An Examination of Conscience for Parents
by Mark Shea
Many Catholics are intimidated by an "Examination of Conscience". But nothing we confess will shock Jesus since he's already perfectly aware of what makes us tick. Rather, Jesus wants us to know what is there in our souls so he can bring us to life, freedom, and healing. The sacrament of reconciliation is to liberate you, not to burden you. So with that in mind, let's consider the possibility of making a confession, specifically with our life as parents in mind. To do so, one useful standard is the Ten Commandments.
First Commandment (You shall have no other gods before Me)
Have I just flat not cared about God in my everyday life--worshipping TV, or work or power or sex by spending all my real time and energy on them? Do I worship my spouse or my kids more than God, putting them before my obedience to him? Have I rejected the teachings of Jesus and his Church because they were inconvenient to what I wanted to do or because my spouse or kids will complain? Have I practiced any superstitions (horoscopes, fortune tellers, etc.) or gone along with letting my kids do such "harmless" things because their friends do it?
Second Commandment (You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain)
Have I used God's name in vain by way of profanity--which is to say, "Have I talked as though he didn't even exist?" This, of course, includes swearing and taking God's name lightly, but even more profoundly, it involves using the Name of God or Jesus as guarantor for lies, false promises, or sins. Have I taught my children to say things like "Swear to God! I'd love to come to your party but I've got homework tonight!" when really they have other plans.
Third Commandment (Honor the Sabbath)
Have I neglected my home and family duties by deliberately being a wage-slave and choosing to work on Sunday when I didn't have to? Have I neglected to make myself free to love my family and take time to rest? Have I been lazy, neglectful, or willfully distracted during my prayers or at Mass? Have I capitulated to children who can't be bothered to go to Mass and let them stay home? Have I skipped Mass to please my spouse? Have I ordered my children to go to Mass while not bothering to go myself?
Fourth Commandment (Honor your father and mother)
Have I indulged my children's willful disobedience and disrespectful to their parents, teachers, employers, or other superiors? Have I been unjust and unkind to those over whom I have authority? Have I taught my children thereby to abuse their power over others? For divorced parents, have you taught your children to treat your former spouse with respect or contempt?
Fifth & Eighth Commandments (You shall not kill/You shall not bear false witness)
Have I ever had an abortion or played a part in procuring an abortion? Have I quarreled with or willfully hurt my spouse or children. Have I cursed anyone or otherwise wished evil on somebody? Have I taken pleasure in anyone's misfortune? Have I refused to forgive anyone? Have I been guilty of cruelty, mental or physical, toward anyone? Have I lied about, rashly judged, gossiped or listened to gossip about anyone? Have I taught my children to lie to protect "the family honor"? Have I "told the truth" about somebody's negative qualities but neglected to mention their positive ones? Have I taught my children, by example, to nourish a grudge?
Sixth & Ninth (You shall not commit adultery/You shall not covet your neighbor's wife)
Have I taught my children to uncritically accept the promiscuous morals beamed at them through TV, music and film? Have I allowed the media to form their view of sexuality instead of letting the Holy Spirit do it through the teaching of the Church? Have I encouraged the notion that lust (that is, the reduction of persons to objects and the exaltation of physical desire over love) is no big deal? Have I encouraged my children to foster lust in their peers by immodest clothing?
Seventh & Tenth Commandments (You shall not steal/ You shall not covet your neighbor's goods)
Have I stolen or destroyed anything belonging to somebody else (including accepting stolen goods)? Do I download music I haven't paid for from the Internet or wink when my kids do it? Do I teach my kids that cheating or defrauding others is "savvy business"? Have I refused or neglected to pay any debts or snitched money from family members without telling them? Have I neglected my duties or been slothful in my work? Have I encouraged my kids to define themselves by their possessions and to foster a sense of envy of others' possessions?
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'Sheavings' reproduced with permission from Mark Shea
. Copyright © Mark Shea. All rights reserved.