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Book Club – The Imitation of Christ Week 9 of 10

February 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Imitation of Christ Week 9 of 10

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Woe to you…

Examine your conscience with great care, and cleanse and purify it as best you can by true contrition and a humble confession. Thus, nothing grievous will remain in you and you will know of nothing that could cause you remorse and hinder your free access to Me.

the-good-portion-pictureIn general, be sorry for all your sins, but in particular, you must grieve and bewail those offenses you commit every day. If time then allows, speak to God in the secret mansions of your heart about the miseries your passions cause you.

Be sorry for the following: that you are so carnal and worldly, that your passions are still unmortified, and that you are so filled with evil desires;

so unguarded in your external senses and so frequently occupied with foolish fantasies;

so interested in worldly affairs and so indifferent about the interior life;

so quick for laughter and dissipation, but so averse to tears and sorrow;

so ready for relaxation and bodily comfort, but so sluggish to practice penance and devotion;

so eager to hear the latest news and to visit interesting places, but so slow in embracing what is humble and poor;

so desirous to have many possessions, but so miserly in giving and so tenacious in retaining;

so inconsiderate in your speech and so reluctant to observe silence;

so undisciplined in behavior and so rash in conduct;

so avid about food, but so deaf to Gods’ word;

so prompt for rest, but so tardy for work;

so awake to listen to stories, but so sleepy for night vigils;

so hasty to end your prayers and so taken up with daydreams;

so negligent in reciting the Office, so lukewarm in celebrating Mass, and so lacking in devotion in receiving Holy Communion;

so swiftly distracted and so rarely recollected;

so suddenly brought to anger and so easy to take offense;

so rapid to judge others and so severe in rebuke;

so happy in prosperity and so depressed in adversity;

so willing to make good resolves, but so unwilling to keep them.

– The Imitation of Christ, Book IV, Chapter 7, p. 193


Today in the grocery store I noticed a young man with a sweatshirt that said, “Bite Me.” I averted my eyes in sadness, thinking that as a society, we are so far from where God wants us to be. Not that an offensive sweatshirt should engender such a strong reaction, but it seemed to represent for me a world of sin.  Immediately, The Fatima Prayer came to me: O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.

As soon as the prayer crossed my mind, I felt strongly rebuked.

I know people who commit adultery, others who have committed the horrible atrocity of abortion and still others who are actively promoting a homosexual lifestyle. I pray often for these people and I sometimes I find myself thinking, like the Pharisee, “God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get (Luke 18:11-12).” OK – I don't use those exact words, but you can imagine they are close – essentially, I thank God for giving me the grace to know Him. And of course, I beg Him, “Please help these people to turn from such atrocious sins.

Shame on me! As though my sins aren't just as heinous (or even more so) in God's eyes!  I will be held accountable for every one of my sins. I KNOW God as my Heavenly Father. And yet truth be told at one time or another I have committed virtually every sin listed in the passage quoted above, usually without proper remorse. I shuddered today as I realized that I am the one who needs mercy above all others. Like the tax collector, I could not even lift my head as I recognized with horror this sad reality:  I KNOW that God is ALL GOOD and ALL DESERVING of MY LOVE, and yet I still turn from Him on a daily basis. Imagine my reckoning!

And the servant who knew his master’s will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required (Luke 12:47-48)…”

I am distracted in mass; I am lazy with my devotions; I am selfish; I am prideful; I am gluttonous; and the list goes on and on. Our Lord must be SO offended and deeply saddened by EVERY one of my sins – especially when I have the audacity to judge the sins of others.

Lord, this Lent please give me TRUE sorrow for my sins. Help me to recognize that my arrogance inhibits any possibility of perfect contrition. Help me to detest my sins for Love of You – may I recoil from all sin, visible and invisible. Tear away any trace of the pharisee’s wretched pride in my soul and replace it with the heart of the tax collector or of the thief on the cross. Justly am I condemned; but in Your mercy, please remember me in Your kingdom.


Discussion Questions:

1. What did you think when you read the list of sins above?  Do you find yourself committing them often?  Do you recognize it when you are committing them, or only when you look back and examine your conscience? Do you tend to overlook some of  these sins?  If so, why do you think that might be?

2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.


Reading Assignment:

Week 10: Book 4 Ch. 8-18

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club:


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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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  • Robert Kraus

    I find myself checking off a poor list as I read those sins, silently saying to myself…”yes…yep, yep, that one too, etc…”. I agree that I find it hard to find true sorrow for sin. I have struggles with depression, of course, but that’s a different feeling/sensation I think. That’s more dissatisfaction with my life, not feeling good about myself, etc. and not a true regret and sorrow for the bad things I know I have done.  

    Certainly I have to be an example of integrity to the young man in the sweatshirt more so than praying for him out of a sense of righteous pride, which I do wayyyy too often in my own circumstances.

  • judeen

     The Holy Spirit is doing some deep work!!! I too have gone through this lately…. how I though a every day thought to protect my self in going down the wronge road , is really my pride.. my judgement , self rightousness… God is purifing me of the greatest sin, pride… and teaching me the greatest virtue … LOVE…. love that over looks everything and love the person infront of me….. the Holy Spirit gave you that prayer to say for the person who wearing the shirit…. you listened and prayed…. the rebuke was the demon who controls the persons attitudes…. minipulates his feelings .. although he thinks he is free , he is so enslaved… bind up the evil spirit in the Name our Lord Jesus Christ…. so the person can think and be their self…. free from manipulations…. and wonder why they hate…. and grow stronge and reconize what is not of them selves…. it is a spiritual battle for the soul…….. this should be taught in our churches .. we need more people to reconize it … also offer your sufferings for this persons soul with Jesus Christs passion and death and ressurection to God the Father….   God let you know that this person needs prayer. this means God needs and trusts  you as his warrior. this is a great honor… to be humble and contrite heart . is to be united with God to do work for God to save souls from the very grips of hell… burning for ever. we are nothing but God makes us warriors.. 

  • +J.M.J.+
    1.  My goodness, it was like a checklist.  I ought to print them out and tape them to the back of my door to remind me of what I ought to be wary of.  Most of the time, I do not recognize them at the time when I commit them, but about a split second afterwards.  And then it hurts.  A lot.
    2. This chapter was very relevant to me this week, since this week’s number of humiliations seems to have almost doubled.  This chapter reminded me to take my eyes off of myself and fix them on Our Lord and His cross:  again, it hurts, but after all, “To be a Catholic is to suffer and to die.”  To die to oneself… to live in Him.  To detach from the world in order that we might become more attached to Him.  How mysterious and amazing is His plan!

  • CeciliaMarks

    Vicki, as we walk thru the marketplace and lift souls up to the Lord in prayer, how does that constitute judgement against that soul? It doesn’t diminish my guilt when I look at the long checklist of what I must change in myself. However the prayer given in great charity is, “Lord, I love your creation and those you love, I give this soul to you and ask you to bless him/her and to place his/her feet on the path that leads to you. Use my heart, Lord, and allow your love to flow out to each soul in this store and all those I meet today.”
    I’m challenged when I, on occasion, have stood outside an abortion mill to pray for the souls within. I’m praying for Divine Mercy to be shown to these souls and for them to “see” as God sees. I try to keep in the back of my mind the saying a nun gave me in college, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”
    If God’s people become frozen due to the guilt of our sins, who will pray for those who may not pray for help? One day you may learn that your mental prayer for the young man allowed just the grace he needed in his life at that moment. Since all prayer originates w/the Holy Spirit, His promptings may have led to your prayer….what a gift!

  • Jeanette

    That’s a scary list of sins for sure. When I examine my conscience, I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me my sins, imperfections and failings so that I may ask for forgiveness from Jesus. He certainly reveals my sins but He reveals my imperfections and failings less readily as I suspect they would overwhelm me with discouragement if I knew all of them so He reveals them a little at a time. Sometimes I am tearfully sorry and others times my contrition is less so. I read somewhere recently that we can pray for the grace of sorrow for our sins…I had never thought of doing that before. It dawns on me as I type this that this is a grace from God…to pray for sorrow for our sins. God bless you!


    WOW. Your message resonated within me and affirmed how much I take for granted. Yesterday, my sister (a former missionary) relayed the story of how she learned of the tragic death of her 19 year old friend in Bolivia in a tragic mining accident. He was the breadwinner in his family (his father had abandoned the family years ago).  He worked to support his mother and 6 siblings.  I cried for this beautiful young man that I had never met because he reminded me of the unfairness of life. Here I am in worried over trifling things like getting the right parking space, figuring out the dinner menu or a number of peripheral cares instead of the areas where I can impact the most. I was humbled yet again to see myself through the God lens and I still have much more to grow. Relationships matter – with God, with my family, with others.  Examining my conscience isn’t easy but I fervently pray that the Holy Spirit work in me to cleanse me, reveal my failings because truly my heart’s desire is to be pleasing to our almighty Father.  I am resolved to print out this Examination of Conscience and post it on my Refrigerator to serve as daily reminder of self-discipline so that I constantly put myself under His will. GBY

    • Vicki

      Theresa – I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your sister’s friend.  How awful for his family!  Is there a fund set up for them?  

      I, too, am going to print the list off and hang it up – the fridge or the mirror in my bathroom.  God bless!


        My sister states that there is no fund set up for them but her husband will be visiting the family in April along with some other colleagues when they go back to drill water wells.  They will try and make contact with his family to learn their needs.


  • Ron

    Oh boy, this list of sins cannot be mine. But, sadly it is.
    For me it is only by knowing how much Jesus loves me, that I can look at these sins and know my only help is with Him.
    I pray that I too may have true contrition.

  • Scott Kallal

    Hmm, what hits me hardest here is that the sins include not only doing bad or failing to do good, but it touches even the attitudes with which we do our good things: distraction in prayer, desiring rest, giving in to anger. This passage reminded me that Christianity is not just a question of doing good, but of being good, of letting Jesus transform my heart. That’s what the Eucharist is all about, a heart transplant, Jesus giving us his Heart with which to pray, serve, love. 

    The passage in 4.3 is essentially the disciple crying out: I can’t live without you! That’s the type of dependency I want to have on my Lord! I loved the advice on the attitudes to have for receiving communion (4.7): humility in recognizing the difference between Jesus’ infinite love and our limited love; desire for God’s glory, and abandoning ourselves to Him completely…

    God bless,

    Fr. Scott, AVI
    Apostles of the Interior Life

  • carl641

    The common denominator in that list for me is self. Putting my self, its desires and wants above how God has asked us to live. That tendency in me plays out in many different ways in my life. Almost always when I go back and examine what I did it comes down to me doing something I (capital I) wanted to do or acting in a way that I felt justified in. 

    Take for example unwanted sales calls. Frequently I’m rude, brusque and even unpleasant to the people calling. I suppose I feel justified because I’m on the do not call list and so forth. On the other hand, these people are just trying to make a living. When I boil it all down what it comes down to for me is that I don’t like being interrupted. This is a manifestation of self: feeling justified in bad behavior that’s really motivated by selfishness because whatever I was doing was interrupted. What does it take to not answer if possible or politely decline?

    I’ve been praying that the Lord would take this and other negative things out of me. What’s funny in a way is that praying about it seems to make the situation occur more frequently. I’ve been known to say that I’m a slow learner with poor protoplasm. I guess the Lord wants to make sure I get enough practice. 🙂

    • LizEst

      Practice indeed! Everyone has to earn a living in some way. So, you are good to recognize that phone sales people are also owed courtesy. That is the first step toward a change in your behavior.

      The second step is to think of it as an opportunity to evangelize. You don’t need to say much after you decline their offer gently but firmly. As you say good-bye, take the opportunity to say to them “God bless you!” It is a way to have two people think of God at that moment: you and the sales caller! Try it for Lent, if you like…then keep it going the rest of the year! You may find that your attitude towards these calls improves the more you practice this. And, you will be helping the people that call.

      God bless you Carl. You are on the way!

      • carl641

        Good suggestion, thanks Liz, God bless

  • Ramanie

    Dear Vicki,
    Thank you for this “eye opening” article. This goes straight into my heart. Feel so ashamed in my soul as I am guilty of some. Please God may Your Holy Spirit enlighten me and pardon me I pray. Thank you again and may God Bless you.

  • 1. What did you think when you read the list of sins above?I instantly became aware of my own list. Do you find yourself committing them often? Yes, which is why I need confession;Mass often.3.Do you recognize it when you are committing them, or only when you look back and examine your conscience?I rationalize when I commit sins. Make excuses. “Oh well, I’m only human…” I think that is a lie.4. Do you tend to overlook some of  these sins?
    overlooking sins begins during the act of doing them, so yes. its dangerous because overlooking sins is an erosive process that kills the soul.


  • Thank you for sharing this list. I need to do a deeper examination of conscience! God bless you, Vicki.

    • LizEst

      One of the most comprehensive guides for a deep examination of conscience I’ve seen is here (scroll down until you get to the part that says “download the booklet here”):

  • talby

    Hello all! Thanks Vicki for this week’s sharing…I always look forward to reading your words each week!

    The one thing that stood out for me in these readings was God’s beautiful grace. As we each examine our conscience and as we give a shout out to the many ways we fail -in what we do and fail to do- we all know that the battle will remain. Our fallen nature unfortunately leads us to sin. The saints share this, Kempis is always so ready to share his many failings, and I am just as guilty no matter how hard I try and truly contrite I am…there it is AGAIN! I must rely on God’s grace and accept His love, mercy, and forgiveness. We are so blessed with the sacraments of Reconciliation and the beautiful Eucharist to strengthen us on this long journey through the mire of sin and tribulation. God knows our weaknesses and He is such a loving Father when we continually turn to Him with contrition in our hearts and steadfast desire to turn from sin. As Kempis shares “I need thy grace, and plentiful grace…”

    Kempis writes a beautiful prayer in chapter 4 on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: “Wherefore, I beseech thy pity, and implore special grace to be given me for this, so that I may utterly dissolve in thee, and overflow with thy love, and no more allow any alien comfort. For this most high and honoured sacrament is the health of soul and body, the medicine for all spiritual faintness by which my faults are cured, passions bridled, temptions overcome or weakened, larger grace instilled, vitrue begun is made to grow, faith steadied, hope strengthed, and love set afire and enlarged.”  Amen!

    In chapter 55 (book 3), another prayer: “I pray O Lord that I may find grace in thine eyes for thy grace is enough for me, though I get not those other things nature longs for. When I am tried and vexed with many tribulations I will fear no evil so long as thy grace is with me.”

    By taking a good inventory and examination of conscience, it only makes me rest in our Lord even more and cry and beg for grace…. Sin may knock me down time and time again, but it will not make me weaker; it will only make my resolve firmer to reject my sinful ways and to seek more grace!

    God Bless,

  • The list of sins we commonly commit is so helpful. I did a copy of the list and pasted it into a word document on my desktop, so I can access it readily. Thanks to everyone for your enlightening comments. Following here tells me I am in good company and am having the right desires.
    Forward March!

  • Victoria Campbell

    Since my cancer diagnosis, I have experienced a rollercoaster with times of intense faith and trust and sadly followed by a cycle of intense fear and lack of recollection, devotion and surrender.  The cradle Catholic guilt which is a good thing in part can also act as a paralyzer of hope and trust at times.  At the outset of this crisis, I saw this as an opportunity to draw closer to God and to finally achieve the surrender and fervent faith that I desire in my mind yet I find that fear and despair is very powerful and alas I have found myself buffeted by waves as though I am not a person of faith.  I feel so ashamed when I read this list and examine my heart over these past weeks as though I am failing God’s ultimate test of me. 

    Examining my conscience evokes complete condemnation of myself.  So as I reread this I have to remind myself of the second part of the process which is not just condemnation and despair but hope and reconciliation , ” cleanse and purify it as best you can by true contrition and a humble confession. Thus, nothing grievous will remain in you and you will know of nothing that could cause you remorse and hinder your free access to Me.” I am aware of my many failings most specifically my lack of ability to prioritize and do that which is important and to instead constantly allow the distractions of this world to command too much of my attention. I am lazy to follow through with my good intentions and this lack of resolve and action leave me feeling worthless and not good enough. 

    I think my ultimate challenge is to accept and focus on God’s Mercy.  Prior to this diagnosis I found myself drawn to the image and devotion of Divine Mercy.  My first awareness of this was during my Cursillio weekend about 2 years ago.  I have felt this devotion calling to me first as I approached and examined my attitudes toward others who challenge me by their actions toward me and those within the family who have rejected faith and whom I in my own pride tend to write off.  I have been challenged to understand God’s love and mercy for all his children and to seek to emulate it.  I find that I also need to remember that this Mercy extends to me and that although my sins and failings are detestable God’s love for me is always there and so I should not allow despair to take hold of me but instead to readily turn to God with the confidence that his love and mercy abounds waiting to welcome me home. 

    Writing this has brought peace to my heart.  Thanks for the inspiration.  Please pray for me this week as I will be undergoing a number of appointments in preparation for beginning chemotherapy which I expect will begin next week. 

    • Vicki

      Dear Victoria, Your post is filled with wisdom and insight – no doubt The Holy Spirit is already doing great work in your soul.  I heard Father John Riccardo talking about suffering the other day – I’ll include the link – and he does a great job of explaining how it can have purpose.  Perhaps it will help you as you go through this process.  Certainly you’ll be in my prayers daily.

    • BeckitaMaria

      Changing my usual pattern, I didn’t take time to read others’ replies before I shared my own. Your words about God’s love and mercy especially resonate with me. As Vicky said, you you write with wisdom. Thanks so much for sharing and please be assured of my ongoing prayers for you.

  • BeckitaMaria

    In this examination of conscience, and in all areas of sin, I especially connect with a Kempis’ exhortation: “If time then allows, speak to God in the secret mansions of your heart about the miseries your passions cause you.” For me, this is precious advice. As one who has been granted beau coup healing from abuse (Thanks be to Jesus!), I have some vestiges of shame and I wait in joyful hope for complete freedom.

    Therefore, as I convict and am convicted in my soul of my many sins, I must immediately join St. Mary Magdalene in throwing myself at the feet of our Redeemer. It is here where I recall the many powerful and tender words, spoken by Jesus to mystics thorughout the ages, of how He understands the fragility of our humanity and assures us of His merciful love. It is here, while remembering His holy words of Scripture telling us He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 101:12), that I gain courage to meet Him, again and again, in His Tribunal of Mercy.  It is here where I hear His personal and gentle words to me that allow me to get up and continue carrying the cross of my own humanity.       

    My beloved Fr. Jacques Philippe says, “The human heart is certainly an abyss of misery and sin, but God lies in its depths.”  Blessed be God’s Holy Name and His bountiful mercy! 

    • Vicki

      Beautiful quote!  Thank you.

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