Preparing for a Good Confession
The “parts” of sacramental confession are usually listed as contrition, confession, and satisfaction/penance. These are of course necessary for a valid confession, but there is another part which is important for making a good confession—one which not only confesses sins but which also helps get to the root of our sins and to see the reasons behind the sins we commit. It is the examination of conscience.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “[t]he reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings” (CCC 1454; Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.). Thus it is important that every time we go to confession we take some time to consider what sins we have committed and why, rather than just walking into the confessional unprepared. The more prepared we are to receive this sacrament, the more easily God’s grace can work in our lives and the more readily we can, by that same grace, conquer our sins. To aid you in making an examination, here is a sample from Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap.:
Responsibilities to God:
Have I gone to Mass every Sunday? Have I participated at Mass or have I daydreamed or been present with a blank mind? Have I prayed every day? Have I read the Bible? Have I studied the truths of our faith and allowed them to become more a part of the way I think and act? Have I read any spiritual books or religious literature? Have I told God that I want to love him with my whole heart, mind and strength? Do I hold any resentments toward God? Have I recognized my need for Jesus and his salvation? Have I asked the Holy Spirit to empower me to live the Christian life? Have I participated in anything that is of the occult: ouija boards, fortune tellers, séances, channeling, astrology? Have I been financially generous to the Church? Have I participated in parish or religious activities? Have I held resentments toward the Church or Church authorities? Have I forgiven them?
Responsibilities to others, to myself, to society:
Have I been rebellious, disobedient or disrespectful to anyone in authority? Have I lied to or deceived others? Have I been arrogant and stubborn? Have I gotten angry or nurtured and held grudges and resentments? Have I refused to forgive others? Have I cultivated hatred? Have I felt sorry for myself or nurtured self-pity? Have I gotten drunk, or taken drugs? Have I engaged in sexual fantasies? Have I looked at others lustfully? Have I read pornographic literature or looked at pornographic pictures, shows, or movies? Have I masturbated? Have I lustfully kissed or sexually touched someone? Have I had sexual intercourse outside of marriage? Have I had an abortion or encouraged another to have one? Have I gossiped about others? Have I slandered anyone? Have I told lies about others? Have I mocked or made fun of others? Have I been a Christian witness to those with whom I work or associate? Have I spoken to anyone about the Gospel and how important it is to believe in Jesus? Have I allowed the Gospel to influence my political and social opinions? Have I had a proper Christian concern for the poor and needy? Have I been prejudiced toward others because of race, color, religion or social status?