I received a couple of emails and asked to elaborate on how to perform an examination of conscience and what to do in the confessional.
I like to recall what I learned from during my novice masters early in my spiritual life as a monk; also taken from Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. teachings.
part of preparation for the reception of the Sacrament of Penance
a daily prayerful reflection on our service of God
Two basic examens of conscience.
1) general examen
2) particular examen
First, thank our Lord for the graces He has given me, whether pleasant or painful, with which I have faithfully cooperated. For this I thank Him.
Second, ask myself where I have failed to cooperate with the grace that God has given me during the day e.g. the practice of humility, or prudence, or charity, or patience. Be concrete and specific.
Third, briefly recall the circumstances which occasioned your moral failure.
Then do the obvious thing of asking our Lord to forgive you and give you the strength to avoid this sin in the future.
Finally, plan for the future. It means that I look forward to what I am to do, and avoid doing, in the next day.
All of us have certain tendencies across the whole spectrum of moral misbehavior. Yet no two of us are identical in which of these tendencies is predominant. Some are more prone to pride than to lust. Some are more prone to anger than to greed. Some are more prone to envy than to sloth. In fact, each one of us changes from time to time in what failure of our moral conduct is dominant, depending on the circumstances and persons who enter our lives.The particular examen concentrates on coping with the predominant moral weakness of our own personality.
In God’s providence, He allows us to fail in those areas in which He especially wants us to grow in virtue. We can fail in the practice of these virtues either by commission, omission, or by tepidity, in not acting as generously as we might in responding to the grace we have received from God.
- Do I make an honest effort to grow in the virtue of faith by daily mental prayer on the mysteries of the faith as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ?
- Do I pray daily for an increase of faith?
- Do I ever tempt God by relying on my own strength to cope with the trials in my life?
- Do I unnecessarily read or listen to those who oppose or belittle what I know are truths of my Catholic faith?
- What have I done today to externally profess my faith?
- Do I ever defend my faith, prudently and charitably, when someone says something contrary to what I know is to be believed?
- Have I helped someone overcome a difficulty against the faith?
- Do I immediately say a short prayer when I find myself getting discouraged?
- Do I dwell on my worries instead of dismissing them from my mind?
- Do I fail in the virtue of hope by my attachment to the things of this world?
- Do I try to see God’s providence in everything that “happens” in my life?
- Do I try to see everything from the viewpoint of eternity?
- Am I confident that, with God’s grace, I will be saved?
- Do I allow myself to worry about my past life and thus weaken my hope in God’s mercy?
- Do I try to combine every fully deliberate action with at least a momentary prayer for divine help?
- How often today have I complained, even internally?
- Have I told God today that I love Him?
- Do I tell Jesus that I love Him with my whole heart?
- Do I take the occasion to tell God that I love Him whenever I experience something I naturally dislike?
- Have I capitalized on the difficulties today to tell God that I love Him just because He sent me the trial or misunderstanding?
- Do I see God’s love for me in allowing me to prove my love for Him in the crosses He sent me today?
- Have I seen God’s grace to prove my love for Him in every person whom I met today?
- Have I failed in charity by speaking unkindly about others?
- Have I dwelt on what I considered someones unkindness toward me today?
- Is there someone that I consciously avoid because I dislike the person?
- Did I try to carry on a conversation today with someone who is difficult to talk to?
- Have I been stubborn in asserting my own will?
- How thoughtful have I been today in doing some small favor for someone?
- Have I allowed my mood to prevent me from being thoughtful of others today?
- Am I given to dwelling on other people’s weaknesses or faults?
- Have I been cheerful today in my dealings with others?
- Do I control my uncharitable thoughts as soon as they arise in my mind?
- Did I pray for others today?
- Have I controlled my emotions when someone irritated me?
- Have I performed any sacrifice today for someone?
PREPARATION FOR CONFESSION
Before going to Confession, examine your conscience; call to mind the times you broke the ten commandments and make a record/ memorise ALL your sins (mortal & venial) or write them down
Go into the confessional and Bless yourself. Say ‘Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been (state how long it has been) since my last confession.
These are my sins.’ Review ALL the sins you had written down or memorized; don’t hold any back – he is listening only to understand and give spiritual direction if needed.
It isn’t necessary to go into details unless he asks. If you don’t know whether something is a sin, just ask him.
When you have named all your sins say’ for all the sins I have ever committed I am truly sorry.”
The Priest will then prescribe a penance so listen carefully so you can fulfill the obligation to complete one of the elements to the Sacrament.
When he has finished he will ask you to say an act of Contrition – this is the one I learned in grade school for first confession:
‘O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all-good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.’
The Priest will then grant you absolution (forgiveness).
Leave the confessional with a truly contrite heart. Generally, return to your pew and say your penance as soon as possible so that you don’t forget and in future try to never sin again.
You are then completely cleansed of your sins.The Lord has granted you forgiveness and you can be happy and have peace of soul.