How to do an examination of conscience before Confession

There are as many ways to examine your conscience before Confession as there are ways to skin a cat.

Okay, wrong comparison. (I assure you I don’t skin cats.)

Cuuute. Photo by Martin Poole on Getty Images

Cuuute. And unskinnable. Photo by Martin Poole on Getty Images

But yes, there are different ways to see how we have offended God since our last Confession. Some take a long time and involve a lengthy list of questions; some are very short, about three minutes. (Normally the length of time spent on the examination depends on the length of time since one’s last Confession.)

But whether long or short, an examination of conscience essentially involves a few unforgettable steps. Here’s a simple process:

  1. Put yourself in the presence of God. Ask the Holy Spirit for light and humility.
  2. Try to remember when you did your last Confession. You’ll need to tell the priest about this later on (e.g. one week, one month, two years, 10 years).
  3. Go through each of the Ten Commandments, and see how you might have violated it. Can’t remember all ten? You can download this guide if you’re a teen, or this if you’re an adult. For each sin committed or good thing omitted, try to remember how many times you did it. No need to be Sheldon Cooper-ishly exact about numbers, just tell the priest about your lack of sureness (e.g. “I did it four, maybe five, times.”)
  4. Memorize the sins you’ll confess. You can make a list if you want, but make sure you dispose of it properly afterwards (nobody wants their sins publicized, right?).
  5. Thank God for showing you light.
  6. Make a sincere act of contrition, from the bottom of your heart.
  7. Go confess! 
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