Examination of Conscience

One of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church is the Sacrament of Penance, commonly known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. In the Sacrament of Penance, the person receiving the sacrament (the penitent) confesses their sins to God through the person of a priest. The penitent is then absolved of all sins, receiving forgiveness from God, the source of all forgiveness. This reconciles the penitent to God and the Church.

But how do you know what to say when you go to confession?

For the most part, we are aware of our sins. A sin is something that we do intentionally, knowing that it is wrong. It an offense against God and ourself. Therefore, something you did accidentally, something you are not aware that you did, or something that you did without knowing it was wrong cannot be a sin. So most people can think of some past sins to bring to a confessional.

However, particularly when it’s been a long time since your last confession, it can be helpful to pray an examination of conscience, asking yourself when you may have failed to live up to God’s call for you and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in your confession.

An examination of conscience is typically a series of questions to help you think about and prayerfully reflect on your past actions. There are many, many different versions available, but ideally an examination of conscience should be rooted in scripture, usually the Ten Commandments.

You should pray an examination of conscience as close as possible to the time of your confession (ideally immediately before you celebrate the sacrament), asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in your confession.

Examinations of Conscience from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Examination of Conscience by Fr. John Trigilio

Examination of Conscience for Teens, from Life Teen Ministries

Examination of Conscience for Children


Written by 04-06-2023 Elizabeth Craig