During Lent Catholics practice penance and will sometime before Easter go to the Sacrament of Penance. There sins are confessed and forgiven, absolution is given by the ordained priest, reparation is made for the offense committed and grace is imparted making the penitent stronger. As Catholics we examine our conscience before going to confession. This examination is often done with the aid of an examination that runs through the Ten Commandments, or through the Theological Virtues, by going through a series of questions and reflecting on your life to see where you have failed to obey God and love your neighbor. A good example of an examination like this can be found here or here.
These examinations are useful as a preparation for this sacrament and are good in forming one’s conscience according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. A well-formed conscience is certainly necessary on the path to holiness that we are all called to travel. What we have done wrong needs to be acknowledged so that we can repent and reform our lives. We are children of God and need to live like we belong to so great a Father. In our search for God, too many things can distract and entice us away from the search for so great a good as God.
St. Teresa of Jesus stresses the need for self-knowledge for everyone. This self-knowledg requires courage and humility. St. Teresa stresses that self-knowledge is really humility. Humility is really nothing else but the truth. We all fail from time to time; it is self-knowledge that helps us to see those failures and admit our guilt in them.
As one grows in the spiritual life a different type of examination might prove to be helpful for further growth. Sometimes, when one has advanced in their prayer life and has begun to seriously leave sin behind, even venial sin – making much progress in this regard, a different kind of daily examination may be in order. A more positive examination, one that focuses more on what God has done rather than on what one has done wrong, may be more useful in growing in self-knowledge. A positive examination of conscience that can lead you to seeing where God has been working in your life can be found here.
A Daily Examination of Conscience can be found here to download and print if so desired.