CALL to mind that this confession may be the last of your life. Therefore, prepare yourself for it as if you were lying sick upon your deathbed, and already at the brink of the grave. Ask God to give you the grace to make a good examination of conscience, the light to see your sins clearly, and the strength to make a sincere confession and to amend your life.
MOST merciful God, Father in heaven, relying on your goodness and mercy, I come to you with filial confidence to confess my sins and to implore your forgiveness. You wilt not despise a contrite and humble heart. Bless me and receive me again into your favor. I acknowledge that I have been most ungrateful to you, but I sincerely repent and detest the wrong I have done, and I desire henceforth to walk in the way of perfection in accordance with your holy will.
O Jesus, my Savior, my good Shepherd, I have strayed far from the path that you have marked out for me; I did not follow in your footsteps; I wandered into forbidden places. Repentant and sorrowful, I beg to be admitted again into the fold of your faithful followers. I want to confess my sins with the same sincerity as I should wish to do at the moment of my death, My Jesus, I look to you with confidence for the grace to examine my conscience well.
O Holy Spirit come in your mercy; enlighten my mind and strengthen my will that I may know my sins, humbly confess them, and sincerely amend my life.
Mary, my Mother, immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit, refuge of sinners, assist me by your intercession.
Holy angels and saints of God, pray for me. Amen.
BEGIN by examining yourself on your last confession. Ask whether a grievous sin was forgotten through want of proper examination, or concealed or disguised through shame. Whether you confessed without a true sorrow and a firm purpose of amendment. Whether you have repaired evil done to your neighbor. Whether the penance was performed without voluntary distractions. Whether you have neglected your confessor's counsel and fallen at once into habitual sins.
Then examine yourself on the Ten Commandments; the Commandments of the Church; the Seven Capital sins; the duties of your state of life; and your ruling passion. Calmly recall the different occasions of sin which have fallen in your way, or to which your state and condition a life expose you; the places you have frequented; the persons with whom you have associated. Do not neglect to consider the circumstances which alter the grievousness of the sin, nor the various ways in which we become accessory to the sins of others.
I. HAVE you doubted in matters of faith? Murmured against God at your adversity or at the prosperity of others? Despaired of His mercy?
Have you believed in fortune-tellers or consulted them?
Have you [considered forsaking the Catholic faith or changing religions]?
Have you recommended yourself daily to God? Neglected your morning or night prayers? Omitted religious duties or practices through motives of human respect?
Have you rashly presumed upon God's forbearance in order to commit sin?
Have you read books, papers, and periodicals of anti-Catholic or atheistic tendency? Made use of superstitious practices? Spoken with levity or irreverence of priests, Religious, or sacred objects?
II. Have you taken the name of God in vain? Profaned anything relating to religion?
Have you sworn falsely, rashly, or in slight and trivial matters? Cursed yourself or others, or any creature? Angered others so as to make them swear or blaspheme God?
III. Have you kept holy the Lord's Day, and all other days commanded to be kept holy? Bought or sold things, not of necessity, on that day? Done or commanded some servile work not of necessity? Missed Mass or been willfully distracted during Mass? Talked, gazed, or laughed in the church? Profaned the day by dancing, drinking, gambling, or in other ways?
IV. Have you honored your parents, superiors, and masters, according to your just duty? Deceived them? Disobeyed them?
Have you failed in due reverence to aged persons?
V. Have you procured, desired, or hastened the death of any one? Borne hatred? Oppressed any one? Desired revenge? Not forgiven injuries? Refused to speak to others? Used provoking language? Injured others? Caused enmity between others?
VI. and IX. Have you been guilty of lascivious dressing? Been in lewd company? Read immodest books? Been guilty of unchaste songs, discourses, words, or actions? Willfully entertained impure thoughts or desires?
VII. Have you been guilty of stealing, or of deceit in buying, or selling, in regard to wares, prices, weights, or measures? Have you willfully damaged another man's goods, or negligently spoiled them?
VIII. Have you borne false witness? Called injurious names? Disclosed another's sins? Flattered others? Judged rashly?
X. Have you coveted unjustly anything that belongs to another?
HAVE you gone to confession at least once a year? Received holy communion during Easter-time?
Have you violated the fasts of the Church, or eaten flesh-meat on prohibited days?
Have you sinned against any other commandment of the Church?
Examine yourself also in regard to the Seven Capital Sins and the nine ways of being accessory to another's sin.
HAVING discovered the sins of which you have been guilty, together with their number, enormity, or such circumstances as may change their nature, you should endeavor to excite in yourself a heartfelt sorrow for having committed them and a sincere detestation of them. This being the most essential of all the dispositions requisite for a good confession, with what humility, fervor, and perseverance should you not [plead with] Him Who holds the hearts of men in His hands to grant it to you!
CONTRITION FOR OUR SINS
CONSIDER Who He is, and how good and gracious He is to you, Whom you have so often and so deeply offended by these sins. He made you -- He made you for Himself, to know, love, and serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever. He redeemed you by His blood. He has borne with you and waited for you so long. He it is Who has called you and moved you to repentance. Why have you thus sinned against Him? Why have you been so ungrateful? What more could He do for you? Be ashamed, and mourn, and despise yourself, because you have sinned against your Maker and your Redeemer Whom you ought to love above all things!
Consider the consequences of even one mortal sin. By it you lose the grace of God. You destroy peace of conscience; you forfeit the felicity [i.e. the great happiness] of heaven, for which you were created and redeemed; and you prepare for yourself eternal punishment. If we grieve for the loss of temporal and earthly things, how much more should we grieve for having deliberately exposed ourselves to the loss of those which are eternal and heavenly!
Consider how great is the love of God for you, if only from this, that He has so long waited for you, and spared you, when He might have so justly cast you into hell. Behold Him fastened to the cross for love of you! Behold Him pouring forth His precious blood as a fountain to cleanse you from your sins. Hear Him saying, "I thirst," -- " I thirst with an ardent desire for your salvation!" Behold Him stretching out His arms to embrace you, and waiting until you should come to yourself and turn unto Him, and throw yourself before Him, and say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son." Let these considerations touch your heart with love for Him Who so loves you, and love will beget true contrition, most acceptable to God.
Say an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory to obtain true contrition. Say an act of contrition.
See also, Gospel Morality, What the New Testament Says.
For a longer more detailed treatment see Examination of Conscience.