DEVOTIONS FOR CONFESSION.
Confession being one of the most effective means of advancing in virtue you should resolve to approach the Sacred Tribunal at regular stated times. The longer you delay going to Confession the more difficulty you will feel in doing so. You will besides forfeit the interior happiness of a good conscience; you will lose the habit of attention to the presence of God; your customary exercises of piety will become irksome; the duties of your state will be discharged negligently and at last be totally disregarded. Delay not then to return to your merciful Redeemer Whose heart is open to receive you; seek Him in the holy tribunal and you will assuredly find Him; consider in Him the future Judge of the living and the dead, Who at the end of ages will come in terrible Majesty to require an account of His Blood and His graces. Adore His infinite goodness, which will embrace you, heal your wounds, and forgive your sins, if you truly repent.
Whoever you are, Christian reader, that design to approach to the holy sacrament of penance, remember that you are going to undertake a work on the good performance of which, more than any other duty, your eternal welfare depends. Therefore, retire apart from every external source of distraction, place yourself in the presence of God, and humbly adore Him. Represent to yourself that this may be the last Confession you will ever have the opportunity of making. Let this reflection induce you to discharge every pare of your duty, both as to the examination of your conscience, your sorrow for your sins, your firm purpose of amending your life, and the sincerity of your confession, in the most perfect manner possible. Begin by imploring the light and grace of Almighty God, Who alone can discover to you the malice of your sins, and give you true repentance. For this end you may pray as follows:
SUPREME and adorable Majesty, God of heaven and earth, I firmly believe that you are present, and that you see me and know the dispositions of my heart. I adore you, and render you my humble homage, acknowledging you for my God, my Creator, and my Sovereign Redeemer. In testimony of this, my faith, I prostrate my soul and body before the throne of your infinite Majesty, and offer you the adoration which is due to you alone. O Father of lights, Who enlightens every man that comes into the world, send into my hear a ray of light, of love, and of sorrow, that I may know, detest, and confess the sins which I have committed against you! I desire to see my sins in all their enormity, and just as they are in your sight; I wish to detest them for the love of you, and to confess them with the same sincerity as I should be glad to do at the moment of my death. But, my God, this knowledge of my sins, and these dispositions of sorrow for them, and sincerity in declaring them to your minister can come only from the hand of your bounty. Since, then in your desire that the sinner should not die, you did send your Son into the world to purchase his forgiveness, I implore this grace through the merits of Jesus Christ, Who died upon the cross for my sins, and Who is now sitting at your right hand, where He continually shows you in my behalf the wounds which He endured for me.
Mother of my God, who are so charitable to sinners that desire to repent, assist me by your intercession. My holy Angel, who has been a spectator of all my crimes, help me to discover the sins which I have committed against my God. My blessed Patron and all you Saints of heaven, pray for me, that I may bring forth fruits of penance.
JESUS, my God and Savior, I offer you the examination [of conscience] which I am going to make that your divine Justice may be glorified in it. I look to you with confidence for the grace to do it well, Thus, in the spirit of charity, in order to please you, and to accomplish your holy will, together with every intention that can procure you the greatest honor and glory, I undertake it.
The Key of Heaven, Regina Press, Imprimatur +Patrick Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop of NY (1924) pp183-188. [Some editing has occurred to replace archaic words.]
It is the searching of one's heart, innermost feelings, and motives. It is the intellectual examination of our behavior against the standard set forth by God.
"The confession of the sinner is necessary and to confess his faults he must examine his conscience with proper diligence. By self-examination he intensifies his contrition and purpose of amendment in preparing for confession, the penitent is strictly to examine his conscience with such diligence as a prudent man ordinarily devotes to important business, but the impossible is not demanded...
The ordinary method followed in the examination for confession is to consider in succession the Ten Commandments of God, the Commandments of the Church, the Seven Capital Sins, the duties of one's state of life, the nine ways of partaking in the sin of others. For persons who have led uniform life it will often suffice to recall where they have been, the persons with whom they have dealt, the duties or pursuits in which they have been engaged; how they have behaved on ordinary occasions -- as, for instance, when busied in their usual employment on working-days -- and on unusual occasions, such as Sundays and holidays." Examination of Conscience in the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent.
Lamentations 3:40: "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!" RSV. Compare the NAB.
I Cor. 11:28, 31: Let a man examine himself... But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged." RSV. Compare the DR, and NAB.
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