After a Via de Cristo retreat, participants are encouraged to periodically examine their conscience. This means to think carefully over their recent words, thoughts and deeds in order to understand how they have failed and confess. Some suggestions for doing this are provided in the VDC Pilgrim’s Guide. I’m listing here just the questions pertaining to our relationships.
In Regard to Others have I:
- Loved others selfishly; wanted to monopolize other’s affections, been jealous
- Considered no one but myself. Never felt real anguish for the misery of others
- Passed by, indifferent to others’ troubles
- Had habitual contempt for others; less educated people, people of different racial, national or economic groups
- In any way stifled the personal development of another
- Sought to be respected without respecting others
- Often kept others waiting
- Not paid entire attention to a person speaking to me
- Talked too much of myself, and not given others a chance to express themselves
- Failed to try to understand others
- Out of selfishness or pride, expected to be served
- Failed to help a person in distress
- Seen only those whose friendship might prove profitable
- Abandoned my friends in their difficulties
- Said hurtful things
- Done harm, by remarks (false or true) that blacken another’s character
- Betrayed a trust; violated a confidence
- Given scandal by the split between the life I lead and the principles I advertise as mine
How do you feel after reading through this list? I am humbled and contrite. I fall down so much more than I want to admit, many times I sin against others and don’t even notice!
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:22-25
When you attend a Via De Cristo retreat weekend, you receive a little book called the Pilgrim’s Guide in Christianity which includes a variety and prayers and “helps” for your devotional life. One of those “helps” is called Examination of Conscience. In case you’re wondering what that is, here’s a definition:
Examination of conscience is a review of one’s past thoughts, words, actions, and omissions for the purpose of ascertaining their conformity with, or deviation from, the moral law.
Recently going over it, I realized that one of the categories listed has to do with the church, so I thought I would share it on the blog this month. The idea is to think about whether you have done, or neglected to do these things in regard to the church:
Have I, By Thought
- Thought of the church as a sect or party rather than as the mystical body of Christ
- Neglected to read or reflect on the Holy Scriptures
- Not held myself responsible for my part in the in adequacy of Christians
Have I, By Words
- Spoken of the clergy as “them” instead of “us”
- Criticized irresponsibly the leadership of the church, both clerical and lay
- Ignored the teaching authority of the church, replacing it with my own authority
Have I, By Acts
- Used church organizations to justify my own personal hang-ups
- Run away from trying to solve the church’s internal problems
- Acted to support the church only when it met my approval
Have I, By Omission
- Not tried to make the church more vital
- Failed to contribute sacrificially for the material needs of the church
- Neglected to pray for those in authority
This list isn’t even exhaustive, but it helps me realize that my support and appreciation of the church isn’t all it could be. It’s a good reminder to help me strive to be a better member of Christ’s body. Do you find this exercise helpful or not? Please let us know.
This is another prayer from The Pilgrim’s Guide which participants receive during their Via de Cristo weekend. Every time I read through it I am humbled to see my own sin and God’s gracious forgiveness.
It is hard for me, O God to confess my sins and not merely repeat well-worn phrases with which I try to cover my real guilt.
I am a sinner. Why is it so difficult for me to see this, Lord? Why am I so bothered with a few things I do wrong while I think nothing of my lack of trust in you? Why do I feel guilty when I do not live up to my own standards but hardly blush when I fail you? Why do I imitate those who are unholy instead of following the Christ? I must confess it is because I am weak in the face of temptations, and without you I am nothing.
All I can do is plead mercy, O God. I cannot even hold up the honesty and fullness of my confession. All I can do is trust your love in Jesus Christ. I surely cannot trust my love for you or Him. Hear me for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lived for me and died that in Him I might live.
Forgive me, Father! Forgive me even this, my poor confession. I need your forgiveness for Christ’s sake. Amen
This prayer is in the Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s guide which is given to every participant in the retreat weekend:
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught me to pray:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
In your name
I am to repair the breach;
I am to mend the broken;
I am to welcome back the wanderer who returns.
Lord Jesus Christ,
help me to understand that this power is your power, to be used for the sake of those for whom you died.
Help me to understand that I cannot turn away from any who ask for forgiveness or need my forgiveness.
Help me to overcome any hindrance that would keep me from sharing the fullness and the power of your saving and forgiving grace.
I ask it in the power of your name. Amen.