An Examination of Conscience
Inspired by Saint Benedict (480-548)
by Peter Kwasniewski

Catholics are encouraged to prepare themselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation by prayerfully reviewing an examination of conscience. A multitude of formats for such examinations can be found. Most commonly they are based on the Ten Commandments, but sometimes one will fi nd reference to the Beatitudes, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the virtues and vices, or categories of people.

In the fourth chapter of his Holy Rule, Saint Benedict offers a complete “picture” of Christian sanctity and all the ways, obvious and subtle, in which we can depart from it. He held a mirror up to Christ and asked us to see ourselves in that mirror, or rather, to see where the reflection was blurred, distorted, or non-existent.

The series of questions that follow are based on chapter four of the Rule. They serve as a guide in preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
● Have I neglected to love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength, and my neighbor as myself? If so, in what specific ways?
● In act or in thought, have I killed, committed adultery, stolen, coveted, or borne false witness?
● Have I failed to honor all people?
● Did I do to another what I would not have had done to me?
● Did I prefer anything, whether great or small, to the love of Christ?

● Have I been self-indulgent instead of denying myself in order to follow Christ?
● Have I pampered my body or sought after delicate living, rather than embracing appropriate Christian discipline?
● Have I neglected fasting or abstinence?
● Have I overindulged in wine or other beverages, or verged on gluttony?
● Have I been drowsy or slothful?
● Did I immerse myself in worldly affairs to the point of distracting myself from what is most important?
● Have I sinned against chastity, modesty, or purity?

Charity towards neighbor
● Have I neglected, when it was possible, to relieve the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick, bury the dead, help in affliction, or console the sorrowing?
● Have I gratified anger or harbored a desire for revenge?
● Have I fostered guile in my heart or made a feigned peace?
● Have I rendered evil for evil or done wrong to anyone?

● Did I exhibit impatience when wronged?
● Have I hated my enemies or any person?
● Did I neglect to pray for my enemies in the love of Christ?
● Have I avoided making peace with any adversary before the setting of the sun?
● Have I fled persecution for justice’s sake?
● Have I rendered cursing for cursing, rather than a blessing?
● Have I been guilty of murmuring or detraction?
● Have I avoided much speaking, vain words, and needless or excessive laughter?
● Have I uttered evil and wicked words?
● Have I been jealous or given way to envy?
● Have I loved strife?
● Did I give in to vanity?
● Have I been proud?
● Did I fail to reverence my elders in Christ?
● Did I fail to love those who are younger than I am?
● Have I, in any other way, forsaken charity?

Seek first God’s kingdom
● Have I faltered in putting my hope in God?
● Have I subtly or openly attributed the good that I see in myself to myself rather than to God?
● Have I run away from acknowledging the evil I have done or tried to blame it on someone else?
● Have I delayed taking the steps necessary to amend my sins, negligences, and failings?
● Have I been remiss in smashing my evil thoughts on the rock of Christ the instant they came into my heart?
● Have I been lax in applying myself to frequent prayer?
● Did I fail to keep death daily before my eyes, with fear of the Day of Judgment and dread of hell?
● Have I not been desiring everlasting life with all spiritual longing?
● Have failed to keep guard over the actions of my life by bearing in mind that God sees me everywhere?
● Have I not sought the counsel of my spiritual father or mother when I should have done so?
● Have I shown poor obedience to the commands of those who are placed in authority over me?
● Did I seek a reputation for holiness rather than holiness itself?
● Have I been lax in fulfilling each day the commandments of God?
● Have I ever despaired of God’s mercy?