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  • Katie Austin

Examining Our Hearts in Troubled Times

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

// 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NAB)

It’s a very humbling experience to walk with adults as they prepare for a first confession. Emotions are high: shame, fear, worry they will say the wrong thing, sorrow for sin, questions about the validity of the sacrament, shame for doubting… on the other end of that is mercy, gratitude, relief, rejoicing, and a healthy fear of sin (in order not to have to go back too soon!)

Most Catholics have a love/hate relationship with this incredible sacrament--love for the opportunity to unburden themselves, love for the sensory sacramental experience that is so fitting to how we are made, love for mercy… hate for the awkwardness, hate for the lines and inconvenience (isn’t there an app for that yet?), hate for that feeling of confessing the same things over and over and over and over again.

We introduce new and returning Catholics to a number of different types of Examination of Conscience in the process--some based on the 10 Commandments, others the virtues, or beatitudes, but my favorite method is through 1 Corinthians 13. Father Bryce Sibley has put together a wonderful Examination of Conscience based on this passage [please message me about how to get a copy!], but I often start with an even more simple version: take 1 Corinthians 13 and substitute your name for the word “love.” If Love is what it is all about, then Love is where we should begin:

Was I patient?

Was I kind?

Was I jealous?

Was I pompous?

Was I inflated?

Was I rude?

Did I seek my own interest?

Was I quick-tempered?

Did I brood over injury?

Did I rejoice in wrongdoing?

Did I rejoice in truth?

Did I bear all things?

Did I believe all things?

Did I hope all things?

Did I endure all things?

Did I fail?


Take the above questions and rewrite them in your own words… only do not apply them to what you would particularly consider the everyday sins of life, but go deeper. How have I been love in this world? How have I loved my neighbor during this time of tension and distress? How have I loved my neighbor during my frustration and fear? How have I loved my neighbor despite financial turmoil, health fears, and the general uncertainty that 2020 has wrought?

Here’s an example:

Love is patient. Was I patient with my immediate family members who do not share my views? What emotions welled up inside of me when I tried to listen? What did I do with those emotions? Did I try to listen? Did I interrupt? Was I patient with the older generation? Was I patient with the younger generation? Was I patient when I scrolled through facebook and saw some posts that made me CrAzy? Was I patient with commenters? trolls? the news media? the President? the Governor? the Mayor? Was I patient with those that seem too silent? with those that speak too much?

Love is kind… etc. write your own examination questions.

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