Fr. Timothy Smith
Parish Pastor for the Diocese of Sioux Falls
I have to give the Holy Spirit all the credit in my preparation for Confession. I did not make my first confession until I was 28 years old! I am a convert to the Catholic faith from mainline Protestantism. My first confession was a “general confession” that reviewed my moral life from the time of my childhood to the best of my recollection. It was a grace filled experienced that lasted almost an hour. I was assisted with an examination of conscience guide that helped me review all the areas of my life.
I have used several different examinations of conscience since that time, depending on my state in life. When I was in seminary I used an examination that focused on the duties for the life of a seminarian.
Here is my preparation process now as a priest:
- Pray and ask the Lord to show me where I need healing and forgiveness
- Review my duties and responsibilities in regards to the Four Cardinal Virtues
- Review an examination of conscience. There are several to choose from online or in most parish bookstands. I think most of the digital ones are fine.
- Sometimes the Sacred Scriptures convict me of my need to ask for God’s forgiveness. 1Corinthians 13 is a great example of a scripture that also works as an examination of conscience.
The examination of conscience I like to use comes from the Fathers of Mercy. On the back page it includes a simple listing of the seven capital sins, the seven capital virtues, the theological virtues, gifts of the Holy Spirit, and fruits of the Holy Spirit. I focus on these attributes of the moral life. By studying these gifts and virtues, most notably in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or more significantly in the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I have grown in my understanding of Christian Virtue and that helps me grow in the moral life with God’s Grace.