P E N A N C E /R E C O N C I L I A T I O N
The Sacrament of Penance is the first of two sacraments of healing. Not only does it [the Sacrament of Penance] free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are liberated to be forgivers. We obtain new insight into the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: "It is in pardoning that we are pardoned."
Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The Sacrament of Penance is God's gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). ~from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults
Examinations of Conscience
Before celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, one should prepare oneself with an examination of conscience, which involves reflecting prayerfully on one's thoughts, words, and deeds in order to identify any sins.
There are various types of examinations of conscience but regardless of which one you use to prepare yourself for the Sacrament it should be rooted in Scripture; particularly, the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes. Below are a few examples of Examinations of Conscience that can help you prepare for the Sacrament.
Based on the Ten Commandments
- I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me. Have I treated people, events, or things as more important than God?
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church, or people?
- Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Do I go to Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation (Jan. 1; the Ascension; Aug. 15; Nov. 1; Dec. 8; Dec. 25)? Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship to God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body? Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?
- Honor your father and your mother. Do I show my parents due respect? Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents where possible? Do I criticize them for lacking skills I think they should have?
- You shall not kill. Have I harmed another through physical, verbal, or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?
- You shall not commit adultery. Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself?
- You shall not steal. Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another?
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of another?
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse. Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. Am I content with my own means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?
In Light of Catholic Social Teaching
Life and Dignity of Human Person
- Do I respect the life and dignity of every human person from conception through natural death?
- Do I recognize the face of Christ reflected in all others around me whatever their race, class, age, or abilities?
- Do I work to protect the dignity of others when it is being threatened?
- Am I committed to both protecting human life and to ensuring that every human being is able to live in dignity?
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
- Do I try to make positive contributions in my family and in my community?
- Are my beliefs, attitudes, and choices such that they strengthen or undermine the institution of the family?
- Am I aware of problems facing my local community and involved in efforts to find solutions? Do I stay informed and make my voice heard when needed?
- Do I support the efforts of poor persons to work for change in their neighborhoods and communities? Do my attitudes and interactions empower or disempower others?
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
- Do I give special attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable in my community and in the world?
- Am I disproportionately concerned for my own good at the expense of others?
- Do I engage in service and advocacy work that protects the dignity of poor and vulnerable persons?
- Does the way I spend my time reflect a genuine concern for others?
- Is solidarity incorporated into my prayer and spirituality? Do I lift up vulnerable people throughout the world in my prayer, or is it reserved for only my personal concerns?
- Am I attentive only to my local neighbors or also those across the globe?
- Do I see all members of the human family as my brothers and sisters?
Care for God's Creation
- Do I live out my responsibility to care for God’s creation?
- Do I see my care for creation as connected to my concern for poor persons, who are most at risk from environmental problems?
- Do I litter? Live wastefully? Use energy too freely? Are there ways I could reduce consumption in my life?
- Are there ways I could change my daily practices and those of my family, school, workplace, or community to better conserve the earth’s resources for future generations?