Advent is the period at the beginning of the Liturgical Year preparing the faithful for the coming of the Baby Jesus at Christmas. It is a time of intense spiritual preparation, both for the birth of Christ at Christmas and for His Second Coming, at the end of time, and for the coming of Christ into our own hearts and lives in a fresh, joyful and intimate reunion with Him.
As we prepare for His coming, the Church asks us to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession) through which we experience His mercy and grace. We believe that the sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. The outward sign is the absolution, or forgiveness of sins, that the priest grants to the penitent (the person confessing his sins); the inward grace is the reconciliation of the penitent to God (which is why the sacrament is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
That reconciling of man to God is the purpose of this sacrament. When we sin, we deprive ourselves of God’s grace. And by doing so, we make it even easier to sin some more. The only way out of this downward cycle is to acknowledge our sins, to repent of them, and to ask God’s forgiveness. Then, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, grace can be restored to our souls, and we can once again resist sin.
There are three important aspects of making a good confession. We must be contrite, or in other words, sorry for our sins. We must confess those sins fully, in kind and in number, as accurately as possible, though it may not be necessary to describe the sin in detail. We must be willing to do penance and make amends for our sins. Making amends includes not only making things right with God, but also restoring damaged relationships resulting from the effects of our sins.
In addition to our daily review of the condition of our life and our heart, we should spend extra time in preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There are many ways of making an examen of our conscience. One way is through a reflective review of how we have kept (or not kept) the Ten Commandments. We give you one such outline as a guide to help you begin your reflection in preparation for putting your life in order this Advent season.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
a. Do I give God time every day in prayer?
b. Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart?
c. Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult?
d. Do I seek to surrender myself to God’s work as taught by the Church?
e. Have I ever received communion in the state of mortal sin?
f. Are there other “gods” in my life? Money, Security, Power, People, Work, etc.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
a. Have I used God’s name in vain: lightly or carelessly?
b. Have I been angry with God?
c. Have I wished evil upon any other person?
d. Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?
e. Have I denied the Lord’s action in my life?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
a. Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of obligation?
b. Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?
c. Do I do needless work on Sunday?
d. Do I neglect the Lord on Sundays or Holy Days of obligation in favor of rest, recreation, and/or the pursuit of pleasure?
4. Honor your father and your mother.
a. Do I honor and obey my parents?
b. Have I neglected my duties to my spouse and children?
c. Have I given my family a good religious example?
d. Do I try to bring peace into my home life?
e. Do I care for my aged and infirm relatives?
5. You shall not kill.
a. Have I had an abortion or encouraged or helped anyone to have an abortion?
b. Have I physically harmed anyone?
c. Have I abused myself with alcohol or drugs?
d. Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading him or her into sin?
e. Have I been angry or resentful?
f. Have I harbored hatred in my heart?
g. Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization? Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization?
h. Have I engaged, participating or encouraging in any way, in sins against human life such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization? Or euthanasia?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
a. Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
b. Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?
c. Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?
d. Have I been guilty of masturbation?
e. Do I seek to control my thoughts and imagination?
f. Have I respected all members of the opposite sex, or have I thought of other people as mere objects?
g. Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words, and actions?
h. Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?
i. Am I careful to dress and act modestly?
7. You shall not steal.
a. Have I stolen what is not mine?
b. Have I engaged in any acts of bribery, extortion, fraud/cheating, blackmail or usury?
c. Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen, or taken without permission?
d. Do I waste time at work, school, and home?
e. Do I gamble excessively, thereby denying my family of their needs?
f. Do I pay my debts promptly?
g. Do I seek to share what I have with the needy and those who have less in life?
h. Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, big corporations, the government?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
a. Have I lied? Have I gossiped? Have I spread malicious or naughty rumors about others?
b. Do I speak badly of others behind their backs?
c. Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
d. Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?
e. Have I made rash judgments that have hurt others?
f. Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
g. Have I injured the reputation of others by slander?
h. Do I keep my promises?
9. You shall not desire your neighbor’s wife.
a. Have I consented to impure thoughts?
b. Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, television, conversation or curiosity?
c. Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?
d. Have I behaved in an inappropriate way with members of the opposite sex: flirting, inappropriate touching/feeling, being superficial, etc.?
e. Do I treat members of the opposite sex with respect and Christian charity/love?
10. You shall not desire your neighbor’s goods.
a. Am I jealous of what other people have?
b. Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
c. Am I greedy or selfish?
d. Are material possessions the purpose of my life?
e. Do I envy those in authority/power?