Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Examination of Conscience based on the 7 Deadly Sins, for parishioners

An Examination of Conscience based on the Seven Deadly Sins
by Fr. Dylan James, 31-3-09

A version of this edited as a Word document is viewable and/or can be downloaded as on GoogleDrive here

Sins of omission: “In what I have done, and in what I have failed to do”
-sins of omission may be more serious than sins of commission
e.g.Have I omitted to say my prayers?
e.g.Have I omitted to look for and respond to the needs of family?
Thought: “In thought, word, and deed”
e.g.Even if I did not gossip in word, did I judge someone in thought?
Each area of my life should be considered:
e.g. My family, my friends, my work, my prayer, those I work and live with etc.

Anagram: PLACES-G (the seven deadly sins): Pride, Lust, Anger, Covetousness, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony

Pride (ST II-II q162)
Pride is the mother of all sin. It is a craving for excellence beyond what is reasonable. It makes a person hate being equal to others, and hate being less than God.
Have I refused to admit my own weaknesses?
Have I dwelt on the failings of others?
Have I judged others, in my thoughts or words?
Have I ranked myself better than others?
Have I borne hated for another?
Have I refused to learn from others?
Have I been stubborn? Refused to admit I was wrong? Refused to accept that another person had a better idea?
Have I been arrogant?
Have I held others in contempt?
Pusillanimity –the opposite of pride:
False-humility fails to use our gifts.
Have I neglected to use the talents that God has given me?

Vanity (ST II-II q132)
Vanity is excessive concern about manifesting my glory before others
Have I been overly concerned about what others think of me? Have I allowed this to motivate my actions?

Have I lied or exaggerated to make myself look good?
Have I wasted undue time and money on clothes and appearance?
Have I been content with my lowly position, or have I resented the role that Christ asks of me?

Lust (ST II-II q.153; CCC 2351)
Lust is disordered desire for sexual pleasure, isolated from its procreative and unitive purpose (CCC 2351).
Custody of the Eyes: “Whoever looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28)
Have I viewed other people as mere sexual objects rather than as persons to be loved?
Pornography: On internet? or TV?
Impure Thoughts:
Have I entertained impure thoughts?
Impure Acts:
Alone, or with another?

Anger/Wrath (ST II-II q158)
Anger is undue desire for vengeance -undue in cause or in amount.
Have I harboured resentment, grudges, and hatred in my thoughts?
Have I nurtured imaginary angry conversations?
Have I been slow to forgive?
Have I lost my temper?
How have I carried my cross?
Have I been impatient with people, family, events, sufferings, sicknesses?

Covetousness/Avarice (ST II-II q118)
Avarice is the excessive love of possessing things
Have I been overly concerned about my own comfort and well-being?
Have I been resentful of my lack of money?
Have I been generous in giving? Have I given with a cheerful heart?
Have I cheated, stolen, or failed to pay my bills on time?
Have I used people for my own ends and advantage?
Have I wasted money?

Envy (ST II-II q36)
Envy –is sadness at the happiness of another
Jealousy–is coveting what belongs to another

Have I envied or been jealous of the abilities, talents, ideas, good-looks, intelligence, clothes, possessions, money, friends, family, of another?

Have I judged others in my thoughts?
Have I damaged the reputation of another person by my words, attitude, or looks?
Have I repeated accusations that might not be true? Have I exaggerated?
Have I failed to defend the reputation of others?
Have I failed to keep secrets?
Do I despise others of different race, class or culture?
Lies: Have I lied or exaggerated?

Sloth/Apathy (ST II-II q35)
Laziness, especially laziness in the things of God. Sloth is a sorrow in the face of spiritual good -it makes a person lethargic and want to do nothing.
Have I sought God above all else, or have I put other priorities ahead of him? (e.g. friendships, ambition, comfort and ease)
Have I got so caught up in the things of this world that I’ve forgotten God?
Have I risked losing my faith/piety by bad company, bad reading, cowardice, or pride?
Have I trusted God, especially in times of difficulty?
Have I attended Mass each and every Sunday?
Have I neglected to say my daily prayers?
Have I entertained distractions in prayer, or failed to give God due concentration in prayer or in the Mass?
(Note: Not giving God the effort he deserves in prayer is a sin, but it is not the same thing as involuntary weakness in mental distractions.)
Have I made a prayerful preparation before Mass and a good thanksgiving after Mass?
Have I received Holy Communion while in a state of serious sin?
Have I neglected to seek Confession before Holy Communion?
Have I taken the Lord’s name in vain? Or used other foul language?

My Neighbour:
Have I been lazy in helping others?
Have I been attentive to the needs of my neighbour, the needs of my family?
Has my conversation been focussed on my own pleasure, or on others?
Has my humour been insensitive to others?

My Family:
Have I been more focussed on myself than on the needs of others?
Have I spent time with my family? How have I manifested my concern for them? Have I been forgiving and tolerant of them? Have I scandalized them by a bad or lazy example?

Punctuality and Discipline:
Have I sinned against my neighbour by being late?
Have I sinned against God and the congregation by being late for Mass?
Have I gone to sleep on time?
Have I made good use of my time, or have I wasted time needlessly? E.g. TV or social media or internet browsing?
Have I planned good use of relaxation and recreation, knowing that I need to rest well?

Gluttony (ST II-II q148)
Gluttony is the inordinate desire for food.
Have I eaten more than I need?
To how serious an extent?
Have I spent excessive money on food?
Have I drunk alcohol excessively?
Have driven after drinking?
Have I eaten greedily and with little consideration for the presence and needs of those at table with me?
Have I given money to help the hungry?
Have I regularly practiced fasting and self-denial, especially on Fridays?
Have I always fasted an hour before receiving Holy Communion at Mass?

The Ten Commandments:
(1) I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me.
(2) You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain.
(3) Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
(4) Honour your father and your mother.
(5) You shall not kill.
(6) You shall not commit adultery.
(7) You shall not steal.
(8) You shall not bear false witness.
(9) You shall not covet your neighbour's wife.
(10) You shall not covet your neighbour's goods.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Silence in Church, 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B, Shaftesbury

Jn 2:13-25
Today’s Gospel records what might seem an odd picture of Jesus: the ANGRY Jesus. The Lord filled with a RIGHTEOUS anger –we we don’t often see:
He is often SAD about the towns who refuse to believe in Him. He is also DISTRESSED about the Pharisees, especially when He condemns them for their imposing burdens on others without doing anything to help (Mt 23:4;13). But the ONLY time when we see Him REALLY angry is in the event of today’s Gospel: in the Temple. He makes a whip and drives the people out. We see nothing even vaguely like this anywhere else in the Gospels. And why is Jesus angry? Because people are abusing the House of God.
Jesus is not angry with a selfish anger, but with an anger for the offence to the House of His Father, the Temple consecrated to sacred worship. “Zeal for Thy house has consumed me” (Ps 69:9)

Now, this should make us think. Because this reveals a lot about the Lord’s priorities. Worship, and respect for the things of worship is top of the Lord’s list.
So in our Lenten self-examination we’d do well to think of how we score in that regard, to think how we might improve.
Let me give you a few simple issues: First, Do you pray every day? Do you value God enough to have a regular time you give Him? First thing in the morning, last thing at night, sometime in between? And when you do pray, Are you focussed on Him or still think about what you’re going to eat for supper?
Second, Sunday Mass itself. We have an obligation to “keep the Lord’s Day holy” (3rd Commandment) –and that means EACH Lord’s day, not just SOME Sundays! And to keep it holy by Holy Mass –the prayer Christ gave us to “do this in memory of me”.
Finally, when you come to Mass, How do you behave here? Do you actually focus yourself on what you’ve come here for, or you do let your mind wander? Do you let distractions become an excuse to not pray?

I’m going to make myself unpopular by making an even more specific query about your behaviour in church, and about the behaviour of this congregation in general:
There is too much talking in this church and not enough reverence for it as a sacred place set aside and consecrated for sacred use, for the worship of the almighty. Sometimes I can hear people talking and chatting in here as if this place were a coffee-shop or pub, not a place of worship! I’m not complaining about children making noise but about adults!
Let me give you three simple reasons why we need to be silent in church:
First, before Mass, so you can prepare yourself –AND to enable other people to prepare themselves for an encounter with the Almighty.
Second, after Mass, so people can thank God for the almighty gift we’ve received.
Third, because this is a consecrated place, not a social venue, and we need to treat it like what it is.

We have a Hall where we can chat; we have a church where we can pray.
I know the Hall is dual-purpose, and that has tended to blur our sense of the church as a sacred place for sacred things –but we need to recover the sense of that difference. When you see someone you want to have a nice chat with, well, chatting is nice, but go into the hall. Allow the church to become a church again.
This isn’t just my opinion, as I’ve cited in the newsletter, many instructions from the Church remind us not to talk before and after Mass.

We live in a busy, noisy world, and we need to have a place where we can come to that isn’t busy and noisy, a place of peace and tranquillity, a place to be with the Lord. If we’re not quiet before Mass, of course we’re going to be distracted and bored during Mass.

So, back to the anger of Jesus. The righteous burning anger of Jesus only ever flared up about one issue: disrespect of the place of the worship of God. This should remind us to place prayer high on our list of priorities, and place treating the House of God as the House of God as one of things we resolve to start this Lent.

Silence in Church Please:
Before Mass: “Before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” (GRIM, n45, 2000AD)
After Mass: “The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence... or also after the celebration, if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable time.” (Inaestimabile Donum n.17)

Sunday, 8 March 2009

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B, Shaftesbury

Mk 9:2-10; Gen 22:1-18; Rom 8:31-34.
This week I feel like I’ve been continually hungry. This isn’t because I’ve gone on one of those 3 day detox fasts I referred to last week, but rather, because of the common phenomenon of yearning for the very thing that I’ve given up:
I’ve given up snacks between meals, and even though I know my food intake is the same, and even though I don’t have snacks very often anyway, the very fact that I’ve resolved NOT to have snacks makes me YEARN for them!

Enduring in the midst of even a minor difficulty is always a struggle.
Enduring in more serious difficulties is even more so.
If we are to endure, we need some vision of hope to be focussed on, something that is the goal holding us steadfast in our hardships.
On the second Sunday on Lent the Church always reminds us of the Transfiguration: it was the vision Christ put before his disciples to sustain them through the suffering of His death, and it can be the vision to sustain us through the disciplines of Lent, and through the disciplines of life.
Just before this gospel passage, Jesus had predicted his coming death. He predicted it repeatedly as he approached Jerusalem, and his disciples must have been greatly troubled by these passion predictions. So he gave them this revelation was given to them to sustain them through the coming events in Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ has also revealed Himself to us in His fullness. He suffered and died; He rose again in glory, and so we can all hope to do the same. The Transfiguration of Christ is the sign and promise of the transfiguration that will happen to all those who do the Father's will. This is the central fact that gives us the motivation to carry our crosses through this valley of tears that we live in.

But in itself this fact is of no use to us. We must BELIEVE it in order for it to give us hope. The disciples had Christ's glory revealed to them, but their faith was weak, and so when tribulation came they panicked and fled. Revelation has been offered to us, but it is only if we accept it in faith that we can benefit from it.

Abraham, in our First Reading, is the complete opposite of the faithless disciples. He obeyed God fully, but he was only able to obey because he trusted in God, and that trust is rooted in faith. Abraham believed that God's promise to him would be fulfilled, and so he gave God the obedience of faith, and God rewarded him for it.
We too must believe what God has promised us.

The secular world often talks of "blind faith" as if it was something vague and unknowing. But that kind of faith cannot sustain us in turmoil. Faith must be certain if it is to be of any use to us. A faith that is not certain is a faith that is cruel, because it will desert us when we need it most. The faith we need must have the certainty of Abraham, and the certainty that the Apostles had after the resurrection. It was that faith that enabled them to endure persecution and suffering, still confidently hoping in God.

We have many reasons to be certain of our faith, but the most basic one is the one that St Paul referred to in his letter to the Romans: God loved us so much that He gave His only Son, and He suffered and died for love of us, and He rose triumphant from the grave. What greater proof of His love could we ask for? If God has done all this for us then surely He will also give us everything that we need, and reward us in eternity –even through hardships here below. This is the sure and certain foundation for our faith.

Such faith will help us to carry our Cross cheerfully. In particular in Lent, it will help us embrace our sufferings in penance, motivate us to pray more, and to be generous in our charity.
If we have faith then we will be able to make the prayer in today's psalm:
"I trusted even when I said, 'I am sorely afflicted'".
And we trust because we have faith that God loves us and guides our lives, and that ultimately suffering will be no more, we will share his glory,
and we "WILL walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living."

Sunday, 1 March 2009

1st Sunday of Lent, Shaftesbury

There are many fashions and fads that come and go, and one thing that is fashionable in some circle is detox diets: to go without food for a prolonged period of time in order to flush out all the toxins, artificial food products, e-numbers, etc that build up in our bodies. I’ve tried this many times, my longest being for 3 days on just water, and I can testify that it does indeed leave you hungry. It supposedly has many other effects, beneficial effects that we cannot see –I didn’t FEEL these effects but its only reasonable to think that there are effects that we cannot see or feel.

Now, people do all this just for the sake of the body. And, in a modern world where many people deny the existence of the soul, when the body is all you believe in then it is hardly surprising that some people should get fanatical about caring for the body.
We, however, as Catholics, know that we are more than just a body, and our health has to include consideration of the health of not just our body but of our SOUL. If there are people who are putting such effort into the health of their body –which is young and spritely today, and decays tomorrow, then we should be putting similar if not greater effort into the health of our soul –which will last for all eternity and if we die with it healthy will be healthy and glorious for all eternity.

This week, on Ash Wednesday, we started Lent. Just as Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days, to fast and pray, we too, as followers of him, spend Lent of each year by giving up something as a form of fasting. Even if what we are giving up is much less that the fasting Jesus underwent for us, it nonetheless has a purifying goal. Just as detox diets aim to purify the body, our fasting aims to purify the soul.

One of the things we need to purify our soul of is the lack of discipline and lack of self-control that features so often in our modern life. Detox diets are a dramatic over-reaction to the lack of self-control in our society –but they’re not typical! Self-control is not spoken of often in our modern world. People tend to speak of self-expression instead, self-fulfilment, self-will, leading to excessive comfort seeking and self-indulgence in food, alcohol etc.
Fasting, giving things up for Lent, is one way of re-acquiring self-control. The self-control we need to love properly, to give freely, to be the kind of people we know we would rather be.

As Catholics, we should know that we need to FORM our character, to daily repent from our sin. We should know that there is a better side to our nature but also a darker side, a side that we need to struggle against: Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted in the desert to start His victory over Satan, but also to show us that we need to resist temptation and that WITH HIM we can be victorious over what tempts us. But to do that we need to CHANGE, to repent.

Lent is 40 days of prayer and fasting and works of charity. Our giving things up for Lent in fasting has as its PRIMARY goal to be united with the suffering Christ, who suffered on the Cross for us and in the desert for us, but it has an important secondary goal too: to detox us from our appetites, and passions, and false priorities. To do that properly, our fasting must go with prayer –so that it doesn’t just leave us grumpy, but that it becomes something we offer to Christ as a sacrifice for our sins and the sins of others. And, if prayer and fasting change us, even a little, we should love more, which is why Lent is also the time of almsgiving, of works of charity especially to the poor –thus we always we have a collection for the poor.

If there are people spends days detoxing their bodies by huge physical effort, then surely we’d do well to use Lent to detox our souls: If you’ve not yet starting giving something up for Lent, then start today p-even something small can help jus orient our soul to the higher realities and to Christ who went into the desert to teach us to do the same.