A Practical Examination of Conscience
Power Conferred by Christ on the Apostles:
by Fr. Larry Tan, SDB
Penance (Confession, Reconciliation) is the Sacrament by which sins committed after Baptism are forgiven through the absolution of the priest. It was instituted by Christ when He said to the Apostles (and their successors, the bishops, who in turn are helped by their priests): "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained," (John 20:33). The Apostle and the Evangelist St. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes: "If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity." (1 John 1:9).
The First Commandment:
- Have I performed my duties towards God reluctantly or grudgingly?
- Do I recite my usual prayers?
- Did I receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin or without the necessary preparation?
- Did I miss the one-hour Eucharist fast?
- Did I fail to mention some grave sin in my previous confessions?
- Did I seriously believe in superstition or engage in superstitious practices (fortune-telling, horoscopes, faith-healing, etc.)?
- Did I seriously doubt in matters of faith?
- Did I put my Faith in danger by reading books, pamphlets, or magazines which contain errors or are contrary to Catholic faith and morals?
- Did I endanger my Faith by joining or attending meetings and activities of organizations contrary to the Church or to the Catholic Faith (protestant services, non-Catholic prayer meetings, the Communist party, Freemasonry, "weird" cults and other religions)?
- Have I committed the sin of sacrilege (profanation of a sacred person, place or thing)?
The Second Commandment:
- Do I try my best to fulfill the promise and resolutions which I make to God?
- Did I take the name of God in vain? Did I make use of God's name mockingly, jokingly, angrily or in any other irreverent manner?
- Did I make use of the Blessed Virgin Mary's name or the saints' names mockingly, jokingly, angrily or in any other irreverent manner?
- Have I been a sponsor (Godfather, Godmother) in baptisms and ceremonies outside the Catholic Church?
- Did I tell a lie under oath?
- Did I break (private or public) vows?
The Third Commandment:
- Did I miss Mass on Sundays or Holydays of Obligation?
- Did I allow myself to be distracted during Mass, by not paying attention, looking around out of curiosity, etc.?
- Have I arrived at Mass so late without sufficient reason that I failed to fulfill the Sunday obligation?
- Did I misbehave or have an improper posture or dress in Church or caused others to get distracted?
- Do I generously help the Church in her necessities to the extent that I am able?
- Do I fast and abstain on the days prescribed by the Church?
- Have I done or commanded servile work on Sundays or Holydays of obligation?
The Fourth Commandment:
- Have I neglected to teach my children their prayers, send them to Church and give them a Christian education?
- Have I given them a bad example?
- Did I neglect to watch over my children: the companions they have, the books they read, movies and TV shows they watch?
- Have I seen to it that my children made their First Confession and First Communion at around the age of seven?
- Have I been disobedient or disrespectful towards my parents?
- Have I neglected to help my parents in their needs?
- Did I treat my parents with little affection or respect?
- Do I feel hurt and react proudly when I am corrected by them?
- Do I have a disordered desire for independence?
- Do I do my house chores?
- Do I quarrel with my brothers and sisters?
The Fifth Commandment:
- Did I easily get angry or lose my temper?
- Was I envious or jealous of others?
- Did I injure or take the life of anyone? Was I ever reckless in driving?
- Was I an occasion for others to sin with my conversations, "green" jokes, way of dressing, invitations to attend certain shows, lending harmful books or magazines, helping them to steal, etc.?
- Did I try to repair the scandal done?
- How may persons did I lead to sin? What sin?
- Did I neglect my health? Did I ever attempt to take my life?
- Have I mutilated myself or another?
- Did I get drunk or take prohibited drugs (marijuana, heroin, "upper", shabu, "downers", etc.)?
- Did I eat or drink more than the sufficient amount allowing myself to get carried away by gluttony?
- Did I consent or actively take part in direct sterilization ("ligation", vasectomy, etc.)? Do I realize that this will have a permanent effect on my married life and that I will have to answer to God for its consequences?
- Did I consent, recommend, advise or actively take part in an abortion? Am I aware that the Church punishes those who procure and achieve abortion with excommunication? Do I realize that this is a very grave crime?
- Did I cause anyone harm with my words or actions?
- When someone offends me, do I desire revenge, harbour enmity, hatred or ill-feelings?
- Do I ask pardon whenever I offend anyone?
- Do I insult or tease others?
The Sixth Commandment:
- Do I entertain indecent thoughts?
- Did I recall impure thoughts?
- Did I consent to evil desires against the virtue of purity, even though I may not have carried them out? Were there any circumstances which aggravated the sin: (the affinity with, or the married state or the consecration to God, of the person involved)?
- Did I engage in impure conversations? Did I start them?
- Did I look for fun in forms of entertainment which put me in proximate occasions of sin (some dances, immoral movies or show, readings, bad company, plays, houses of ill repute, "beerhouses", sauna baths, etc.)?
- Do I realize that I may already be committing a sin by putting myself in these occasions (sharing a room with a person of the opposite sex, being alone with a person of the opposite sex in a car, in dark places, etc.)?
- Do I take care of those details of modesty and decency which are the safeguards of purity?
- Before going to a show or reading a book, do I try to find out its moral implications, so as not to put myself in immediate danger of sinning and in order to avoid getting my conscience distorted?
- Did I entertain impure feelings?
- Did I willfully look at immodest pictures or cast immodest looks upon myself or others? Did I willfully desire to commit such sins?
- Did I lead others to sins of impurity or immodesty?
- Did I commit impure acts? By myself through the practice of self-abuse (masturbation) which is a mortal son? With someone else? How many times? With people of the same or opposite sex? Was there any circumstances of relationship, affinity, etc. which could have given the sin special gravity? Did these illicit relationships have any consequences? After new life had already been conceived?
- Do I have friendships which are habitual occasions of sins? Am I prepared to break off with them?
- In courtship, is true love my fundamental reasons for dealing with the other person? Do I live the constant and cheerful sacrifice of not putting the person I love in danger of sinning? Do I degrade human love by confusing it with selfishness or pleasure?
- Do I engage in acts that involve or lead to passion such as "petting", "necking", passionate kisses and prolonged embraces?
For Married Couples:
- Did I make improper use of marriage? Did I deprive my spouse of his (her) marital right? Did I betray conjugal fidelity in desire or in deed?
- Did I make use of marriage only in those days when offspring will not be engendered? Do I continue this method or controlling conception without grave reasons?
- Did I take pills or other artificial means in order to prevent having children?
- Did I suggest their use to other people?
- Did I have a hand in contributing to the contraceptive atmosphere by my advice, jokes, attitudes, etc.? (On abortion, sterilization, etc., see Fifth commandment).
The Seventh and Tenth Commandment:
- Did I steal any object or amount of money? How much was it worth? Did I give it back, or at least, have the intention to do so?
- Have I done or caused damage to others' property? To what amount?
- Did I harm anyone by deception, fraud, or coercion in business contracts or transactions?
- Did I spend beyond my means? Do I spend too much money unnecessarily to whim, vanity or caprice?
- Do I give alms according to capacity?
- Am I envious of my neighbour's goods?
- Did I neglect to pay my debts?
- Did I retain things found or stolen?
- Did I desire to steal?
- Am I diligent in my work and studies or do I give in to laziness or love of comfort?
- Was I greedy? Do I have an excessively materialistic view of life?
The Eighth Commandment:
- Did I tell lies? Did I repair any damage which may have resulted as a consequence of this?
- Have I unjustly accused others?
- Did I sin by detraction, that is telling the faults of other without necessity?
- Did I sin by calumny, that is, telling derogatory lies about others?
- Did I engage in gossip, back-biting or tale-telling?
- Did I judge others rashly or suspected others falsely?
- Did I reveal secrets without due cause?
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins, because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because I offended You, my God, who are all good and worthy of all my love. I firmly resolve to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. AMEN.