Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
The Sacraments are part and parcel of our lives and so we continue our "capsule series" on each of the Sacraments, bringing you a few capsule paragraphs each day from both the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and the old Baltimore Catechism. It is appropriate that we begin Advent with the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, better known as "Confession." There are various terms for this sacrament of healing. It has often been called the key to the door, for without this key sacrament we cannot receive Jesus in Holy Communion nor can a candidate be confirmed. The Sacrament of Penance reminds us of our humanness and our total dependence on the Mercy of God. Along with the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick or Extreme Unction, Penance/Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing.
No. 1455 and 1456 page 365 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery; Chapter Two - The Sacraments of Healing; Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Urbi Et Orbi Communications:
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings. Cf. Matthew 5-7, Romans 12-15, 1 Corinthians 12=13, Galatians 5, Ephesians 4-6, etc.
Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: "All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly. (Council of Trent: DS 1676)
When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the Divine Mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the Divine Goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, "for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know." (Council of Trent:  DS 1680 - [ND 1626]; cf. St. Jerome, In Ecclesia 10, 11: PL 23: 1096)
From the Baltimore Catechism No. 3; Benziger Brothers, Inc. and Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Nos. 749, 751 and 752, page 157, and 796 and 797 pages 167 and 168.
Q. What is the examination of conscience?
A. The examination of conscience is an earnest effort to recall to mind all the sins we have committed since our last worthy confession.
Q. How can we make a good examination of conscience?
A. We can make a good examination of conscience by calling to memory the commandments of God, the precepts of the Church, the seven capital sins, and the particular duties of our state in life, to find out the sins we have committed.
Q. What should we do before beginning the examination of conscience?
A. Before beginning the examination of conscience we should pray to God to give us light to know our sins and grace to detest them.
Q. How is concealing a sin telling a lie to the Holy Ghost?
A. Concealing a sin is telling a lie to the Holy Ghost, because he who conceals the sin declares in confession to God and the priest that he committed no sins but what he has confessed, while the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, saw him committing the sin he now conceals and still sees it in his soul while he denies it.
Q. Why is it foolish to conceal sins in confession?
A. It is foolish to conceal sins in confession: (1) Because we thereby make our spiritual condition worse; (2) We must tell the sin sometime if we ever hope to be saved; (3) It will be made known on the day of judgment, before the world, whether we conceal it now or confess it.