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Examination of Conscience Using the 10 Commandments as our guide we reflect on our faults and failings before God. Be confident in His mercy and His desire to forgive. Search your heart and ask for the ability to truly repent -- to turn away from -- your sins. Jesus knows that you struggle, but He will help you if you ask Him. Important Note: Sins are not all the same. Some of the sins listed below are more serious than others. A grave or mortal sin is a serious offense against God which you freely and knowingly have committed. So, if you had no idea something was a sin (and honestly had no way of knowing) then your guilt is much less. Same if you were somehow forced into a sinful situation against your will -- you may have no guilt at all. If you have questions, feel free to ask a priest or one of the Brothers. 1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me. Do I give God time every day in prayer? Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart? Have I been involved in superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult? Do I seek to surrender myself to God’s word as taught by the Church? Have I ever received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin? Have I ever deliberately withheld a mortal sin from the priest in confession? 2. You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. Have I used God’s name carelessly or lightly? Do I deliberately hold any resentment or anger toward God? Have I wished evil upon any person? Have I insulted a sacred person or a sacred object? 3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day. Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy days of Obligation? Have I tried to observe Sunday as a day for spiritual renewal and rest? 4. Honor your father and your mother Do I honor and respect my parents? Do I try to bring peace to my family? Have I been irresponsible in my duties as a member of my family? Have I brought unnecessary hardship or pain to my family through any of my actions? 5. You shall not kill. Have I had an abortion or encouraged anyone to have an abortion? Have I physically harmed anyone? Have I abused alcohol or drugs? Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading them into sin? 6. You shall not commit adultery. Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage? Have I used any method of artificial contraception? Have I been guilty of masturbation? Have I deliberately consented to sexual fantasies or thoughts? Have I respected all members of the opposite sex, or have I thought of other people as sexual objects? Have I been involved in any homosexual activity? Do I dress in an immodest way? (That is, do I wear things that are too revealing which can be a temptation to others?) Do I read pornographic magazines, look at or watch movies or T.V. programs that include sexually explicit material? Do I look at pornography on the internet? 7. You shall not steal. Have I stolen what is not mine? Have I returned or made restitution (adequate compensation) for what I have stolen? Do I gamble excessively? Do I pay my debts? Am I generous toward others, especially the poor, with my material possessions? 8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Have I lied? Have I cheated on a test or paper? Have I damaged someone’s reputation because of my speech patterns? Have I gossiped? Am I critical, negative, or uncharitable in my thoughts of others? Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential? Do I negatively judge people’s motivations based on external perceptions or gossip? 9. You shall not desire your neighbor’s wife. Do I deliberately attempt to attract others to me in an impure way? Am I envious of others’ relationships and friendships? (Envy means that I’m not just jealous, but that I actively try to undermine those relationships.) Do I relate in an impure way to someone else’s spouse? Do I seek to control my thoughts and imagination against sinful fantasies? Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations? 10. You shall not desire your neighbor’s goods. Am I envious of what other people have? Am I greedy or selfish? Are material possessions the goal of my life? Do I trust that God will care for all of my material and spiritual needs? Confession, Here’s how to do it! 5 Easy Steps: 1. Begin with the Sign of the Cross, then you may say, “Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. It’s been ______ since my last confession.” 2. Priest will ask you to confess your sins in your own words. 3. Priest will give you words of encouragement and a penance. 4. Priest will invite you to say an Act of Contrition, a prayer in which you express sorrow for your sins and your intention to avoid these sins in the future (see below). 5. Priest will pronounce the words of Absolution. An Act of Contrition (an example) My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy. (There are other Acts of Contrition, and you are welcome to use whichever form you are comfortable with. You may also use your own words.) Confession Questions What’s a “near occasion of sin?” A near occasion of sin is a particular place, person, or thing which frequently causes you to fall into temptation and sin. So, if you struggle with alcoholism, it could be a party or a nightclub. If your weakness is pornography, it could be surfing the web or too much idle time with the TV remote. Sometimes, it’s a situation that is unavoidable. For example, if you have a bad relationship with someone in your family and you often argue and say hateful things, don’t avoid the person. Instead, try to avoid the circumstances that lead you to sin. Reflect on your patterns of thought and speech. Ask God to show you ways to nip arguments in the bud, and to avoid subjects that could be explosive. The remaining questions are answered from “Seeking Spiritual Direction” by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Q. How do we know that we are sincerely sorry, that we are not just going through a weekly or monthly routine, that our act of contrition is more than mere shame or no more than a wish to be better but with no real determination to change? A. You have touched on the very heart of this Sacrament. Our God is the God of authenticity. He is not satisfied with appearances and poses. This is why Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees: they were strong on externals but devoid of inner goodness and genuine sorrow. How do we know our contrition is sincere? We need not foretell our future as to success in avoiding our faults, but we must firmly intend to stop them. This implies the intention to take the means necessary to overcome bursts of anger or impatience, to be resolute in avoiding what leads to impurity, to take steps to give up vanity and laziness and idle talk and overeating. Repeated confession of these sins with no real decision to stop them, to be firm about amendment, does one little or no good. Q. What if the Church says it’s wrong, but I don’t feel it’s wrong? A. Many men and women are naive in trusting their own opinions... many people have never received instruction in the principles of morality. Thus they are incapable of forming consistently sound judgments about justice, charity, sexuality, speech, rights, and duties. Hence, they fall back on their feelings and sympathies, both of which are notoriously prone to being out of touch with...reality. Then, too, many have erroneous (misguided) consciences because they disregard the Church God has established to keep our minds morally clear and correct: “Go therefore make disciples of all the nations...I am with you” (said Jesus to the apostles). Matthew 28:19-20. When people reject the revealed assurance of right and wrong, what can they do but succumb to their own inner darkness and woundedness? Q. What is the difference between feelings and guilt? A. I have met (many) well-intentioned men and women who apparently have never heard a simple explanation, together with lucid examples, of the differences between willing and feeling, the differences between temptations and guilt. They take it for granted that to feel something deeply is to have willed it. For them strong feelings equal guilt...It is often the case that people have never learned how to distinguish the one from the other. One way to tell a mere feeling is that you cannot control it when you want to. Someone annoys you and there arises within, often necessarily and without your wanting it, the inner irritation we call impatience. There is no guilt in this inner surge because there is no free choice about it. Once you realize it is there and can choose how you will react, reasonably or unreasonably, you then act with freedom either in being harsh or gentle [this is where your guilt or virtue is established]. Q. How about when I feel a strong dislike, an antipathy toward someone who rubs me the wrong way? I don’t want the feeling of dislike or hatred, but I cannot get rid of it despite all my efforts. A. Your trying to be rid of the antipathy is proof that your will is not in it. There is nothing to confess, for there is no guilt. If on the other hand, you knowingly and thus freely are cold or indifferent toward this person, you are guilty. But the feelings alone prove nothing.
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