Wednesday, December 30, 2015


1) Examination of Conscience

An examination of conscience consists in making a review of the faults committed (i.e thoughts, words, deeds and omissions), principally the grave ones (mortal sins) since your last good confession. You can examine your life in the light of the Ten Commandments, the commandment of ‘love of neighbor’, the Precepts of the Church, the deadly sins and/or the duties of one’s state in life (i.e. family, occupation, etc.). A practical piece of advice is to examine one’s faults mainly in the light of the Ten Commandments. You can find examinations of conscience (click here) in missals, devotional books, manuals, etc. that are very useful in making a good confession.

2) Sorrow for sins committed (also known as ‘heart-felt sorrow’)

Upon finishing the examination of conscience, you should ask Our Lord to grant you the grace of experiencing a profound contrition of all the sins committed, especially for those mortal sins that have offended Him. Immediately after that you should make an act of sincere repentance. In order to do so, it is advisable to recite the “Act of Contrition” along with the following prayer/poem:

To Christ Crucified

My God, it does not move me to befriend Thee
that Thou hast promised heavenly salvation,
and terror of eternal condemnation
is not what moves my ceasing to offend Thee.
To see Thee moves me, Lord, as nails suspend Thee
upon the Cross, in great humiliation;
Thy wounded body shows Thy tribulation
as we to cruel disgrace and death do send Thee!
Thy love so moves me naught to prize above Thee
that were there not a Hell I yet would fear Thee
and were there not a Heaven I would love Thee.
Thou needst not give me more to have me love Thee,
for, had I not such hope of being near Thee,
I yet would love Thee just as now I love Thee.

Types of sorrow (repentance)

a) “Perfect contrition” consists of feeling a deep sorrow for sins committed, motivated by the love of God, and the realization that these sins offend Him. The sinner regrets having offended God and firmly resolves to sin no more. The grief that arises due to love to God, together with a firm determination to go to confession at the earliest opportunity, gives the sinner justification (i.e. where the sinner is free from the penalty of sin) and grants him sanctifying grace; however, he is obligated to confess his mortal sins to a priest as soon as possible (Luke, 7:47). Nevertheless, if death should overtake him, even before the sacramental confession takes place, he is saved. It is therefore advisable to recite an act of perfect contrition every day, just before going to bed. In addition, when a person’s sins are mortal, an act of perfect contrition never sanctions a person to receive Holy Communion without first going to confession (there is no obligation to confess venial sins in order to be able to receive Communion).

b) “Imperfect contrition” or ‘attrition’ is the sorrow that one feels due to fear of divine punishments (eternal or temporary) fairly deserved for our sins. This kind of sorrow is sufficient for remission of sin through Confession but not for obtaining divine grace without it. This means that, by itself, attrition does not wipe away sins but rather only after first confessing to a priest.

3) Firm Purpose of Amendment (not to sin again)

A purpose of amendment is a firm resolution of the sinner to not offend God anymore. This intent needs to be made before going to Confession. Jesus said to the sinner: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11) and the sinner must make this purpose of amendment (i.e. ‘I don’t want to sin ever again’). If there is not a real purpose of amendment, the confession is deemed invalid.

Moreover, this purpose must be coupled with repentance (or heart-felt sorrow). It also has to be firm, effective and universal (specifically embracing all mortal sins). It must rise from true repentance and it can be achieved by awareness of all types of evil caused by sin.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the sinner will never sin again, but it does signify that he is determined to do everything possible to avoid sinning. It’s not a matter of certainty but of determination not to fall again, with God’s grace. It’s about being sure of not wanting to sin from that moment on. This is similar to what happens when leaving the house: you don’t know if you’re going to trip over something, but you’re certain you don’t want to.

This purpose must not be only negative: not to do this, not to say that… We should also make positive purposes: pray more attentively, be nicer to everybody, to speak well of others, not to speak when angry, to be thankful, to watch only good TV shows, to speak to the person I don’t like, etc.

4) Confession (to list all committed sins to a priest)

Confession compels us to tell to the priest ALL mortal sins committed since our last good confession. Additionally, one must say the number of times a specific kind of mortal sin was committed and any aggravating factors (i.e. the circumstances that increase the gravity of a mortal sin); for example, stealing from a poor man is worse than stealing from a rich one. It is convenient to say venial sins, too, though the latter is not compulsory.

5) Satisfaction (To do penance)

The satisfaction is the penance imposed by the priest to the penitent in order to redress, make amends and give satisfaction for the debt contracted by offending God. There must be willingness to accept and fulfill the penance (however, if it can’t be done due to forgetfulness without fault of negligence, etc., the sacrament is still valid).

There are some sins where restitution is required, too. Thus, we must restore stolen money. Or if we have libeled someone, we need to tell the truth about that person in order to restore their honor. Restitution obliges as far as it’s really possible, so if someone has stolen but does not have the means to return what was stolen, this obligation remains in abeyance until he has the means, since nobody is expected to do the impossible. It is licit to make restitution without exposing ourselves as thieves or slanderers, provided we don’t lie or let someone else (an innocent person) take the blame for our sin. In many cases, it is a matter of exercising discretion and intelligence. If there is not a real intention of restoring what was stolen (to the extent of our ability), confession will be futile, due to it being an essential requirement for it to be valid.


Lastly, it is important to bear in mind that it is God Himself who forgives our sins when we make a good confession. Christ left us this sacrament, which is a tangible sign of a real judgment. The priest, by the power received from Christ, becomes a judge. In that judgment, sins are withheld or forgiven. As an instrument of God, this judge is obliged (under pain of mortal sin and excommunication), to maintain an absolute silence about everything related to the confession. “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (John 20:21-23). Only heretical arrogance tries to bypass the tribunal established by God Himself for the forgiveness of sins, with those declaring the absurd and worthless claim of “confessing directly and only to God”. Unfortunately, many have been victims of this deceit. Let us pray much for those souls of good faith who have been drawn into such error so they can realize the deception.

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Source of information: Blog CATOLICIDAD Translated from Spanish by: Fabiola Lozano.

Click here: Examination of Conscience