economy of salvation teaches us that faith rests on God's action in history. Our filial trust is enkindled by his supreme act: the Passion and Resurrection of his Son. Christian prayer is cooperation with his providence, his plan of love for men.
For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only Son.31 Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition.
The prayer of Jesus makes Christian prayer an efficacious petition. He is its model, he prays in us and with us. Since the heart of the Son seeks only what pleases the Father, how could the prayer of the children of adoption be centered on the gifts rather than the Giver?
Jesus also prays for us - in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.32 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.
"Pray constantly ... always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father."33 St. Paul adds, "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints."34 For "we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing."35 This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer.
 It is always possible to pray: The time of the Christian is that of the risen Christ who is with us always, no matter what tempests may arise.36 Our time is in the hands of God:
It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop, ... while buying or selling, ... or even while cooking.37
  Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin.38 How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?
Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. ... For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.39
       Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.40
Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love; the same filial and loving conformity with the Father's plan of love; the same transforming union in the Holy Spirit who conforms us more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love with which Jesus has loved us. "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he [will] give it to you. This I command you, to love one another."41
He "prays without ceasing" who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing.42