Know that you are a sinner
“If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8-9).The Pope speaks repeatedly of the modern “loss of the sense of sin”.The saints knew they were sinners, and could names and confess their sins –are we better than they were?To not feel guilty when we sin is a sign of a sick and disordered conscience.“
If the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor the medicine cannot heal what it does not know
”(Catechism n.1456, quoting the Council of Trent), i.e. confess your sins to ‘show’ them to the healing power of forgiveness.
Know that you are forgiven
We are liberated from guilt when we acknowledge it and are forgiven for it.Confession is good for the soul and for our psychological health. It is good for us to hear someone say that we are forgiven.Jesus died on the cross to free us from our sins. He left us the ministry of priests to be the means by which we are forgiven.
Canon Law requires us to go to confession at least once a year (Canon 989), preferably at Easter – “the Easter Duty”.Standard advice strongly recommends going at least once a month.St. Francis de Sales recommends devout souls go every week (
Introduction to the Devout Life
, II, 19).A typical FOCUS missionary frequency is every two weeks.
Why make a more detailed confession?
(i) To aid your own sanctity(ii) To grow in self-knowledge and self-honesty(ii) Apostolic: To be better able to lead others to use this sacrament
Don’t be too freaked out at the length of the list of sins on the examination of conscience.Note that many of the questions are the same sin re-phrased in a different question.The long list aims to remove the “I’ve not committed any sins” claim. The list does not aim to overwhelm you!
Internalise your examination of conscience
. i.e. don’t take in a typed up list that you have put ‘checks’ against.Internalise your examination as
list! If it helps your memory, and makes it easier, write your list down.
Seven Deadly Sins
: Anagram: PLACES-G, Pride, Lust, Anger, Covetousness, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony.We can usually assume that
of these capital sins is at work in us in some manner and degree, an examination of conscience should help us see
. Try to focus on each of them to a similar depth, e.g. not only on sins of pride.
Purpose of Amendment
–being sorry means that we
not to do it again, i.e. we do not
to do the same thing.Note: Confession does not enable us to fool God by confessing what we plan to keep doing. God will not be mocked.
Start your confession by
stating your state of life, e.g. single/dating.Sometimes: add anything that might
explain what you’re going to say
in the confession, e.g. “I’m a FOCUS missionary doingcampus apostolate, and committed to certain prayers in my plan of life; I share an apartment with a roommate”.
Sins of Omission
–say what these are. i.e. do not just say, “I’ve committed sins of omission”,rather, say, “I’ve failed to be attentive to the needs of my roommate”, or, “I’ve omitted to say my prayers” etc.
–a BIG sin in FOCUS, regrettably. It is also highly unprofessional.Being late wastes the time of the people waiting for you. Being late says that you think that your time is more important thattheirs. Being early says that you value your meeting and you value the people you are meeting.
–note that this is moral obligation! We have a duty to rest so that we can effectively work at other times. And get enough sleep!Humour –St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that there is a moral obligation to be humourous (because we make life tooburdensome for our neighbour otherwise). However, jokes can be inappropriate or insensitive –this sort of insensitivity canbe a matter of sin.
–note that there is not a universal obligation for every human being to do a daily Holy Hour.However, you have acquired certain moral obligations by joining FOCUS and committing yourself to a certain plan of life.Confessing your failure in this is therefore confessing your unfaithfulness to your plan of life.
–be clear, but don’t give gross detail. The priest does not want excessive detail, but
he needs enough detail to understand what you are confessing
. The priest does not want to ask a follow up question about this, but if you’re vague he may need to!e.g. “I was impure with my girlfriend” –does this mean intercourse, or heavy petting, or conversation?! It is unclear.“I engaged in heavy petting with my girlfriend; we didn’t keep to our agreed boundaries for physical contact” –the priest will
need to ask a follow-up question after this:he knows what you did, he knows you are sorry, he knows that you have a usual plan for how to avoid this sin.e.g.“I was impure with myself”. Unclear.Describe: The act itself; The degree of consent; The number of times:“I engaged in an incomplete act of masturbation, while half-sleep, on two occasions”. Clear.
–note the distinction. The tongue is a dangerous thing. Note the comments about how everyone has a right to agood name. It is important to understand why this is the case, otherwise we can think we are justified in spreading gossip.