I hadn’t done a really good examination of conscience in a long time, but this Saturday the girls were playing quietly, my husband was at the store, and the toddler was napping. I decided to take the time and go through one, so that I could make a really good confession the next time I go. (Which sort of depends on when we DON’T have a major crisis at 4:30 on a Saturday, or when I can haul myself out of bed in time to make the 7AM confessions on a MWF, but maybe next week?)
Most of the books are packed up right now, so the only one I had handy was the one from the Daughters of St. Paul Queen of Apostles Prayerbook. I used to love this examination. I mean, it was so thorough! As a college kid with a busy life, it struck me to the core on many occasions.
Saturday, not so much. As I read through the list of questions, I kept thinking, “Why on earth would I even think of doing that?” and “Who would have the energy?” Basically, my whole attempt at a really good examination proved to be a complete dud. If you count my child in-utero (who is HUGE at this point, by the way), I have 4 kids under the age of 6. By the time I feed them all, clean up the mess from eating, and deal with the various bodily-fluid-related disasters that make up my days (diapers in need of washing, spitting issues, pee on the floor, wiping dirty behinds, etc. etc.), I barely have the energy to sit up in a chair and read to them (there goes another two hours over the course of the day!), much less to sin in any interesting way.
When I get the choice between an occasion of sin and an occasion of sleep, sleep wins every time.
And then I realized that I actually have something in common with Therese of Lisieux. In her autobiography, she mentions again and again that God realized how small and weak she was. He gave her a home and family that kept her safe from occasions of sin, because He knew that if she was faced with great temptations, she would fall. God, through my husband and children, has given me the same special gift!
We often hear about the special graces that come from living out our marriage vows. At this point in my life, I think one of the greatest and most helpful graces is the one that comes from accepting the children God gives us. On our wedding day, Catholics promise to accept the children God sends—if we don’t, the marriage is invalid! Once you make up your mind to accept them all, as and when they come, your life changes.
Your opportunities for selfishness decrease: The penalty for putting yourself ahead of a dirty diaper is fecal matter spread across the carpet. If you don’t feed the hungry and clothe the naked as soon as they appear, you have a house full of shrieking, tearful children and a heart full of sorrow and guilt. Suddenly, “me-time” seems less important.
Sheer exhaustion keeps you from sinning. It’s not that you’ve suddenly become holier or better than you were, but simply fulfilling the tasks that God has given you takes most of your energy. The bare minimum becomes the maximum, and you need to lean on God, St. Michael, and your guardian angel to even hit the bare minimum. A house full of children is an amazing lesson in humility, dependence, and littleness.
I’m still shopping around for a really great examination of conscience for young moms, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’d be grateful. In the meantime, I’m thankful that God has recognized how weak I am, and has given me a vocation and state in life that lets me serve him without having to deal with grand temptations and perilous situations.
The stylites and their demonic tormenters are amazing, but I’m glad that’s not where I’ve been called. This is about all I can handle right now. Well, this and the load of “leaky diaper all over clothes” laundry I’m about to throw in the washer.