St. Francis de Sales Church at 601 15th. Ave. North, Moorhead, MN 56560 US - The Examination of Conscience

The Examination of Conscience

The beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession is that it provides for the regular spiritual exercise of self-examination. In the parable about the pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus reveals to us the importance of self-examination.

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a pharisee and the other a tax collector. The pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
The pharisee, thinking himself to be righteous, makes no effort to seek mercy and forgiveness and therefore is completely unaware of his offenses. Many Christians fall into this trap. The notion of being "saved" has a tendency to overtake the conscience and actually block spiritual growth in areas of humility and more importantly awareness of one's faults and weaknesses. These are critical for us to identify areas needing improvement.

Making a cursory confession in prayer of sins in general does not really suffice to bring about any real growth, because without any depth of knowledge of one's weaknesses, it is merely paying lip service to God. But to actually examine the conscience and take stock of instances when one has been rude or deceitful or thought evil thoughts brings one down to the level from which Jesus wants to raise us up. He said, "He who humbles himself will be exalted." This means that he who humbles himself completely, presuming to start at the very bottom of the ladder each time, not half way up, will reap the rewards of grace.

Examination of Conscience based upon the Words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul 
Jesus said: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-40)
Love is patient, love is kind...
  • Do I love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind, or do I hold back because of my love of possessions or status or because of my own fear? Have I used the Lord's name in vain?
  • Do I express my love for God with daily prayer and participation in the Mass? Do I keep Sunday as a holy day?
  • Do I patiently wait for the Lord to hear my prayers?
  • Am I patient in putting into practice those things which God calls me to do?
  • Am I patient with my family, friends and co-workers?
  • Do I treat others with true kindness? Am I generous with my time, talent, and treasure with those in need?
  • Am I true to my family relationships? to my friends? Do I act or speak one way in their presence and another when they are gone?
  • Do I honor my parents and show them respect and love?
  • Do I empathize with others, especially those who are poor and vulnerable or who seem difficult to love?
Love is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude...
  • Am I jealous of other people? Do I covet their popularity, money, or possessions?
  • Do I look down on others of different races or financial status?
  • Am I quick to judge others?
  • Do I treat all people with respect and love?
Love does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury...
  • Do I put aside my own wishes and desires to serve God, as well as my family, parish, and community?
  • Do I become angry if things do not go "my way?"
  • Am I quick to speak harshly to others--those I love as well as strangers?
  • Am I able to truly forgive others? Or do I hang onto pain and mistrust?
  • Do I brood over wrongs others commit?
  • Have I committed violence against others? Have I struck someone in anger? Am I abusive--physically or emotionally--of a spouse or child?
  • Have I stolen from someone or kept something that does not belong to me?
  • Have I been faithful to my spouse?
Love does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth...
  • Do I rejoice in others' achievements or do I rejoice when others fail or are wronged?
  • Do I expect the best or the worst from other people?
  • Do I cherish the truth above all things? Am I true to my own word?
  • Do I gossip? lie? cheat?
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...
  • Do I bear the crosses in my life with patience and joy in the Lord?
  • Do I believe the tenets of the Catholic faith?
  • Do I live out the Church's beliefs in all facets of my life?
  • Do I wait in joyful hope for our Lord's return in glory?
  • Am I hopeful, even in the midst of the world's uncertainty?
  • Do I endure the trials of my life in faith? Am I willing to bear the cross of Christ?

A Prayer of the Penitent
Lord Jesus, you chose to be called the friend of sinners.
By your saving death and resurrection free me from my sins.
May your peace take root in my heart and bring forth a harvest of love, holiness, and truth. Amen.
--from the Rite of Penance

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