Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Father, I am 75 years old. I can’t go out. I sit around the house all day. What can I do?”

This is heard more often than I like to think in the confessional. In essence a person is saying that they are sin free because they are incapable of doing anything anyway. But none of us is sin free. “Anyone who says he is without sin calls God a liar.”

Sin may take on a drastically new and unfamiliar face however. A person may no longer be able to be (or have the desire to be) unchaste or steal a car or fly an airplane into a building. When one is capable of such terrible sins not saying grace before meals may seem so trivial as to not be worth mentioning. We have bigger fish to fry. But when you sin capacity is reduced, things that once seemed picayune are now greater in proportion because to be honest, if we are physically and situationally less capable of sinning, we are also have less opportunities to be loving. So our focus on our examination of conscience must become recalibrated, more refined, and more thoughtful.

Here are some things to consider. This is not an exhaustive check off list of sins for shut-ins, but a springboard for further thought.

With more time on your hands have you developed an exponentially greater relationship with God? Has your prayer time greatly increased? Have you developed a habit of contemplation and meditation? Have you gotten to be old friends with God? Have you taken time to read Scripture? Have you shared your friendship with God with others?

Have you carelessly used God’s name Who we are to love above all else? Is His name reverenced by you? As an elder have you attempted to gently correct those around you who take His name so?

Have you made an effort to attend Mass and other services that are available to you? Have you made arrangements to receive Holy Communion and confession if you are unable to get to Mass? Do you do something special to mark Sundays and Holy Days of obligation? Are the people around you aware that you are Catholic and what services you desire should you become very ill?

Have you become that elder in the Church through your example and love and have so lead others to Christ? Have you actively worked and bringing peace and forgiveness to your family? Do you pray for your deceased relatives and friends? Do you support and assist your children in their roles as spouse and parent? Have you supported your grandchildren in the faith?

Do you speak about others in gossip? Do you harbor ill or unkind thoughts of others? Are you always kind to your caretakers? Are you always patient when you are in the role as caretaker? Are you honest with your doctor about your health? Do you take care of yourself, eat well and get enough sleep? Do you follow the directions of your doctor? Do you fulfill what your therapist asks you to do? Are you faithful about your medication? When the burdens of taking care of someone else becomes more than you can do well, are you able to admit it and seek help?

Have you given in to despair or grief? Have you given up on hope? Do you have joy? Can you accept the afterlife?

Is your estate in order? Do you have a will? Do you have a Catholic living will? Is the executor of either of these documents been properly informed as to their location and what is contained in them? Are they willing to uphold your Catholic wishes?

If you cannot give to charity or do works of charity have you carried forth charitable prayers? How do you fill your day? Is it in keeping with all virtue? What do you spend your time watching on T.V. or on the computer? Have you wasted too much money of gambling and other forms of entertainment?

Have you envied someone else’s good health or mobility or family? Have you reached out to others or have you become self centered? Do you write off poor behavior to some excuse? As an elder have you taken care to set an exemplary example of Catholic living?

Do you harbor ill feelings? Have you ever done a lifelong examination of conscience expressing repentance of things now realized sinful though you may have not paid it much thought in the past?

Is there good you could have done but not taken the effort? Is there a letter that should be written? An apology that should be extended? A phone call that should be made? A complaint about family that should be reserved? A prayer that should be prayed? Any restitution that should be offered? Any love withheld?