A Preparation for Confession

Examination of Conscience

St Benedict of NursiaPrior to approaching a priest for confession and absolution, in the silence of the heart, it is advisable to perform an examination of your conscience in order to ensure proper preparation and a thorough confession.

While there are many methods of preparing for confession, many find the fourth chapter of the Rule of our holy Father Benedict to be particularly helpful.

It is also a good idea to make a list of the sins that we identify as it can be very easy sometimes to leave confession, freshly absolved, with a feeling of freedom from the burden of our sins, only to fall very quickly into the same pattern as soon as we walk out of the church.  Then, the following week, we find ourselves confessing the same sins all over again.

It is like someone who has an allergic reaction to a certain substance, and the doctor treats him with medicine to alleviate the effects.  So he walks away merrily, feeling better, only to return to the exact place or activity where the allergen affected him in the first place.  Then he is surprised when he finds himself back at the doctor's surgery with the same problem.

We can come to Christ for healing but for it to have any effect we must allow Him to heal us.  This is our synergy, our co-operation with the work of God in our lives.  There must be a true resolve on our part not merely to ask forgiveness for what we have done wrong, but also to turn away from the way of life that led us to do the wrong.

A list that we can take away with us can provide us with a helpful reminder of those elements of our lives - actions, thoughts, situations in which we place ourselves - that we are trying to avoid, and can help us to provide a model for the good things that we wish to replace them.

Chapter IV - The Instruments of Good Works

1. First of all, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

2. Then, to love your neighbour as yourself.

3. Next, not to kill.

4. Not to commit adultery.

5. Not to steal.

6. Not to covet.

7. Not to bear false witness.

8. To honour all people.

9. Not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself.

10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.

11. To chastise the body.

12. Not to seek after luxuries.

13. To love fasting.

14. To refresh the poor.

15. To clothe the naked.

16. To visit the sick.

17. To bury the dead.

18. To help in affliction.

19. To console the sorrowing.

20. To keep aloof from worldly actions.

21. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

22. Not to follow the promptings of anger.

23. Not to seek an occasion of revenge.

24. Not to foster deceit in one's heart.

25. Not to make a false peace.

26. Not to forsake charity.

27. Not to swear, lest perhaps one perjure oneself.

28. To utter the truth with heart and lips.

29. Not to render evil for evil.

30. To do no wrong to anyone, but to bear patiently any wrong done to oneself.

31. To love one's enemies.

32. Not to speak ill of those who speak ill of us, but rather to speak well of them.

33. To suffer persecution for justice' sake.

34. Not to be proud.

35. Not to be given to wine.

36. Not to be a glutton.

37. Not to be given to sleep.

38. Not to be slothful.

39. Not to be a murmurer.

40. Not to be a detractor.

41. To put one's trust in God.

42. To attribute any good one sees in oneself to God and not to oneself.

43. But always to acknowledge that the evil is one's own, and to attribute it to oneself.

44. To fear the days of judgement.

45. To be in fear of hell.

46. To desire everlasting life with all spiritual longing.

47. To keep death daily before one's eyes.

48. To keep guard at all times over the actions of one's life.

49. To know for certain that God sees one in every place.

50. To dash upon Christ as upon a rock one's evil thoughts the instant they come to one's heart, and to manifest them to one's spiritual father.

51. To keep one's mouth from speech that is wicked or full of deceit.

52. Not to love idle chatter.

53. Not to speak words that are vain or such as provoke laughter.

54. Not to love much or noisy laughter.

55. To listen willingly to holy reading.

56. To apply oneself frequently to prayer.

57. Daily with tears and sighs to confess one's sins to God in prayer, and to amend these evils for the future.

58. Not to fulfill the desires of the flesh.

59. To hate one's own will.

60. To obey in all things the commands of the Abbot, even though he himself (which God forbid) should act otherwise, being mindful of that precept of the Lord: "Do what they say; but not what they do".

61. Not to wish to be called holy before one is so, but first to be holy that one may be truly so called.

62. To fulfill the commandments of God daily by one's deeds.

63. To love chastity.

64. To hate nobody.

65. To have no jealousy or envy.

66. Not to love strife.

67. To fly from vanity and pride.

68. To reverence one's seniors.

69. To love one's juniors.

70. To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.

71. To make peace with those with whom one is at variance before the setting of the sun.

72. And never to despair of God's mercy.

Behold, these are the tools of the spiritual craft, which, if they be constantly employed by day and by night, and delivered up on the day of judgement, will gain for us from the Lord that reward which He Himself has promised: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the human heart to conceive what things God has prepared for those who love Him."