Saturday, February 28, 2015


During Lent, pope offers handy tips for preparing for confession

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As Catholics are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their lives during Lent, Pope Francis offered some quick tips to help people prepare for the sacrament of penance.

After a brief explanation of why people should go to confession -- "because we are all sinners" -- the pope listed 30 key questions to reflect on as part of making an examination of conscience and being able to "confess well."

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 18. In a new booklet the pope the pope lists questions to reflect on before confession. (CNS/Paul Haring)
The guide is part of a 28-page booklet in Italian released by the Vatican publishing house. Pope Francis had 50,000 free copies distributed to people attending his Angelus address Feb. 22, the first Sunday of Lent.

Titled "Safeguard your heart," the booklet is meant to help the faithful become "courageous" and prepared to battle against evil and choose the good.

The booklet contains quick introductions to Catholic basics: it has the text of the Creed, a list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. It explains the seven sacraments and includes Pope Francis' explanation of "lectio divina," a prayerful way of reading Scripture in order to better hear "what the Lord wants to tell us in his word and to let us be transformed by his Spirit."

The booklet's title is based on a line from one of the pope's morning Mass homilies in which he said Christians need to guard and protect their hearts, "just as you protect your home -- with a lock."

"How often do bad thoughts, bad intentions, jealousy, envy enter?" he asked. "Who opened the door? How did those things get in?"

The Oct. 10, 2014, homily, which is excerpted in the booklet, said the best way to guard one's heart is with the daily practice of an "examination of conscience," in which one quietly reviews what bad things one has done and what good things one has failed to do for God, one's neighbor and oneself.

The questions include:

-- Do I only turn to God when I'm in need?

-- Do I  attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation?

-- Do I begin and end the day with prayer?

-- Am I embarrassed to show that I am a Christian?

-- Do I rebel against God's plan?

-- Am I envious, hot-tempered, biased?

-- Am I honest and fair with everyone or do I fuel the "throwaway culture?"

-- In my marital and family relations, do I uphold morality as taught in the Gospels?

-- Do I honor and respect my parents?

-- Have I refused newly conceived life? Have I snuffed out the gift of life? Have I helped do so?

-- Do I respect the environment?

-- Am I part worldly and part believer?

-- Do I overdo it with eating, drinking, smoking and amusements?

-- Am I overly concerned about my physical well-being, my possessions?

-- How do I use my time? Am I lazy?

-- Do I want to be served?

-- Do I dream of revenge, hold grudges?

-- Am I meek, humble and a builder of peace?

Catholics should go to confession, the pope said, because everyone needs forgiveness for their sins, for the ways "we think and act contrary to the Gospel."

"Whoever says he is without sin is a liar or is blind," he wrote.

Confession is meant to be a sincere moment of conversion, an occasion to demonstrate trust in God's willingness to forgive his children and to help them back on the path of following Jesus, Pope Francis wrote.


Daniel said...

Yes it is very good, and very humbling. Thank you Father, and Francis.

Gene said...

I guess my post was censored because it might have been critical of the Pope…but, really…throwaway culture…respect the environment…as items for examination of conscience? Someone's cultural/political/faddish prejudices are showing.

Daniel said...

"Someone's" prejudices are always showing on this blog. Respecting the environment has been church teaching since a long time before Francis.

But how are we doing with that "envious, hot-tempered, biased" thing, Gene?

WSquared said...

I thought this was very, very good. Thank you for posting it, Father!

WSquared said...

P.S.: I find that what also helps is that if we catch ourselves out on any of these, they can become a source of prayer. I like the part about guarding our hearts, which is straight out of Proverbs.

I'd been thinking about how much Confession does involve an encounter-- and therefore is part and parcel of what it means to have a "close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ." When we go to Confession, Jesus is waiting to absolve us through His priest. It's up close and personal for Catholics, and because it's intimate, it's confrontational. ...which is probably why large swaths of us don't wanna go.

Yes, admittedly the phrase "close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ," common in Evangelical Protestant circles, while certainly not a bad one or anything to be scoffed at, frustrates me a little, even as I find it highly constructive and a good basis for meditation and prayer: what makes people so sure that Catholics don't have such a relationship/aren't meant to have one? Moreover, once we get past the "Jesus is relationship, not a religion" false dichotomy, we start to think about the terms of that relationship and the ways and means that the Lord provides that are meant to nurture it.

There's a part of me that would be highly tempted in such circumstances to expound at length on "walking by faith, not by sight": the Church is visible at the micro and macro levels, and at those levels, there is always more to her than meets the human eye.

Anonymous said...

Gene is a total meek, humble builder of peace.

Anonymous said...

That picture of Francis. I'm not being mean. But come on. This is the man that the whole world thinks is charasmatic. I don't get it. He always looks miserable. He doesn't have the bearing of John Paul and Benedict or even Paul VI. He isn't a great speaker. Someone explain to me what is going on? Why does everyone, well mostly everyone, adore this man?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

His Holiness is admired, loved by rank and file ordinary Catholics because he looks and acts ordinary, like anyone else. He doesn't put on airs. My Italian relatives tell me he is like an uncle they'd love to invite into their homes for pranzo.

Anonymous said...

Well said Fr. McD.

rcg said...

Gene, i often get paranoid when the Pope says things like that, it seems all the fingers are pointed at me. But taking that specific example I can agree with the Holy Father when I look at China and much of Southern Asia, some of the filthiest and grossly polluted places on earth. Central America, South America, Africa have abused their environments to an absurd level. We don't get a pass for that reason, but it lets my foolish pride off the hook so I can pick my own garbage without the sin of obstinacy.

Daniel said...

We've seen many happy, smiling photos of Pope Francis. That seems to be his nature. Remember that the picture above was taken on Ash Wednesday, a solemn observance. Appearances aside, people have a love for Francis because, in words and action, he shows a great concern for people, all kinds of people. He comes across as someone who's lived a real life among real people and not become a prisoner of the palace.

Daniel said...

And RCG, if anyone on this blog feels "paranoid," as if the Pope was pointing a finger at him -- great. I'm guessing that was exactly his intention. The examination of conscience is not for "everybody else."

Gene said...

People love Francis because they perceive him as permissive and progressive…period.

Gene said...

Oh, and paranoia does not equal true contrition or remorse. It is a cognitive excess, often a cognitive disorder, based upon dissociative processes in the psyche. It is turned inward, not outward toward one's fellow men or toward God. More evidence that Daniel-san doesn't know what he is talking about.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, rcg & Daniel...

Anonymous said...

"We've seen many happy, smiling photos of Pope Francis. That seems to be his nature."

Ask anyone who knew him in Argentina. His nature is not to be happy and smiling. And ask anyone at the Vatican. When there are no cameras around he is an Evita Peron, except with really bad shoes.

Anonymous said...

Gene, I think you have been listening to too much psychobabble on your AM radio.

Anonymous 2 said...

Without exception, we have all failed, in one way or another, on one matter or another, to guard our hearts as our home and bad things have got in as a result. That includes, you, too Gene. But you already know this and have confessed as much on the Blog. The question for you to consider, it seems to me, is whether some of your resistance to and criticism of Pope Francis (and your claimed omniscience about what other people think) may be connected to this failure too. And no, I am not being self-righteous in suggesting this. I can easily find myself on the list too.

And wasn’t it rcg and not Daniel who first spoke about feeling paranoid?

Daniel said...

I don't know anyone at the Vatican, so I'll have to take your word for that, Anon.