Examination of Conscience

EXAMEN OVERVIEW

PRE-EXAMEN:

People examine themselves in terms of what is forbidden and not in terms of what is asked of them. People examine themselves on faults and failings, and not on their intimacy with Jesus. It has been rightly said that sins of omission – of which we so rarely think to accuse ourselves – are more frequent than the others: lack of faith, of hope, and of charity, failure to believe in God’s merciful love and to live in it” ~ Fr. D’Elbee, I Believe in Love

“Examination of conscience. A daily task. Bookkeeping–never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than that of eternal life?” (St. Josemaria Escriva The Way, 235).

Take a good look at the way you behave. You will see that you are full of faults that harm you and perhaps also those around you. Remember, my child, that microbes may be no less a menace than wild beasts. Just as bacteria are cultivated in a laboratory, so you are cultivating those faults and those errors, with your lack of humility, with your lack of prayer, with your failure to fulfill your duty, with your lack of self knowledge. Those tiny germs then spread everywhere. You need to make a good examination of conscience every day. It will lead you to make definite resolutions to improve, because it will have made you really sorry for your shortcomings, omissions and sins. (St. Josemaria Escriva The Forge, 481)

Conversion is the task of a moment; sanctification is the work of a lifetime. The divine seed of charity, which God has sown in our souls, wants to grow, to express itself in action, to yield results which continually coincide with what God wants. Therefore, we must be ready to begin again, to find again — in new situations — the light and the stimulus of our first conversion. And that is why we must prepare with a deep examination of conscience, asking our Lord for his help, so that we’ll know him and ourselves better. If we want to be converted again, there’s no other way. (St. Josemaria Escriva Christ is passing by, 58)

Fr. Hardon = If there is one part of the spiritual life that St. Ignatius stressed, it was the daily–and even twice daily–examination of conscience. As we read the <Spiritual Exercises>, we may be overwhelmed by the minute detail of St. Ignatius’ treatment of what he calls the particular examination of conscience. At the same time, he is careful to provide, “Some Notes on Scruples.” It is very important, therefore, that we form a clear and correct conscience. This means that we cultivate a sensitive judgment which is alert to the least offense against the Divine will and, at the same time, protect ourselves against the wiles of the evil spirit.

“The enemy,” says St. Ignatius, “considers carefully whether one has a lax or a delicate conscience. If one has a delicate conscience, the evil one seeks to make it excessively sensitive in order to disturb and upset it more easily. Thus, if he sees that one will not consent to mortal sin or venial sin, or even to the appearance of deliberate sin, since he cannot cause him to fall in a matter that appears sinful, he strives to make the soul judge that there is a sin, for example in a word or passing thought, where there is no sin” (<Spiritual Exercises>, 349).

It is valuable to reflect on this tactic of the evil spirit before we offer some practical norms for making our daily examination of conscience. Why? Because otherwise, we are liable to overlook the importance of a daily inventory of our moral conduct for fear of becoming scrupulous. There is such a thing as growing in prudent sensitivity of conscience, without becoming a victim of the “enemy” as St. Ignatius calls him. We may set this down as a general principle, for those who are sincerely striving to do the will of God: It is characteristic of God and His angels, when they act upon the soul, to give true happiness and spiritual joy and to banish all the sadness and disturbances which are caused by the enemy. It is characteristic of the evil one to fight against such happiness and consolation by proposing fallacious reasonings, subtleties, and continual deceptions (Rules for Discernment of Spirits, II, 1).

What are we to conclude from this? That the more zealous we are in trying to please God, the more He will give us a deep interior peace of soul. We should suspect as a temptation from the evil one, when we find ourselves worried or anxious or disturbed, no matter how pious the source of the worry or anxiety may be. The key to applying this principle is that, before God, I honestly want to do His will even though through weakness, I may fail to live up to my resolutions.

Look at your emotions –> Emotions are our response to feelings. Emotions are our best friends to tell us exactly what is going on. We must reflect on emotions to have good healthy self-knowledge.

Self knowledge –> Self acceptance –> Self gift (USCCB, PPF 80)

Acknowledge. Relate. Receive. Respond.

___, ___, (insert your name) you are anxious and troubled about many things. One thing is necessary… sit at my feet… choose the better part… this will not be taken away from you.  ~ Luke 10 Martha & Mary

“I expect to discover new imperfections in myself every day” ~ St Therese of Lisieux

DURING EXAMEN:

Daily Questions:

What happened today? What did I feel? What did I think/believe? What were some of my scripts, daydreams, personal storylines? Where was I drawing life from Jesus today (abiding)? Where was I grasping for life apart from Jesus? What were the “wells” I went to today? How often throughout the day (test/prayer/conversation), did I stop, of my own accord, to “draw life” (abide) from God?  –> Invite Jesus into it all, listen for His voice/input (while praying in silence, praying the Rosary).  Heart to heart convo with God?

One basic virtue on which we should daily examine ourselves is peace of soul. We should ask ourselves, “Have I given in to worry or anxiety?” “Have I allowed myself to get discouraged?” A good practice is to pronounce the name, “Jesus,” when we find ourselves getting despondent, or say some short aspiration like, “My Jesus, I trust in you,” whenever we become dejected over something. ~ Fr. Hardon

Weekly & End of Month Questions:

How am I doing? Have I been abiding? Grasping? What’s bringing me joy? What’s concerning me? What messages/thoughts have been affecting me? How am I feeling about my formation?

1. What things keep showing up on my “list” in the confessional? 2. What are the root problems that are making it hard for me to make progress in these areas? 3. What areas of my life have I not yet submitted to the Lordship of Christ? Where am I not at peace? 4. What wounds do I have that need healing? Where am I hurting? 5. What person, situation, or event am I still resentful, bitter, or angry about? Who do I need to forgive? 6. Confession calls for a radical reorientation of my entire life. In what ways am I most unlike Jesus? What do I need to change? 7. What one thing can I resolve to change right now, trusting in God’s grace?

Life examen questions

What happened to me? Positive and negative How did it make me feel?  What did it make me believe about myself, others, world, God?  What did I promise to do (or not do) so to avoid the negative that happened?

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner (repeat throughout overview of the day picturing in-front of Cross)

PARTICULAR EXAMEN ON THE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES

Before applying the particular examen to my own spiritual life, it is well to first ask myself, “What are the virtues that I know from experience I most need to develop?” The reason why this question should first be answered is that no two of us are equally prone to commit the same kind of sins. Nor are we personally always tempted in the same direction. There is wisdom in first knowing enough about myself, to be able to get to the root of my own moral weakness. Otherwise, I may be ignoring what really needs attention in my spiritual life and concentrating on what is not so necessary for me at this time in my service of God. Moreover, it would be a mistake to suppose that by attending to my moral failings, I am being “negative” in my pursuit of holiness. On the contrary. In God’s providence, He allows us to fail in those areas in which He especially wants us to grow in virtue. We can fail in the practice of these virtues either by commission, omission, or by tepidity, in not acting as generously as we might in responding to the grace we have received from God. ~ Fr Hardon

Faith

  1. Do I make an honest effort to grow in the virtue of faith by daily mental prayer on the mysteries of the faith as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ?
  2. Do I make at least a short act of faith every day?
  3. Do I pray daily for an increase of faith?
  4. Do I ever tempt God by relying on my own strength to cope with the trials in my life?
  5. Do I unnecessarily read or listen to those who oppose or belittle what I know are truths of my Catholic faith?
  6. What have I done today to externally profess my faith?
  7. Have I allowed human respect to keep me from giving expression to my faith?
  8. Do I make a serious effort to resolve difficulties that may arise about my faith?
  9. Do I ever defend my faith, prudently and charitably, when someone says something contrary to what I know is to be believed?
  10. Have I helped someone overcome a difficulty against the faith?

Hope

  1. Do I immediately say a short prayer when I find myself getting discouraged?
  2. Do I daily say a short act of hope?
  3. Do I dwell on my worries instead of dismissing them from my mind?
  4. Do I fail in the virtue of hope by my attachment to the things of this world?
  5. Do I try to see God’s providence in everything that “happens” in my life?
  6. Do I try to see everything from the viewpoint of eternity?
  7. Am I confident that, with God’s grace, I will be saved?
  8. Do I allow myself to worry about my past life and thus weaken my hope in God’s mercy?
  9. Do I try to combine every fully deliberate action with at least a momentary prayer for divine help?
  10. How often today have I complained, even internally?

Charity

  1. Have I told God today that I love Him?
  2. Do I tell Jesus that I love Him with my whole heart?
  3. Do I take the occasion to tell God that I love Him whenever I experience something I naturally dislike?
  4. Have I capitalized on the difficulties today to tell God that I love Him just because He sent me the trial or misunderstanding?
  5. Do I see God’s love for me in allowing me to prove my love for Him in the crosses He sent me today?
  6. Have I seen God’s grace to prove my love for Him in every person whom I met today?
  7. Have I failed in charity by speaking unkindly about others?
  8. Have I dwelt on what I considered someone’s unkindness toward me today?
  9. Is there someone that I consciously avoid because I dislike the person?
  10. Did I try to carry on a conversation today with someone who is difficult to talk to?
  11. Have I been stubborn in asserting my own will?
  12. How thoughtful have I been today in doing some small favor for someone?
  13. Have I allowed my mood to prevent me from being thoughtful of others today?
  14. Am I given to dwelling on other people’s weaknesses or faults?
  15. Have I been cheerful today in my dealings with others?
  16. Do I control my uncharitable thoughts as soon as they arise in my mind?
  17. Did I pray for others today?
  18. Have I written any letters today?
  19. Have I controlled my emotions when someone irritated me?
  20. Have I performed any sacrifice today for someone?

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father John A. Hardon. ” Examination of Conscience.” Father Hardon’s Catholic Prayer Book with Meditations (Eternal Life: Bardstown, KT, 1999): 101-105.

—————————-

POST EXAMEN:

“ The memory of my faults humiliates me and leads me never to rely on my own strength, which is only weakness; but still more, the memory of them speaks to me of mercy and love. When, with filial trust, we throw our faults into the devouring furnace of love, how could they not be completely burned away?”

“We would like never to fall! What does it matter, my Jesus, if I fall every moment? It shows me my weakness, and it is a great gain for me. It shows You what I am capable of, and then You will be more tempted to carry me in Your arms. If You do not do so, it will be because it pleases You to see me on the ground… the poorer you are, the more Jesus will love you” 

“I would like to try and make you understand by a very simple comparison how much Jesus loves souls, including imperfect ones, who entrust themselves to Him. Imagine that a father has two naughty, disobedient sons and when he comes to punish them, he sees one of them running away in fear and trembling, knowing in his heart that he deserves to be punished while his brother does the opposite: he throws himself into his father’s arms, telling him that he is sorry to have hurt him, that he loves, him, and that he will prove it by being good from now on. Then, if that child asks his father to punish him with a kiss, I don’t think the happy father could harden his heart against his child’s filial trust, knowing his sincerity and love. Of course he knows that his son will fall into the same faults again and again, but he is ready to forgive him every time, if his son catches him by the heart every time” ~ St Therese

Jesus punish me with extra graces so that I will never offend you again.

Look toward tomorrow. Using your appointment calendar if that helps, face your immediate future. What feelings surface as you look at the tasks, meetings, and appointments that face you? Fear? Delighted anticipation? Self-doubt? Temptation to procrastinate? Zestful planning? Regret? Weakness? Whatever it is, turn it into prayer–for help, for healing, whatever comes spontaneously. To round off the examen, say the Lord’s Prayer.

 

OTHER RESOURCES

Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards through Your Day By Dennis Hamm, SJ

Consciousness Examen By George Aschenbrenner, SJ

Reflection and Our Active Lives By David L. Fleming, SJ

http://www.fatima.org/essentials/requests/examconc.asp

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