In his by now notorious Christmas "spanking" of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis proposed for a salutary examination of conscience fifteen "diseases or temptations" to which members of the Curia are prey.
Perhaps not sufficiently noticed was the Pope's use of words like "our" and "us," as when he says:
They are the more common diseases in our life in the Curia. They are diseases and temptations which weaken our service to the Lord. I think a “listing” of these diseases – along the lines of the Desert Fathers who used to draw up such lists – will help us to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation, which will be a good step for all of us to take in preparing for Christmas.
And, of course, as he states, the immediate goal of the spiritual exercise was preparation for the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation -- a sacrament particularly dear to Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Soon after the Pope's trip to the woodshed, a wag commented that Francis had omitted a sixteenth temptation: that of thinking the first fifteen only appllied to someone else.
But the Pope had himself supplied this 16th annotation when he said:
Brothers, these diseases and these temptations are naturally a danger for each Christian and for every curia, community, congregation, parish and ecclesial movement; and they can strike at the individual and the community levels.
Recently I've been re-reading the Pope's weekly audiences/catecheses. I'm struck by how often they contain, albeit in a kinder and gentler rhetorical mode, an examination of conscience. Here is a representative sample:
In the time of Paul, the community of Corinth found great difficulty in this sense, living, as we, too, often do, the experience of division, of envy, of misunderstanding and of exclusion. All of these things are not good because, instead of building up the Church and causing her to grow as the Body of Christ, they shatter it into many pieces, they dismember it. And this happens in our time as well. Let us consider, in Christian communities, in some parishes, let us think of how much division, how much envy, how they criticize, how much misunderstanding and exclusion there is in our neighbourhoods. And what does this lead to? It dismembers us among ourselves. It is the beginning of war. War does not begin on the battlefield: war, wars begin in the heart, with misunderstanding, division, envy, with this struggle with others.
Advent is long past, but Lent approaches. And the Desert Fathers and Mothers are always in season.