I have a frustrating problem that has plagued me for years without fail. Throughout the week, all my faults and sins that a I’ve committed since my last confession ruminate through my mind clearly and distinctly. Like I could confess them there and then if the opportunity presented itself. When it’s time to actually examine my conscience before I go to confession each week, all those sins and faults that ruminated throughout my mind during the week seem to disappear. My mind goes blank and I can’t remember them at all. It takes me an hour just to examine my conscience before confession. It’s so frustrating! I hate it! Do you have any practical suggestions that might help with this? Even prayer doesn’t help the matter. Sooo frustrating!
First, thanks for being diligent about examining your conscience. The spiritual life needs discipline. We have to develop good habits. We members of the Church Militant do well to have well-ingrained behaviors of prayer and reflection which then free us also to be spontaneous.
Everyone should examine his conscience on a daily basis. It’s good to do so in the evening, after one’s day. Newbies perhaps could associate this with another activity which – I trust – they never omit: brushing teeth before bed. Linking the two can help form the foundation of the good habit.
If you are regularly examining your conscience but still having a hard time just before confession, there are a couple things you can do.
First, remember that, even though it might take a hour to pull everything back up to the surface… it’s worth it. Think of the benefits of absolution! Mortal … let’s repeat that… MORTAL sins forgiven! The soul strengthened against sin! Reconciliation within the Body of Christ, the Church! Not bad for an hour of work. Picture yourself in Garden with the Lord, watching and pondering.
It could be that the Enemy of your soul is trying to fog you up. Pray to your Guardian Angel as you get ready for confession. Invoke your special helper sent by God. Angels rejoice at the reconciliation of sinners. They will help.
Next, you might write things down. There is a risk in this that someone might find what you wrote. Perhaps you care and perhaps you don’t. Use a safe place or create one. Off the top of my head, for example, some people who conceal and carry a firearm, have lock boxes in their dwellings, especially of there is some traffic of other people or children around. Why not use something like that? It’s a small biometric safe and some of them open with the touch of your fingers and no one else’s. These small safes or vaults can be used for anything, not just your pistol: jewelry, documents, diary, cash, etc. Some are are expensive, but there are some reasonably priced ones too. And, if you get one that uses a key or just buttons, it’s a great deal less expensive. The one pictured is around $17.
Also, you could have one in your car. Moreover, perhaps you could create a kind of code for yourself if you don’t want to be explicit. It may be that just a slight mark or brief phrase will be enough to bring something back.
Don’t allow yourself to be so frustrated that you stop or hesitate going to confession.
Also, remember this important point: If you have sincerely done your best in the confessional to confess your sins, then all your sins will be forgiven, even those which you forgot. Even if you remember them 10 seconds after you get out of the confessional, all your sins were forgiven. It is good to mention them the next time you regularly go, but they were forgiven, provided that you did your sincere best.
I hope this helps. I know that others might have this difficulty, so it is good that you brought it up.