Preparing for the Sacrament of Confession means probing more deeply into our thoughts, words, deeds and habits than we might be used to. This intense reflection isn’t something our culture condones or even tends to make space for. It can feel like an uphill battle just to get yourself in the door of the church.
But there is good reason the Church binds the faithful to receive this sacrament at least once a year. Consider the many names by which it is called in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: conversion, penance, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation (CCC 1423-1424). This language points to the reality that in sin we turn away from God, and in this sacrament, we return to his open arms, restoring our relationship with him and his Church.
When we know we have been forgiven, it is easier for us to forgive others. We love because he first loved us. We forgive more readily and more completely when we accept that he has first forgiven us as well.
If confession is a struggle, a different examination of conscience might help. We invite you to employ two new examinations, one for the married woman and one for the single woman. Both use a framework of the seven deadly sins, with a short definition of each from Simply Catholic.
Pride: an excessive love of self or the desire to be better or more important than others
Do I have a superior attitude because I am married or because I’ve been married longer than someone else? Do I think my marriage is better than someone else’s? Do I honor my husband as the spiritual head of our family? Do I speak poorly of my husband to his face or in front of others? Am I charitable to members of my family of origin? His family of origin? Where do I place my individual worth? Do I humbly accept God’s fatherly love for me?
Greed: the desire for and love of possessions
Do I gauge my happiness based on tangible goods? Am I grateful for the life my husband and I have? Do I often think about or try to get more of something (material goods, recognition, influence)? How generous am I with my time and talents within my home and within my community? How generous are we as a couple? Am I more concerned with how our marriage looks or how healthy it really is? Do I think of myself or others first? Do I make space for my husband to cultivate relationships with his family and friends?
Lust: an intense desire, usually for sexual pleasure, but also for money, power or fame
Do I practice chastity within my marriage? Do my husband and I separate the unitive and procreative elements of the marital embrace in any way? Do we push boundaries we have set for ourselves? Do I look at other men (in the media or in real life) in a way I only ought to look at my husband? Have I given myself emotionally to another person or in any other way given away a part of myself that I promised to my spouse? Where do I find my treasure, as the Gospel uses the term?
Envy: sadness or desire for the possessions, happiness, talents or abilities of another
Do I let discontentment rule me? Do I let disappointment with my life affect the way I treat others? Do I keep score of household chores or other sacrifices with my husband? Do I spend time or energy desiring what others have or are able to do? Do I compare the size of my family with others’? How do I recognize and appreciate the gifts I’ve been given? Do I care well enough for myself? Am I open to where and how God may call me to serve him?
Gluttony: overconsumption, usually of food or drink
Do I eat until I am satisfied, or do I continue until I am full or more? What attitude do I take toward alcohol and tobacco? Do I hoard what I have (food or otherwise)? What keeps me from giving what I can? How healthy is my relationship with my work or hobbies? Do I use more than my share of our common time, energy or money? Is the entertainment I engage with and the degree to which I engage with it in line with the faith I profess? Am I able to self-moderate?
Anger (or Wrath): uncontrolled feelings of hatred or rage
When I experience anger, what is my first response? Do I first pray for the person who’s hurt me, or do I allow my anger to take hold? Do I speak or act in the moment without thinking things through? Do I harbor resentment? Is there someone or something I refuse to forgive? Do I struggle to accept others’ forgiveness? Am I in control of my emotions? Am I trying to be?
Sloth (or Acedia): physical laziness, also disinterest in spiritual matters or neglecting spiritual growth
Do I take time for adequate rest, without getting lazy? When something around our home needs to be done, do I respond, or do I wait to see if my husband will complete the task? Do I use my leisure time in a way that restores and rejuvenates me? How do I make time for God in prayer? How do I care for my body? Do I show respect for my husband in how I care for him? How do I use temperance and moderation in my daily living?
While this meditation is not exhaustive, we pray that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, spending time with these questions will help you make a good confession. Perhaps you will feel called to make a more regular practice of receiving this sacrament.
God is ready, and he is waiting for you.