A Preparation for Confession
Examination of Conscience
Prior to approaching a priest for confession and absolution, in the silence of your heart, it is advisable to perform an examination of your conscience in order to ensure proper preparation and a thorough confession.
While there are many methods of preparing for confession, many people find examining their lives against the Ten Commandments to be particularly helpful.
As we reflect on the commandments, it is also a good idea to make a list of the sins that we identify. Not only will this help us to remember our sins when we come to confess them, but it can help us to avoid them in the future. It can be very easy sometimes to leave confession, freshly absolved, with a feeling of freedom from the burden of our sins, only to fall very quickly into the same pattern as soon as we walk out of the church. Then, the following week, we find ourselves confessing the same sins all over again.
This can be likened to somebody who inhales a poisonous gas, and who goes to the hospital to receive the right treatment for his symptoms. He might leave the hospital fully cured and feeling better, but if he returns to the activity or place where he was exposed to the poison in the first place, he can hardly be surprised when he finds himself back in the hospital with the same problem.
In a similar way, we can come to Christ for forgiveness and, if we are contrite, we will receive it, but for there to be lasting healing there must be a true resolve on our part not merely to ask forgiveness for what we have done, but also to turn away from the way of life that led us to do it. This is our synergeia - our co-operation - with the work of God in our lives.
A list that we can take away with us can provide us with a helpful reminder of those elements of our lives - actions, thoughts, situations in which we place ourselves - that we are trying to avoid, and can help us to provide a model for the good things with which we wish to replace them.
The First Commandment
"You shall have no other gods before Me."
- Have I kept faith in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?
- Have I failed to trust in God and his mercy?
- Have I complained against God in times of trouble?
- Have I been thankful for God's blessings?
- Have I doubted the Christian faith and the teachings of the Church?
- Have I tried to serve God and keep his commandments?
- Have I entertained superstition?
- Have I given validity to the false teachings of heretics and other religions?
- Have I taken part in reiki, yoga, seances, or other demonic activity?
- Have I been ashamed of confessing faith in God through fear of ridicule or persecution?
- Have I failed to pray to God faithfully?
- Have I put myself and my will before God?
- Have I made excuses for my sins instead of confessing them to God with humility?
The Second Commandment
"You shall not make for yourself any idols, nor bow down to them, nor worshp them."
- Have I made an idol of any person or thing?
- Have I given to anyone or anything the worship or honour that is due to God alone?
- Have I prioritised other activities above the worship of God?
- Have I spent my money on frivolous items to the detriment of my life in Christ?
- Have I used my time, energy, and other resources on things that hinder my life in Christ?
- Have I received Holy Communion without fasting and regular confession?
- Have I read the Holy Scriptures regularly?
- Have I been irreverent during Church Services, let my attention wander, or been insincere?
The Third Commandment
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."
- Have I failed to give due honour and respect to the holy name of the Lord by using it in a casual or profane way? e.g. "Jesus Christ!", "Oh my God!", &c.
- Have I brought dishonour to the holy name of Jesus through shameful words and actions which were witnessed by those who know me to be a Christian?
- Have I cursed anyone or anything, or sworn a false oath?
- Have I failed to treat holy things with reverence and respect?
- Have I had due respect for the clergy of the Church, or hindered them in performing God's work?
- Have I broken any solemn vow or any promise made in the name of God?
The Fourth Commandment
"Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy."
- Have I stayed away from Church on Sundays and holy days, or prevented others from going?
- Have I spent the day in an unwholesome way or profaned it by improper conduct?
- Have I kept the night before church services with prayer, ensuring that any entertainment is wholesome and suitable?
- Have I failed to take part in the worshipping life of the Church without good reason?
- Have I neglected to receive Holy Communion regularly?
- If I could not go to church because of illness or some other serious cause, have I prayed at home?
- Have I caused anyone else to profane the Lord's Day?
- Have I kept the fasts and festivals prescribed by the Church?
The Fifth Commandment
"Honour your father and mother."
- Have I respected my parents and other members of my family?
- Have I caused them pain by my words or actions?
- Have I neglected them or failed to help them?
- Have I done my duty towards my family?
- Have I been wanting in love or kindness towards my spouse, or harmed him/her in any way?
- Have I set my children a good example and tried to bring them up properly?
- Have I corrected their faults with patience and not with anger?
- Have I over-indulged or spoiled them?
- Have I neglected my godchildren and failed in my obligations towards them?
- Have I honoured God as my heavenly Father by treating others as my brothers and sisters?
- Have I honoured the Church as my spiritual Mother by honoring and practising my faith in accordance with her teachings?
The Sixth Commandment
"You shall not murder."
- Have I caused the injury or death of anyone, or wished that they were dead?
- Have I done anything to shorten my own life or that of someone else?
- Have I been gluttonous, or otherwise neglected my physical and mental health?
- Have I indulged in the use of substances that damage my health and shorten my life?
- Have I encouraged others in the abuse of such substances?
- Have I fought against addiction to such substances or have I embraced it?
- Have I harboured anger, resentment, or hatred towards others?
- Have I allowed my uncontrolled anger to harm others with my words or actions?
- Have I failed to come to the aid those who asked for my help?
- Have I failed to recognise the dignity of every human being?
- Have I had or performed an abortion?
- Have I encouraged others in abortion, or given my support to the practice of abortion?
- Have I treated anybody unjustly?
- Have I failed to defend and advocate for people who have been unjustly treated?
- Have I been cruel to anyone?
- Have I mistreated animals or destroyed any life unnecessarily?
The Seventh Commandment
"You shall not commit adultery."
- Have I committed adultery?
- Have I tempted others to commit adultery?
- Have I lived in a chaste manner according to my state of life?
- Have I maintained custody of my eyes in situations of temptation?
- Have I failed to treat others with dignity and reduced them to objects of sexual desire?
- Have I placed my own sexual gratifcation above the good of myself and others?
- Have I used sexual activity to degrade or otherwise harm somebody else, within or without the marital bond?
- Have I used the promise of sexual rewards to encourage another to engage in sinful activity, within or without the marital bond?
- Have I used violence, intimidation, threats, or guilt to force another to satisfy my sexual desires, within or without the marital bond?
The Eighth Commandment
"You shall not steal."
- Have I stolen anything or conspired to do so?
- Have I kept anything that did not belong to me?
- Have I tried honestly to find owners of lost articles I have found?
- Have I paid my debts?
- Have I lived within my income, or have I lived wastefully and extravagantly?
- Have I given to charitable causes in proportion to my means?
- Have I been honest and upright?
The Ninth Commandment
"You shall not bear false witness."
- Have I told lies, or added to or subtracted from the truth?
- Have I made careless statements or spoken evil of anyone?
- Have I told any secrets entrusted to me, or betrayed the trust of anyone?
- Have I gossiped about anyone or harmed their reputation?
- Have I concealed the truth or assisted in carrying out a lie?
- Have I tried to see the shortcomings of others instead of looking for the good in them?
The Tenth Commandment
"You shall not covet."
- Have I been envious of the good that has come to others?
- Have I wished for anything that belonged to somebody else?
- Have I damaged or destroyed the property of others?
- Have I wished for things God has not given me, or been discontented with my lot?
- Have I held back anything due to somebody else?
- Have I been stingy with my own money and goods when they could have benefitted others?
- Have I hoped for the downfall of anyone so that I might gain by it?
- Have I failed to be gracious and generous to anyone?
- Have I expected God to give to me what I would deny to others?