O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13)
Many of us may be tempted to begin our examination of conscience when we get in line at the confessional. There is nothing wrong with this practice if the line looks something like this:
However, you don’t want to get caught in the middle of your examination when it is your turn to go in to the confessional. If you don't regularly examine your conscience, it may take awhile before you are fully prepared. Next time you go to confession, consider preparing before you go; for one should not simply just go to confession, but rather make the best confession possible.
One of the essential pieces in the Rite of Penance is the examination of conscience. We take an internal self-examination of our spiritual life and bring to light those sins that keep us from a more intimate relationship with Christ. Here, we recall our sins and faults committed since our last confession, or any other sins from our past which we have not yet confessed.
There are several ways to make a good examination of conscience. One of the easiest and most common ways to examine your conscience is by turning to the Ten Commandments for guidance. In this way you will prepare your heart and mind for confession by contemplating on the Word of God.
Each of the Ten Commandments can be broken down into questions. For example, if you ask yourself if you have killed someone - for most of us it is an obvious "no." But, we may fail to grasp the entirety of the commandment. We may not have physically killed an individual, but have we emotionally, physically, or spiritually hurt ourselves and others? This brings the fifth commandment into a whole new light.
The examination of conscience below is based on the Ten Commandments. Begin by praying. This will put you in the best frame of mind for recalling your sins.
PRAYER BEFORE CONFESSION BY ST. JEROME
“Show me, O Lord, Your mercy, and delight my heart with it. Let me find You whom I so longingly seek. Behold, here is the man whom the robbers seized, manhandled, and left half dead on the road to Jericho. Kind-hearted Samaritan, come to my aid! I am the sheep who wandered into the wilderness. Seek after me and bring me home again to Your fold. Do with me according to Your Will, that I may abide with You all the days of my life, and praise You with all those who are with You in heaven for all eternity. Amen.”
Here are 99 questions to prayerfully consider before going to confession:
“I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods besides me.”
1. Have I doubted or denied God’s existence?2. Have I been ungrateful to God for His benefits?3. Am I open to God’s will?4. Do I rely solely on myself and not on God?5. Have I abandoned the Catholic Faith?6. Have I joined a non-Catholic church or anti-Catholic group?7. Have I refused to believe any truths of the Faith or any teachings of the Church?8. Did I fail to profess or defend the Catholic Faith?9. Have I failed to go to confession at least once a year?10. Have I been faithful to my daily prayers?11. Have I practiced any superstitions?12. Am I unwilling to turn away from everything that is opposed to God's work in my soul?
“You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.”
13. Have I taken the Lord's name in vain, for example, carelessly, in anger, or surprise?14. Do I speak irreverently of holy persons, places or things?15. Have I cursed myself or others?16. Did I use profanity?17. Have I called down evil upon anyone or anything?18. Did I get angry with God?19. Have I angered others so as to make them curse?20. Have I broken a vow made to God?21. Have I murmured or complained about God?
“Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”
22. Did I miss Mass on a Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation?23. Did I arrive to Mass late or leave early?24. Did I receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin?25. Have I been irreverent while receiving the Most Blessed Sacrament?26. Have I been willfully distracted during Mass?27. Do I distract others during Mass?28. Have I done unnecessary work on Sunday?
“Honor your father and your mother.”
29. Have I disobeyed, insulted, or shown disrespect to my parents or legitimate superiors?30. Did I neglect my duties to my husband, wife, children or parents?31. Did I neglect to give a good religious example to my family?32. Am I disrespectful, impolite, or discourteous toward my family?33. Have I failed to meet my children's physical, spiritual, emotional, and educational needs?34. Have I disobeyed the lawful demands of my superiors, teachers, or employer?35. Did I fail to actively take an interest in the religious education and formation of my children?36. Did I cause anyone to leave the Catholic Church?37. Did I cause tension and fights in my family?38. Did I care for my aged and infirm relatives?
“You shall not kill.”
39. Did I kill or physically injure anyone?40. Did I have an abortion, or advise someone else to have an abortion?41. Do I use artificial contraception or birth control?42. Have I entertained thoughts of suicide, desired to commit suicide, or attempted suicide?43. Have I participated in euthanasia or assisted suicide?44. Have I placed others in harms way, by driving or texting inappropriately?45. Have I failed to help someone in danger or in need?46. Do I drink or smoke excessively or abuse prescribed drugs?47. Have I wished evil on anyone?48. Do I deliberately harbor unkind and revengeful thoughts about others?49. Have I taken revenge?50. Have I used harsh or abusive language toward others?51. Have I spread gloom through my words and actions?52. Is there anyone with whom I refuse to speak, or against whom I bear a grudge?53. Have I taken pleasure in anyone’s misfortunes?54. Have I led others into sin?
“You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”
55. Did I commit impure acts with another - fornication (premarital sex) or adultery (sex with a married person)?56. Did I commit impure acts by myself (masturbation)?57. Do I engage in homosexual acts?58. Have I refused my spouse the marriage right without good reason?59. Am I dating someone who is civilly divorced but still bound by a valid marriage?60. Did I marry or advise anyone to marry outside the Catholic Church?61. Have I willfully entertained impure thoughts or desires?62. Did I respect all members of the opposite sex, or have I objectified them?63. Have I read, listened to, viewed, or spoken of impure things?64. Have I worn revealing or immodest clothing?65. Have I succumbed occasions of impurity?
“You shall not steal.”
66. Have I stolen money or property?67. Have I cheated?68. Have I failed to make restitution for what I stole?69. Have I intentionally damaged property?70. Have I accepted or bought stolen property?71. Have I helped someone steal?72. Am I dishonest in my business dealings?73. Have I failed to make restitution for my stealing, cheating and frauds?74. Do I gamble excessively?75. Have I borrowed without permission?76. Have I failed to return things borrowed?77. Did I waste time at work, school or at home?78. Have I cheated my employer of an honest day’s work?79. Have I cheated my employees of their wages?80. Have I refused or neglected to help anyone in urgent need?
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
81. Have I lied deliberately?82. Have I deliberately misled or deceived anyone?83. Did I gossip or reveal others' faults or sins?84. Have I failed to keep promises or oaths?85. Have I signed false documents?86. Have I failed to prevent the defamation of another’s character?87. Have I revealed secrets and betrayed trust?88. Do I make false judgments and harbor false suspicions?89. Have a failed to forgive someone or held a grudge?90. Have I failed to apologize or make amends?91. Did I fail to keep secret what should be confidential?92. Have I disclosed another's sins without serious reason?
“You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
93. Am I greedy or selfish?94. Am I envious of someone’s possessions, talents, or blessings?95. Do I indulge in self-pity?96. Am I proud, vain, or desire to be praised?97. Have I exaggerated my success?98. Have I minimized or made excuses for my failures?99. Have I measured my charity by what others have given, rather than my ability to give?
Going to confession can be overwhelming and uncomfortable. This list of questions is extensive and can be daunting. It can be hard to say out loud the things in our lives that we have done wrong. Rather than looking down upon your failings, let the sorrow for sin help you overcome them. Look upon this sacrament as an opportunity to make full reparation for your sins, and restore your soul's relationship with God. If you are reluctant to go to confession remember God’s mercy and compassion.
"Though your sins be like scarlet, they shall become white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall become white as wool." (Isiah 1:18)Remember, Christ came into the world to save sinners!
This article has been updated and was originally published in March 2014. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.