“Ask a Priest: How Can I Go Deeper in My Conscience Exams?”

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Q: I need some guidance on confession. I know that the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes are guides for examination of conscience, but what are some deeper guides that I can use? – B.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If you are simply looking for a long list of questions for reflection, these postings might help: https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/99-questions-to-complete-your-examination-of-conscience-6023 and https://spiritualdirection.com/exam.

If you are looking for a more global approach, you might focus on one or two of your recurrent sins (we all seem to have them) and try to articulate what it is that causes you commit them over and over.

For instance, in the case of anger, you might say in confession, “I got angry several times with my spouse in the past two weeks because I’m stubborn about my point of view on X. I fail to remember that Jesus is perhaps inviting me to make acts of concession in order to practice humility, for the greater good of our marriage.”

Or, “I wasn’t charitable to my neighbor with the spiked hair and pierced nose because I fail to recognize Christ in him. I forget those words from Matthew 25, ‘I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.’ I forget that Jesus really is present in the people around me. I need grace to overcome this kind of blindness.”

It might also be good to write your own act of contrition and use it in the confessional. Let the words come from the heart.

Also helpful would be to think about compiling a vocation statement and a program of life.

In a nutshell, the vocation statement is a statement of how you see yourself. Who you are? What are you here for? Where are you going?

The program of life is a plan that you follow in order to overcome your root sin and to grow in virtue.

The root sins are pride, vanity and sensuality. Pride is when we put ourselves ahead of God. Vanity is when we put the opinion of others ahead of God. Sensuality is when we put things ahead of God. We have a mix of all three, but there is usually one dominant sin in our life.

The program of life is a way to battle that root sin, primarily by working on the opposite virtue.

These links used by the Regnum Christi movement (which oversees this RC Spirituality site) might help:

https://www.regnumchristi.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/29-Sec-2.5-The-Vocation-Statement-and-Program-of-Life.pdf

https://www.regnumchristi.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Program-of-Life-Examples-and-Outline.pdf

http://www.regnumchristi.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Regnum-Christi-Personal-Program.pdf

Another suggestion would be to take advantage of the things on the RC Spirituality site, especially the Retreat Guides. These two conferences from some Retreat Guides are actually dedicated to helping you understand more deeply and pray more fruitfully your daily conscience examen: The Examen Prayer and Finding God in All Things.

You might even consider attending a live retreat with Regnum Christi.

I hope some of this helps.

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