Examination of Conscience

Use this helpful tool to remember sins committed since your last confession.

This examination of conscience is extracted from A Simple Prayer Book.

Careful preparation is vital in order to make the most of this encounter with our loving heavenly Father. Find some time to be alone and quiet to reflect on your life, your relationship with God and others. An examination of conscience provides us with what we are going to say in the confessional. Without time given to such examination our confession is in danger of being incomplete. There are many ways: one is to use a gospel passage, especially one of the many healing miracles or occasions of forgiveness (eg Lk 15:11-32; Jn 4:5-42; Mt 18:21-35; Lk 18:9-14). Imagine you are the person being healed or forgiven by Jesus. Read the scripture passage, imagine you are in the scene, and listen to the words of Jesus. He speaks to you! What do you say? Alternatively, Jesus summed up and extended the Ten Commandments by his two great commandments (Mk 12:28-42): Love God and your neighbour.

Mortal sin is sin whose object is a grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent (Catechism 1857). We must confess all mortal sins. We are not obliged to confess all venial sins. We commit venial sin when, in a less serious matter, we do not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when we disobey the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent (Catechism 1862). Confession of venial sins is an act of devotion. We need not be unduly anxious to confess them all, but may rather choose to focus on areas of our life that are most in need of God’s grace.

The following examination of conscience can help us to measure our lives by the objective standard of Christ’s teaching. We may also consider more generally how we may have failed in our lives to live fully as disciples of Christ.

Sins against God

Have I rejected my faith, refused to find out more about it?
Have I forgotten my daily prayers or said them badly?
Have I experimented with the occult or put my trust in fortune tellers or horoscopes?
Have I blasphemed against God or used bad language?
Have I shown disrespect for holy things, places or people?
Have I missed Mass on Sundays or Holydays through my own fault?
Have I let myself be distracted at Mass or distracted others?
Have I received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin?
Have I received Holy Communion without proper reverence, care or thanksgiving?

Sins against myself and others

Have I been impatient, angry or jealous?
Have I brooded over injuries or refused to forgive?
Have I taken part in or encouraged abortion, the destruction of human embryos, euthanasia or any other means of taking human life?
Have I been verbally or physically violent to others?
Have I been racist in my thoughts, words or deeds?
Have I hurt anyone by speaking badly about them?
Have I betrayed confidences without good cause or revealed things simply to hurt others?
Have I judged others rashly?
Have I been drunk or used illegal drugs?
Have I driven dangerously or inconsiderately?
Have I spoken in an obscene way?
Have I looked at obscene pictures, films or books?
Have I been involved in any impure behaviour on my own or with someone else?
Have I been vain, proud, selfish or self-seeking?
Have I told lies to excuse myself, to hurt others or to make myself look more important?
Have I stolen anything?
Have I failed to contribute to the support of the Church in proportion to my means?
Have I been disobedient, rude or insolent to those in authority over me?
Have I been harsh, overbearing or sarcastic to those under my authority?
Have I cheated my employers or employees?
Have I misused or damaged the property of others?
Have I set my heart greedily on possessing things?
Have I given scandal or bad example?
Have I been lazy at my work, study or domestic duties?
Have I been jealous of others – of their looks, their popularity, their good work?
Have I encouraged others to do wrong in any way?

For spouses

Have I neglected to foster the warmth of my love and affection for my spouse?
Have I prolonged disagreements through resentment or failing to apologise when I have been in the wrong?
Have I mistreated my spouse verbally, emotionally or physically?
Have I used artificial means of birth control?
Have I been unfaithful to my spouse in any way?

For parents

Have I neglected to teach my children to pray?
Have I neglected the religious education of my children?
Have I failed to bring my children to Sunday Mass?
Have I argued with my spouse in front of my children?
Have I failed to exercise vigilance over what my children read, see on television or on the internet?
Have I been harsh or overbearing to my children?
Have I neglected my children’s welfare in any way?

For young people

Have I been disobedient to my parents?
Have I been unhelpful at home?
Have I failed to try to understand my parents and talk with them?
Have I upset the peace of my home for selfish reasons?
Have I lost control when I have been angry?
Have I sulked or been sarcastic instead of asking for help?
Have I failed to work properly at school?
Have I treated teachers or other adults with disrespect?
Have I played unfairly at games or sports?
Have I taken part in fights?

Read our guide on how to go to confession here. Find out why you need to go to confession in this blog.

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This blog is an extract from A Simple Prayer Book.

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