1. Your confessor instructs you to say a rosary as your penance. As you are shuffling through the decades, mumbling your AveMarias, your finger slips, and you forget which bead you're on.
0 You take your best guess at where you were, pick a bead and resume where you left off.
+1 You take your best guess at where you were, then back up one bead . . . just in case.
+2 You do the whole decade over again . . . just in case.
+3 You do the whole rosary over again . . . just in case.
+9 You do the whole rosary over again, then say it a second time making acts of contrition for your lack of attentiveness the first time, all while you're standing in line to make another confession.
2. You're up all night taking care of a sick newborn, you sleep through the alarm and show up for Sunday mass late. You drop your family at the door, then park the car and meet them inside. As you walk walk to the pew, the priest has just finished reading the last sentence of the Gospel.
-1 You blow it off - those rules are meant for slackers, they don't apply to good Catholics like you.
0 You say an act of contrition, vow to show up five minutes early from now on, and trust that God knows you did your best.
+1 On your way out, you take the priest aside and ask him if you've satisfied your Sunday obligation . . . just to cover yourself.
+2 You come back alone later in the day . . . just in case.
+3 You cancel the plans for the day and drag the whole family, including the newborn, back again . . . just in case.
3. You're saying a novena to Our Lady. You miss day three.
-1 Just skip day three and pick up on day four. It wasn't intentional.
0 Pack days three and four into the fourth day and get back on track.
+1 Do day three on the fourth day, and finish the novena a day later.
+4 Scrap the whole thing. You've botched it and it doesn't count anymore. Try again next year.
Drawing the line between piety and scrupulosity is no easy thing. If only it could be measured with ease on an index. I used to be of the opinion that a bit of scrupulosity was a healthy thing. The fact is, nothing withers and strangles the spiritual life more than scrupulosity. The great saints struggled more with temptations to scrupulosity than with temptations to grave sin. The danger of scrupulosity is that it kills the child in us, the child which we must become to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the child of which that kingdom is made. The scrupulous have the audacity to imagine that their salvation depends solely on themselves and their own works of piety, and forget that their piety depends solely upon the divine grace which inspires it.