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A National Examination of Conscience in a Divisive Time

January 11, 2021


After the frightening and sobering events occurring at the US Capitol recently, Bishop Robert Barron recommended that, as a nation, we engage together in an examination of conscience. Thinking about what such an examination might look like, I came up with the following questions:

Do I make an effort to inform myself in a way that is open to truth wherever it may be found, or do I only read opinions and media with which I always agree?

Do I make an effort to find, understand, and read news sources that are objective and follow journalistic standards?

Do I regularly reduce complex issues to simplistic, partisan sound bites to avoid engaging honestly and vulnerably with people with whom I disagree?

Do I speak of my ideological opponents in a way that dehumanizes, stereotypes, or objectifies them? Do I speak scornfully or dismissively of those with whom I disagree rather than engaging with their ideas?

Do I allow feelings of rage, hatred, and bitterness toward those I see as political enemies grow in my heart?

Do I cultivate sin in my heart more than I cultivate virtue?

Do I read spiritual books as much as, or more than, I read the news?

Do I speak of and focus on political events more than the Church’s liturgical calendar?

Am I regularly distracted from my responsibilities by news, pundits, political arguments, and negative feelings toward those with whom I disagree?

What are my highest priorities? Where do I direct most of my energies? Do I put living for God first in my life?

A few notes about these questions. First, as you read them, if you begin to think of other people to whom they might apply, begin again and focus on your own behavior. An examination of conscience is meant to challenge and convert our own hearts, not examine other people’s behavior. Second, several questions are focused on media consumption because that is the charism of my order, the Daughters of St. Paul. We live in a media culture and our media consumption can greatly impact how we view the world and how we prioritize our spiritual lives. And finally, if you do not find all of these questions helpful, feel free to come up with questions of your own. An examination of conscience is individual and personal and we all struggle in different ways with what is happening in our country and in our hearts.

Jesus, we bring to you all those who have been injured and who have lost their lives as a result of unrest in our nation, and we pray that they may rest in peace. For an end to division in our nation, Lord hear our prayer. That peace, justice, and truth may reign in our hearts and in our nation, Lord hear our prayer. Amen.