A modern examination of conscience. (But not too modern… we’re loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church here!)
In God is my salvation and my glory: he is the God of my help, and my hope is in God. Psalms 61:8
Our hope in God is different from “I hope it snows.” The theological virtue of hope is not wishful thinking.
When we hope in God, we don’t expect good things to magically happen to us. Hope means we believe in eternal salvation and we pray and act with confidence to attain it.
That is hope.
Hope gives us confidence in God and allows us to make salvation our goal in life. It keeps our eyes on Heaven. It gives us joy even in the midst of sorrows. The theological virtue of hope is infused at Baptism, along with faith and charity.
Hope’s opposing vice is presumption.
Presumption is the sin whereby we expect God to do all the work while we live our life in the fast lane. It arises from a failure to act on our belief in God.
Hand-in-hand with presumption comes despair. In despair, not only do we lose the will to act on our salvation, but we also lose our belief that God can save us.
Let’s keep our eyes on Heaven with more confidence than “I hope it snows.” Let’s believe, pray, and act with confidence in our salvation every day!
Let’s keep our eyes on Heaven with more confidence than “I hope it snows.” Share on Twitter
How to Grow in Hope
Learn About Hope:
- Inform yourself. Read the challenge slowly and carefully. Do you understand the meaning of hope as a theological virtue, and more than just wishful thinking? Take some time to reflect, meditate, and journal about hope. Identify ways you can make acts of hope, surrender to God’s plan, and work towards Heaven.
- Go deeper. Find more in the Catechism. And check out these posts on hope:
Make Acts of Hope:
- Put it in words. Hope is our confidence in God. Our belief in His omnipotence, His goodness, His Divine Plan. Put your hope into words. Tell God how powerful He is, how Good He is. Tell Him: “I know You have plans for me, God.” Frequently repeat this month’s indulgenced prayer (on your fridge guide): “Jesus I trust in You.” Even if you don’t feel it, say it! Your words are an act of hope, and will increase your confidence in God.
- Pray with confidence. When you pray, know that your prayer will be heard. When we ask God for something, we always want Him to say yes. But sometimes He says no because His plans for us are different. Whether God says yes or no, He hears you and wants what’s best for you. Your prayers bring grace no matter what God’s answer is.
- Look with love. Look lovingly at the Crucifix in your home, the image of the Divine Mercy, or the hidden Jesus in the Eucharist. Even without words, your loving gaze is an act of hope.
Surrender to God’s Plan
- See God’s will. This is hard. Especially in the midst of hurt and suffering and even persecution. Sometimes the pain in our life doesn’t make sense. Step back and look at our life as God sees it. His plan, whatever it may be, ends with you in Heaven. Don’t lose sight of that.
- Let God manage. Sometimes I think I know God’s will for others. I love to give advice. “You should pray the Rosary. You should go to Adoration.” But I’m not God. People are free to not take my advice. And though that may be tough for me to swallow, I must remember that God has a plan for my friend, and God will give her the grace and inspiration she needs. If you judge someone’s spiritual life based on what you think they should or should not be doing, it’s time to let go. Let God manage His plan.
Work Towards Heaven
- Make Heaven your goal. Your salvation is your highest priority. Make sure your life and your schedule reflect that. In every choice you make, what is your motivation? Pleasure? Success? Or Heaven? Choose to do what will make you a better person. What will lead you closer to God. What will land you in Heaven.
- Remember the 4 last things. Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell. Our whole life boils down to these things. We will all die, face God, and account for how we lived our life. And all our choices will either point towards love of God: Heaven, or rejection of God: Hell. I don’t want to be all doom-and-gloom on you, but this is no trivial thing. Take some time to reflect on this reality.
How to Avoid Presumption and Despair
- Learn about presumption and despair. Read the challenge carefully. Presumption is the sin of neglecting our duty to work towards salvation. It’s when we expect God to hold up His part without doing our part. This attitude can lead us to sin just because God will forgive us. Despair is loss of confidence in God and discouragement in ourselves because of our faults.
- Examine yourself. Once you’re clear on what the sins of presumption and despair are and how they can manifest themselves, take some time to reflect. Examine your life. Identify these tendencies in yourself and we will root them out this month.
Avoid Negative Self Talk
- Listen to yourself. When things get rough: when you’re frustrated, tired or anxious, tune in to the thoughts inside your head. How do you talk to yourself? Be aware. Are you building yourself up, or tearing yourself down?
- Avoid negative self-talk. “I can’t do this… I can’t stand this… Things are never going to change.” If you find that your self-talk is negative and disheartening, STOP. Silence that voice inside your head. Reject those thoughts. And instead…
- Engage in positive self-talk. Encourage yourself to get through the troubles. Say things like, “I can do this… This won’t last forever… God, help me get through this.” Encourage yourself during the hard times, and turn your focus away from your troubles and back to God.
- Here’s the biggie. Don’t sin just because you can confess it later. You think you can go out and party and get drunk on Friday night, because you can hit confession on Saturday? Think again. That adds another sin to the list: the sin of presumption. Let’s stop taking God for granted. Would your best friend like you to hurt her because you knew you could say sorry later? Absolutely not. And neither does God.
- Don’t live by faith alone. The Bible is very clear that “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) It’s great to trust God’s grace and know that He saved us. But we have to do our part. We have to work for our salvation as if it depended completely on our efforts. “I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” (James 2:18)
- Don’t wait until tomorrow. I always want to do better tomorrow. But God may not give me another tomorrow. We can’t leave our salvation for the future. We have to resolve to do better today. To make better choices right now. Do the little things: a quick prayer, a small sacrifice, a simple act of love. Don’t presume God will give you more time to amend your life.
- Don’t be discouraged. We all have original sin. We’re fall and fail. We make mistakes frequently and that can make us feel like garbage. But don’t let your faults discourage you! Remember God loves you no matter what. His forgiveness knows no bounds. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect. Just to keep trying.
- Accept your sorrows. God has a plan. I’m not saying He wants you to suffer or that He’s striking you down. But God allows evil to happen – through our own choices and through natural causes like sickness (a result of original sin). And God, in His omnipotence, will always find a way to bring good out of it – in this life or the next. So accept your suffering. It’s hard to do. I know. But it will help us find peace and joy in the midst of suffering.
- Turn back to God with confidence. When we sin, we know we have to turn back to God with sorrow and repentance. But we also need to go a step further. We need to turn back to God with confidence that He will give us the grace not to fail again. And we need to pray for that grace. And act on that confidence. We will turn away from our faults quicker and easier when we put our trust in God to uphold us! (On the Nightstand Guide, we pray this way every night of the challenge!)
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in hope? Let’s get started! Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare. Reread this post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life. Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home.
- Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
- Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate hope and eliminate presumption and despair. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
- Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
- Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!
Download Your Free Printables:
This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life! I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in hope, to avoid the sins of presumption and despair, and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Hope Virtue Challenge now! Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.
Created in conjunction with Momsters Raising Monsters