How to Best Prepare to the Sacrament of Eucharist?
A Confession guide.
by Father John Bartunek, LC | Source: Catholic.net
This little guide is by no means exhaustive; it is merely meant to help you get started on (or jump-start) a fruitful exercise of the sacrament of confession. Through your own reading and the advice of your priest or spiritual director, you can find more complete guides. The key to a fruitful living of this sacrament, however, is not in the right guide to examining your conscience; rather, it is in your decision and constant effort to live in communion with God through a vital and personal friendship with Christ, developed using all the other means dealt with in this handbook. In that way, confession becomes an intimate encounter of love, a moment of reconciliation and renewal in a living relationship, not just an empty formality, a pious duty performed out of a vague, impersonal sense of obligation. Set aside enough time to prepare for your confession calmly and prayerfully. Begin by asking God to enlighten you. The following prayer may prove helpful. Begin with the sign of the cross.
Father, you are rich in mercy, and you know my heart. You know how much I want to love and serve you by following your will. You also know how weak I am and how difficult it is for live in humility and purity and faith. As I approach your loving sacrament of reconciliation, established through the wisdom and sacrifice of your Son and celebrated in the Church, please send the Holy Spirit to enlighten my mind, so that I can know my sins and faults, and to enliven my heart, so that, sincerely sorry for offending you and wounding the Church, I can confess my sins and receive your forgiveness and strength.
Christ cares most about our hearts: "Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." "For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy." "A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks." Therefore, as you speak with him about how you have hurt or displeased him since your last confession, you can begin your reflection by reviewing your interior attitudes, and then trace their manifestations in your actions (or vice versa - the important thing is to include both aspects). Many people find it helpful to jot down the thoughts that come to them during their examination of conscience, so that they can be clear and orderly during their confession. As you begin to receive the sacrament and make an examination of conscience on a regular basis you will find it much easier to identify the areas where you tend to yield to selfishness, where you usually fall into sin or give in to your innate weaknesses. At that point, your examination of conscience will take less time, and you will need to activate your hope and faith more energetically so as not to yield to feelings of discouragement. The following questionnaire may help you.
Regarding my relationship with God:
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."
What has characterized my habitual attitude towards God over the last two weeks? Adoration, praise, gratitude, respect, trust, faith, hope, love?
Indifference, distance, resentment, arrogance?
How has that attitude manifested itself in my life of prayer?
How much did I give in to sloth, neglecting to follow through on my prayer commitments, both those dictated by the Church (e.g. Sunday Mass) and those I have taken on personally?
How much did I give in to distractions during those times of prayer?
Did I battle against the distractions, or did I let them discourage me and debilitate me?
How much of an effort have I made to keep in contact with God throughout my normal activities?
Have I tried to discover his will in the duties and circumstances of my life, or have I lived as if he were not involved in them at all?
Have I consciously tried to please him, to know him, to serve him, to seek him out, to think of him frequently, or have I kept him isolated from my real, day-to-day concerns?
To what extent has God been my "one thing necessary", and to what extent have other people, pleasures, or things been crowding him out? Why?
Regarding my relationship with others:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself"' ; "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."; "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."
What has characterized my habitual attitude towards other people (those close to me as well as those I only interact with occasionally) over the last two weeks?
Interest, generosity, concern, purity?
Criticism, fear, arrogance, greed, envy, lust?
How much of an effort have I made to try and see every person not in terms of their usefulness or agreeableness to me, but in terms of their being infinitely loved by God?
How much of an effort have I made to think well of others, instead of dwelling on their weak points or faults?
In what ways has that internal attitude expressed itself in my words?
Have I gossiped, joined in useless criticism, or spoken badly about others unnecessarily (detraction)?
Have I spoken harshly to others out of anger, impatience, or aggravation?
Have I been cold, brusque, short, or impatient with anyone?
How much of an effort have I made to speak positively about others in order to build up an atmosphere of trust, mutual respect, and charity?
In what way has that internal attitude expressed itself in my actions?
Have I taken unfair advantage of anyone, using them for my own purposes instead of respecting them as persons? Have I let my gestures, expressions, or actions communicate my displeasure, impatience, or anger?
Have I resorted to violence merely in order to vent my frustration?
Have I played favorites, or is my charity universal, like Christ's?
How much of an effort have I made to help those around me, to serve them, to make their lives more pleasant and fulfilling, to show them the love and gentleness of God through expressing sincere concern and interest in them?
How much have I expressed my true charity towards others by praying to God for them?
By witnessing to the truth of the gospel through my example and my words?
How much have I gone out of my way to bring others close to Christ?
As regards my own self-discipline:
"Then he said to all, 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" "Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win."
What has characterized my habitual attitude towards my own life over the last two weeks?
Self-indulgence, comfort seeking, vanity, arrogance, laziness? Humility, responsibility, determination to do God's will?
How has this habitual attitude manifested itself in the fulfillment of my duties?
Have I shirked any important duties all together?
Have I fulfilled them conscientiously, responsibly, seeing in them the will of God and my path to a happy and fruitful life?
How responsibly have I tried to discover and develop the talents and gifts I have received from God?
Have I taken them for granted?
Have I "buried" them?
How has this habitual attitude manifested itself in the way I have used my time?
To what extent did I plan ahead, setting goals for myself and prioritizing my tasks?
To what extent did I let my emotions and whims (instead of my convictions) dictate my activities and decisions?
How has this habitual attitude manifested itself in the way I have responded to challenges, difficulties, and temptations?
To what extent did I find God in these moments and renew my faith and trust in him, my commitment to him?
To what extent did I give in to discouragement, self-pity, the "easy way"?
How much of an effort have I made to find and embrace the cross of Christ in my own life?
Did I try to maintain order in the exterior things of my life, as a way to foster harmony and order in my soul?
To what extent did I give in to extremes in my pursuit of pleasure?
Did I at any time unnecessarily endanger my or someone else's health or life, abusing this most precious gift of existence?
Did I ever let my bad example lead others away from Christ?
A common act of contrition follows.
Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, my Creator and Redeemer, I love you above all things. I am sorry with all my heart for the wrong I have done and the good I have failed to do. By sinning, I have offended you, my greatest good, worthy of being loved above all else. To make up for my sins, I offer my life, my work, and all I do. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Through the merits of your passion and death, take pity on me and grant me the grace never to offend you again. Amen.
Reflecting beforehand on the words of absolution spoken by the priest can be an excellent aid to living the sacrament well: God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.