An Examination of Conscience for Teenagers
based on the Seven Deadly Sins
by Fr. Dylan James, 8-8-08
This examination of conscience is also available as a 2-sided Word document to either view or download at a Google Drive in American page size here or A4 page size here.
All references in the text below are to the Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas.
5 STEPS FOR A GOOD CONFESSION
1. Examine your conscience -recall the sins that you have committed since your last good confession.
2. Be sincerely sorry for your sins.
3. Confess your sins to the priest.
4. Make certain that you confess all your mortal sins and the number of them.
5. After confession, do the penance the priest gives to you.
ACT OF CONTRITION
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend You, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
Sins of omission: “In what I have done, and in what I have failed to do” -sins of omission may be more serious than sins of commission
e.g.Have I omitted to say my prayers?
Have I omitted to look for and respond to the needs of my friends?
Thought: “In thought, word, and deed”
e.g. Even if I did not gossip in word, did I judge someone in thought?
Each area of my life should be considered:
e.g. My family, my friends, school life, study
Each area of my life should be considered: my family, my friends, my study, my work, my prayer, those I work and live with etc.
Anagram: PLACES-G (the seven deadly sins):
Pride, Lust, Anger, Covetousness, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony
We can usually assume that each of these capital sins is at work in us in some manner and degree, an examination of conscience should help us see how.
Note: The following examination of conscience groups sins according to the capital sins, the seven deadly sins from which other sins typically flow. The same material act may be sinful for different reasons, therefore each person needs to apply this examination to himself carefully. E.g. An act of lying is wrong, but it might be motivated by the capital sin of vanity (to make you look good), or from the capital sin of sloth/laziness (to avoid work), or from envy (to damage the reputation of another), or from a mixture of all three.
E.g. The material act of giving to the poor can be motivated by charity (virtue) or by vanity (vice). Hence this examination uses the vices to specify our sins.
Pride (ST II-II q162)
Pride is the mother of all sin (St. Gregory the Great, c.f. St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica II-II q162 a8).
Have I dwelt on the failings of others?
Have I judged others, in my thoughts or words?
Have I ranked myself better than others?
Have I borne hated for others?
Have I refused to learn from others?
Have I been stubborn? Refused to admit I was wrong? Refused to accept that another person had a better idea?
Have I been arrogant?
Have I refused to admit my own weaknesses?
Have I held others in contempt?
Pusillanimity –the opposite of pride:
Have I neglected to use the talents that God has given me?
Pusillanimity –the opposite of pride. False-humility fails to use our gifts.
Have I neglected to use the talents that God has given me?
Vanity (ST II-II q132)
Vanity is excessive concern about what others think of me –not just what they think of my appearance
Have I been overly concerned about what others think of me? Have I allowed this to motivate my actions?
Have I lied or exaggerated to make myself look good?
Have I wasted undue time and money on clothes and appearance?
Have I exercised in a vain manner, or with an excessive concern to make my body perfect?
Have I been content with my lowly position?
Lust (ST II-II q.153; CCC 2351)
“Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.”(CCC 2351).
Custody of the Eyes: “Whoever looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28)
Have I viewed other people as mere sexual objects rather than as persons to be loved?
Pornography: On internet? or TV? or books?
Have I entertained impure thoughts?
Have I consented to impure thoughts?
Alone: Impure touches?
Incomplete or complete impure acts?
Impure touches with boy/girlfriend?
Have I flirted/toyed with the feelings of another?
Thoughtlessness: Have I thoughtfully considered and planned my actions?
Have I applied the standards of Christ to my actions?
Have I sought to avoid situations of sin?
Have I driven recklessly, broken the speed limit (excessively)?
Have I respected the traffic laws enacted by the legitimate authority? (‘Fear God and honour the emperor’ 1 Pet 2:17)
Have I driven while under the influence of alcohol?
Anger/Wrath (ST II-II q158)
Anger is undue desire for vengeance –undue in cause or in amount.
Note the just anger of Christ cleansing the Temple: 'Zeal for thy house will consume me.' (Ps. 68:10): “How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" (John 2:15-16)
Have I harboured resentment, grudges, and hatred in my thoughts?
Have I nurtured imaginary angry conversations?
Have I been slow to forgive?
Have I lost my temper?
How have I carried my cross?
How have I carried my cross?
Have I been impatient with people, family, events, sufferings, sicknesses?
Covetousness/Avarice (ST II-II q118 a1)
Avarice is the excessive love of possessing things
Have I cheated, stolen, or failed to return things that I borrowed?
Did I borrow things without permission?
Have I been generous and cheerful in giving?
Have I wasted money?
Envy (ST II-II q36)
Envy/Jealousy –is sadness at the happiness or good of another
Have I envied or been jealous of the abilities, talents, ideas, plans, good-looks, intelligence, clothes, car, possessions, friends etc of another person?
Have I taken pleasure in the failure or misfortune of another?
Have I rejoiced in the talents and good fortune of others?
Gossip and Sins of Speech:
Gossip: Have I judged others in my thoughts?
Have I damaged the reputation of another person by my words, attitude, or looks?
Have I repeated accusations that might not be true? Have I exaggerated?
Have I said things that were true but that I nonetheless should have kept private?
Have I failed to defend the reputation of others?
Have I failed to keep secrets?
Do I despise others of different race or class?
Lies: Have I lied or exaggerated?
Sloth/Apathy (ST II-II q35)
Laziness, especially in the things of God. Sloth is a sorrow in the face of spiritual good -it makes you lethargic and want to do nothing.
Have I sought God above all else, or have I put other priorities ahead of him? (e.g. friendships, ambition, comfort and ease)
Have I got so caught up in the things of this world that I’ve forgotten God?
Have I attended Mass each and every Sunday?
Have I neglected to say my daily prayers?
Have I entertained distractions in prayer, or failed to give God due concentration in prayer or Mass? (Note: Not giving God the effort He deserves in prayer is a sin, but it is not the same thing as involuntary weakness in mental distractions.)
Have I made a prayerful preparation before Mass and a good thanksgiving after Mass?
Have I risked losing my faith/piety by bad company, bad reading, cowardice, or pride?
Have I trusted God, especially in difficulty?
Have I received Holy Communion while in a state of serious sin? Have I neglected to seek Confession before Holy Communion?
Have I taken the Lord’s name in vain? Or used other foul language?
Have I been lazy in helping others?
Have I been attentive to the needs of my friends?
Has my conversation been focussed on my own pleasure, or on others?
Has my humour been insensitive to others?
Have I been more focussed on myself than on the needs of others in my family?
Have I neglected to help at home?
I have quarrelled needlessly?
Have I been pointlessly stubborn?
Have I given a bad or lazy example to younger family members?
Punctuality and Discipline:
Have I wasted other people’s time by being late?
Have I made good use of my time, or have I wasted time needlessly? E.g. TV or social media or the internet?
Have I gone to sleep on time?
Have I planned good use of relaxation and recreation, knowing that I need to rest well?
Have I studied as much as I should?
Gluttony (ST II-II q148)
Gluttony is the inordinate desire for food
Have I eaten more than I need?
To how serious an extent?
Have I drunk alcohol excessively?
Have driven after drinking?
Have I eaten greedily and with little consideration for those at table with me?
Have I regularly practiced fasting and self-denial, especially on Fridays?
Have I eaten meat on Fridays?
Have I always fasted an hour before receiving Holy Communion at Mass?
The Ten Commandments:
(1) I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me.
(2) You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain.
(3) Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
(4) Honour your father and your mother.
(5) You shall not kill.
(6) You shall not commit adultery.
(7) You shall not steal.
(8) You shall not bear false witness.
(9) You shall not covet your neighbour's wife.
(10) You shall not covet your neighbour's goods.