An Examination of Conscience for Venial Sins
OK. So, you receive regular spiritual direction, you frequent the sacraments, you fast and pray and spend time in adoration. You attend daily Mass, or at least more often than just Sunday Mass (and Holy Days of Obligation). You’re not committing mortal sin. You confess your venial sins during regular confession. At times, you feel like what’s the use? I’m not really a great sinner … anymore. Why am I going through the motions?
Well, it’s spiritually healthy to confess, without entering into scrupulosity, even small or venial sins. Why? Because the sacrament gives us graces which, if we cooperate with them, help us to grow in virtue and avoid sin. And, habitual small sins weaken our resolve. They keep us attached to the world and worldly things. They make us more vulnerable to mortal sin. They make it easier to say yes to bigger and/or more frequent venial sins until voila! We’ve fallen into mortal sin … once again.
Ever wish there was an examination just for venial sins? There is! St. Anthony Mary Claret, a Spanish archbishop, missionary, and founder of the Claretians, who lived from 1807 to 1870, wrote such a guide. Here is his exam just for venial sins! And, we’re please to present it below for your perusal and use. This does not cover all such sins but is a good, sober reminder of, not just those listed, but of the general approach we need to take in examining our consciences.
St. Anthony Mary Claret´s Examination of Venial Sins
The soul should avoid all venial sins, especially those which pave the way for grave sin. It is not enough, my soul, to have a firm resolve to suffer death rather than consent to any grave sin. It is necessary to have a like resolution to venial sin. He who does not find in himself this will, cannot have security. There is nothing which can give us such a certain security of eternal salvation as an uninterrupted cautiousness to avoid even the lightest venial sin, and a notable, all-extensive earnestness reaching to all practices of the spiritual life — earnestness in prayer, and in dealing with God; earnestness in mortification and self-denial; earnestness in being humble and in accepting contempt; earnestness in obeying and renouncing one’s own self-will; earnest love of God and neighbor. He who wants to gain this earnestness and keep it, must necessarily have the resolve to always avoid especially the following venial sins:
- The sin of giving entrance into your heart to any unreasonable suspicion or unfair judgment against your neighbor.
- The sin of introducing talk about another’s defects or offending charity in any other way, even lightly.
- The sin of omitting out of laziness our spiritual practices or of performing them with voluntary neglect.
- The sin of having a disordered affection for somebody.
- The sin of having a vain esteem for oneself, or of taking vain satisfaction in things pertaining to us.
- The sin of receiving the holy sacraments in a careless way, with distractions and other irreverences, and without a serious preparation.
- Impatience, resentment, any failure to accept disappointments as coming from God’s Hand; for this puts obstacles in the way of the decrees and dispositions of Divine Providence concerning us.
- The sin of giving ourselves an occasion that can even remotely blemish a spotless condition of holy purity.
- The fault of advertently hiding from those who ought to learn them, one’s bad inclinations, weaknesses, and mortifications, seeking to pursue the road of virtue not under the direction of obedience, but under the guidance of one’s own whims. Note: This speaks of times when we might have worthy [spiritual] direction if we seek it, but we prefer to follow our own dim lights.
Art for this post on an examination of venial sins: Antonio Claret, unknown painter, undated, Stanmar, 28 October 2006, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.