A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON: MAKING AN EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE BEFORE RECEIVING THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

Jesus left us several stories and activities that we should do to make him present to us. Clearly, Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ, the fulfilment of the Last Supper, is paramount among ways to seek forgiveness and ask for God’s mercy. Additional ways to practice being in the presence of Christ are: Liturgy of the Hours, recitation of the Rosary; reading Scriptures with meditation; Lectio Divina. When we receive the Lord’s Prayer together, two great ways to make all things new are: Eucharist and Reconciliation.

One of the consequences of being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit as I make my way through the potholes of life as a Lay Cistercian is being more aware that I must slow down my thinking that my worth is due to the activities I use to fill the holes of my lonliness and lack of productivity. Lectio Divina must have a productive outcome for me to be successful. I must complete Liturgy of the House to be considered holy and a good Catholic. Holiness depends upon how many prayers I say and if I do all the Cistercian practices each day with maximum devotion.

The reality is shocking, even to me as I think I am praying and praying my way to salvation. The slow opening of my heart to the Holy Spirit has opened Pandora’s box of light, but not ones that are evil or demonic. Being more able to sense the presence of Christ with the Holy Spirit in each person I meet has given me a perspective of being a perennial penitent, one who only asks for Jesus, Son of God, Savior to have mercy on me. One of the great help, dare I say tools, to help me is Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. I try to say it every day with maximum conviction. Some days are better than others, but, it is a living.

I recommend that you use the checklist of those tools that St. Benedict says will allow us to be in the presence of Christ. I find these items a checklist or an examination of conscience that I use at the end of the day to measure myself against those behaviors and holy actions that Christ says will help me move from my false self to my true self. I will share with you the steps I use before receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is when I meet Christ face to face in the person of the priest. I prepare to meet Christ by listening to Him with the ear of my heart, as St. Benedict counsels in his Prologue to the Rule.

Chapter 4: The Tools for Good Works

1 First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, 2 and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27).

3 Then the following: You are not to kill,
4 not to commit adultery;
5 you are not to steal
6 nor to covet (Rom 13:9);
7 you are not to bear false witness (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20).
8 You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17),
9 and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31).

10 Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);
11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);
12 do not pamper yourself,
13 but love fasting.
14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,
15 clothe the naked,
16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),
17 and bury the dead.
18 Go to help the troubled
19 and console the sorrowing.

20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;
21 the love of Christ must come before all else.
22 You are not to act in anger
23 or nurse a grudge.
24 Rid your heart of all deceit.
25 Never give a hollow greeting of peace
26 or turn away when someone needs your love.
27 Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false,
28 but speak the truth with heart and tongue.

29 Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).
30 Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently.
31 Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27).
32 If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead.
33 Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).

34 You must not be proud,
35 nor be given to wine (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3).
36 Refrain from too much eating
37 or sleeping,
38 and from laziness (Rom 12:11).
39 Do not grumble
40 or speak ill of others.

41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.

44 Live in fear of judgment day
45 and have a great horror of hell.

46 Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.
47 Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.
48 Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do,
49 aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.
50 As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father. 51Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.
52 Prefer moderation in speech
53 and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter;
54 do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter.

55 Listen readily to holy reading,
56 and devote yourself often to prayer.
57 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future.

59 Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16);
60 hate the urgings of self-will.
61 Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct–which God forbid–be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).

62 Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so.
63 Live by God’s commandments every day;
64 treasure chastity,
65 harbor neither hatred
66 nor jealousy of anyone,
67 and do nothing out of envy.
68 Do not love quarreling;
69 shun arrogance.
70 Respect the elders
71 and love the young.
72 Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ.
73 If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.

74 And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.

75 These, then are the tools of the spiritual craft. 76When we have used them without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised: 77 What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).

78 The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.

https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

A WAY TO SEEK GOD’S MERCY THROUGH THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

  1. Find a quiet spot in the Church to be alone and pray in silence. For those at home, those who are elderly or have health issues, seek to sit down with Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter and just wait there. Christ is always in the sanctuary of your heart, the same heart marked with his sign of the cross, where you welcome him in humility and obedience to the will of the Father.
  2. Ask that the Holy Spirit, our second advocate, overshadow you with God’s blanket of energy (grace) and that all you seek is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of your life. Then, wait. How long? As long as it takes. (Fifteen minutes or there about)
  3. Take up the Rule of St. Benedict and turn to Chapter 4. Read the complete list of Tools for Good Works. Sit in silence and wait. Then read Chapter 4 a second time and think of how far you are from having in you the mind of Christ Jesus as you go through each item on the list. Sit in silence and wait for Christ to talk to you. This last time, read through each items very slowly, pausing after each items to think about how you can move from your false self to your true self using these tools, with the energy of the Holy Spirit to help you. Sit in silence and pray for God’s mercy on you and those you have encountered since your last confession.
  4. Go to Confession and confess your sins in kind and number to the priest and Christ the high priest. Make a firm purpose not to sin again with Christ’s help. Do the penance the priest gives you.
  5. After your confession, return to silence and solitude and pray that you become what you just experienced, to make all things new in, with and through Christ, to the glory of the Father, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

POINTS OF LEARNING AND ENLIGHTENMENT

  • We, humans, want instant gratification from and for our behaviors. I want instant forgiveness for my sins. The damage done by my sins is not instant but may last a long time. Look at Adam and Eve. The damage caused by this archetypal sin represented all of humanity and lasted until the coming of Christ. Christ saved us from being stuck in Purgatory forever. During this time of Lenten reflection, we must slow down our rush to have Christ present to us and learn to wait.
  • It is the time each of us takes to prepare to receive any of the Sacraments that makes it all the more meaningful to us. Sacraments are seven ways the Gathering of Believers share in special moments where Christ gives us grace. Our default is often rushing in to pray like we have somewhere else more important that we must attend. We want to “get in, get on, get over, and then get out” in our prayer life.
  • This is the subtle temptation of Satan using our willingness to pray but seducing the proper use of humility and obedience to suit our own temperament and will. Subtle indeed. We don’t even know what hit us.
  • The Sacrament is sacred and required appropriate preparation. Chapter 4 of the Rule (shown above) is a way that I try to help me focus on my penitential aspects.

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