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The Five Things Necessary for a Good Confession November 15, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Interior Life, North Deanery, priests, Sacraments, Saints, Virtue.

I’m going to try to focus a great deal on Confession as we head into Advent.  I have come to feel more and more that Confession is perhaps the most neglected Sacrament in the Church today.  Many Catholics have little understanding of it, why it is necessary, and how powerful a tool it can be for spiritual growth.  Most of the material I post will be drawn from the booklet Confession: Its Fruitful Practice

The Five Things Necessary for a Good Confession

As every well instructed Catholic knows (which, today, may not be many, including myself), the five things necessary for a good Confession are:

  1. An Examination of Conscience
  2. Contrition, or sorrow, for our sins
  3. A Firm Purpose of Amendment
  4. the Confession of one’s sins to a priest
  5. Acceptance of one’s penance, and performing it in a timely manner

We’ll start today with a look at what constitutes an examination of conscience, and follow up tomorrow with some of the common failings in this practice. 

Sin is akin to spiritual leprosy.  It is a deadly ailment that destroys the soul.  The priest has been appointed by Our Blessed Lord as a spiritual physician, to heal the diseases of the soul.  But to do so, the priest, like any other physician, must know the nature of the disease. He must have a knowledge of the sins we have committed, including pertinent details that may bear on them, such as our state in life (married, single, religious, clergy, etc) or the circumstances surrounding the sin.  The penitent, therefore, must make known to him the exact state of his soul.  But to do this, the penitent must have that knowledge himself.  To gain this knowledge, it is undoubtedly necessary for the penitent to search seriously into his life since the time of his last Confession, reflecting upon his thoughts, words, deeds, and omissions.  This is the Examination of Conscience. It must be performed with great earnestness and care, mindful of the warning of St. Paul: “But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”

A regular examination of conscience (most holy priests and numerous Saints recommended that such examinations take place daily) can help elucidate the state of one’s soul and their spiritual progress. By regularly reviewing one’s actions during the day, perhaps as a part of their evening prayers, both sins and virtues can be ascertained, and areas identified where a soul may need some improvement.  Many have found that regular examinations will, over time, gradually reveal more areas of sin or imperfections to the penitent, sins of which they may not have been aware when they began the process of regular examinations.  Many find that they develop a more sensitive conscious, that as they identify and overcome the obvious sins and failings, they will find other, more subtle ones – often, these are the root cause of the more obvious sins.  As such, the soul can make great progress in the spiritual life.  On the converse, the same process will work with the practice of virtue – one may find on an initial examination some obvious virtues they need to better practice, but as time goes on the soul may become aware of a need to grow in other, less obvious virtues.  Again, the entire process is dedicated to helping the soul assess his or her state, and then work to steadily improve on that state.  Examination of conscience is a foundational element of the interior life.


1. More on Confession – Examination of Conscience « A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - November 17, 2011

[…] last post on Confession and its Fruitful Practice discussed the five elements of a good Confession.  The first of these is an examination of […]

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