Seeking the proper disposition for a good examination of conscience
God has a soft spot for repentant sinners. This seems contrary to how we normally think. Wouldn’t God like it better if we didn’t mess up at all? However, he knows we’re not perfect, and how we react to our mistakes is what counts.
Repentance is admitting when you’re wrong, turning back to God, and asking for his mercy.
This requires humility, accepting the reality that you don’t know everything and need God’s help. God loves humility because it allows you to grow. The act of repentance, exercised in humility, moves you close to God’s heart … closer than one experiencing great blessings and miracles, the spiritual masters say.
Humility, contrition (sorrow for sin), and repentance are the foundations of the spiritual life, and they’re at the heart of preparing for confession. That’s why we do an examination of conscience before confession and earnestly pray an act of contrition afterward. Without repentance, there can be no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there can be no deep relationship with God.
This is a prayer service to use in preparation for confession. It sets a humble attitude of repentance and establishes the right disposition to make a good examination of conscience that can be followed by a good confession.
Leader: Lord, we want with all our hearts to follow you. However, we have failed you and chosen our own way instead of your way. We also realize we can’t do this alone and need your help. Enlighten our minds to know our sins and give us the strength to turn away from them in the future. Lord, give us repentant hearts and the grace to make a good confession.
■ I’ve only provided one selection because this song is perfect. Find “Confession” by City
Harmonic (Lyric Video) at CATmag.us/2QhvH7a.
■ However, if you need another one, this gets an honorable mention. View “Kyrie Eleison”
by Chris Tomlin (Lyric Video) at CATmag.us/2wXCz1M.
Psalm: 51:1-2, 3-4, 10-12, 16-17
I recommend dividing the psalm by verses as indicated above, with the antiphon in between.
Antiphon: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Reading: Luke 15:21-24:
“His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
“But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.”
Litany of Contrition
Catechist or leader recites the petition. Students respond: “Have mercy, Lord.”
Leader: For the times …
We thought only about ourselves. R/.
We lacked humility. R/.
We turned against you. R/.
We chose our own will. R/.
We didn’t listen to you. R/.
We thought we knew better than you. R/.
We weren’t sorry for our sins. R/.
Students respond: “Hear us, Lord.”
Leader: For the grace to …
Turn back to you. R/.
Desire your mercy. R/.
Seek your forgiveness. R/.
Be truly repentant. R/.
Have sorrow for our sins. R/.
Remember all our sins. R/.
Make a good examination of conscience. R/.
Make a good confession. R/.
Sincerely desire to avoid sinning in the future. R/.
Act of Contrition Concluding Prayer
Leader: Heavenly Father, like the Prodigal Son, we have sinned against you. We realize how much better it is to live in your house as part of your family than to be on our own. We ask for your mercy. Don’t give us what we deserve, but what we need … your forgiveness and love. Father, allow us to return to your house, and we will be your faithful sons and daughters. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hide candy or treats ahead of time and have a small “Return to the Father’s House” surprise party when you get back from confession.
Marc Cardaronella, MA, is the director of the Office of Discipleship and Faith Formation in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He is the author of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick and blogs at MarcCardaronella.com.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, January 2019
PHOTO: LISA JULIA PHOTOGRAPHY/BAYARD INC.