IV. PREPARATION FOR CONFESSION
1. REMOTE PREPARATION
An important remote preparation for Confession is the attempt to overcome obstacles to deep self knowledge. Among these obstacles are an insufficient realization of the holiness of God and a certain blindness of the soul.
Realizing the Holiness of God
We have often been struck with amazement by the fact that some otherwise pious souls are so little troubled by certain faults. Their consciences remain tranquil despite the faults which they do not deny. This comes from an insufficient realization of the holiness of God. If one really knew who God is one would tremble at the slightest infidelity to Him. It is therefore necessary to learn to live “in the presence of the eternal and infinite God,” to keep constantly in mind the words of Our Lord which speak so earnestly of the importance of fidelity in little things. It is good to keep the example of the saints before us, who would only lift their hearts up to God with the greatest reverence and awe.
Healing the Blindness of the Soul
We have certainly noticed that certain persons who try to live a devout life, dutifully observing all the precepts of religion, and perhaps considered excellent Catholics, nevertheless have crass faults. The strange thing is that they are not aware of their faults. They examine their consciences and confess their sins often. And yet they simply overlook “materially grave” sins or remain in a state which gives scandal to those who know of it. This disharmony and contradiction that strike us so painfully in the behavior of others is unfortunately not entirely overcome in our own lives. We can be sure that we have something in us that is not conformed to the image of Christ – indeed something contrary to that image – something that would cause us sorrow and shame if we knew of it, and which we could only correct with difficulty.
But you will say: the sin of which I am not myself conscious will not be regarded as a sin by God! That is certainly true, but let us take care! Just as there is culpable ignorance, so there is also a culpable blindness. If a man persistently ignores the warning to be more loving and courteous he will soon be blind to such duties; without noticing it much, without even recognizing it, he will soon become a very rude person whom others try to avoid.
This spiritual blindness is especially dangerous when it stems from exaggerated self-esteem. The Pharisee in the temple who thanks God that he not like other men, who sees only his own prayer and fasting, is a type of character not seldom met with. His exaggerated self-esteem blinds him to many hideous parts of his person. One could not have such indignation at the faults of one’s neighbors if one did not feel oneself incapable of committing them. There is nothing wrong with noticing the faults of others, but if one is indignant at them and constantly criticizing them, then one can be sure that one lacks self-knowledge, even if one goes to Confession frequently and examines one’s conscience daily. This blindness will not be taken from us by our confessors, and even the council of the best of spiritual directors will not free us from our ignorance.
These words should not discourage us. God expects only good will of us. And we show good will when we are honestly ready to awake from blindness, and to correct every fault that we are able to detect – either through our own examination or through the help of others.
(to be continued)