My husband made his first confession at 23 years old; I made my first confession in second grade. And his examinations of conscience put mine to shame.
How does he do it?
I finally decided to ask him.
I’m inspired by his story, and I know you will be too.
How to make a 24 hour examination of conscience
Sara: Sometimes, I get up Saturday morning and ask if you want to hit confession with me that evening. Usually you say you don’t have enough time to prepare. Exactly how much time do you need?
Chad: I usually like to take an entire day to prepare for confession, a full 24 hours. Not morning to night. I want to take that full day, take my time.
Sara: How does your examination of conscience take that much time? What do you do? Usually I go through the 10 Commandments or the seven deadly sins. Do you do something like that?
Chad: No, I don’t do anything like that. I remember back to my last confession, and then go through the time since then and try to remember the sins I’ve committed.
Sara: So, you go through day by day, or hour by hour, everything you’ve done since the last confession?
Chad: No, it’s more of a passive examination of conscience. For the 24 hours before confession, as I just go through my day, the things I’m doing remind me of the sins I want to confess. I just remember them. And I collect my thoughts throughout the day. When I spend the whole day thinking about it, it’s easier to remember things than if I try to rush through it in a few hours or a few minutes.
Sara: How often do you go to confession?
Chad: Usually I go to confession monthly. Obviously if I have anything big to confess, I’ll go right away. So when I go monthly, it’s the little things that I need to remember in my examination of conscience. And I know the things that I usually struggle with. So when I’m doing my examination of conscience, I look out for those types of things and how I fell over the past month. And if something different comes up, that I don’t usually struggle with, it’s memorable, so it comes to mind more easily. Over time, I’ve become more aware of my sins. As I learn and grow in the faith, I get better at making an examination of conscience. As I learn what the Church teaches, I know more clearly how I’m supposed to act. And as I grow in virtue, the closer to God I get, the more I can see my own faults.
Sara: How did you learn to make an examination of conscience like this? Have you always done it this way?
Chad: I made my first confession when I came into the Church in 2008 at 23 years old. And that was a big task – going back over 23 years of life to remember everything I’ve done. So I spent a lot of time preparing for that first confession. It was really scary. After that, it was easier. But it definitely made me take my examination of conscience seriously, preparing for that first confession. It was a big deal.
Sara: Tell me more about your conversion.
Chad: I met this girl.
Sara: That’s me.
Chad: Yeah. And everything happened from there. I began going to church with you, and I saw the truth and beauty in it. I decided to embrace that truth, and everything that came with it. So I prepared for the Sacraments, and confession was a part of that.
Sara: Do you have any tips for people (like me) who want to make better confessions and better examinations of conscience?
Chad: Don’t take it lightly. Spend some time making it a real focus in your life. Be serious about making a good examination of conscience.
Sara: Do you have a regular confessor? Is that necessary?
Chad: I don’t go to the same person every time, but I’ve been blessed to have some really great confessors over the years. I would say try to find a few different options for confessions at different times, and priests who are good in the confessional, and then do what works best with your schedule. I find it’s good sometimes to have different priests comment on what I’m doing. Especially since I’m often confessing the same or similar sins over and over, it’s helpful to have different perspectives and insights.
Sara: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received in confession?
Chad: Don’t despair. God’s mercy is real and he offers it to us in the sacrament of Confession.
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