The necessity for the Examination of Conscience.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
The necessity for the Examination of Conscience.
The principal reason why the saints so earnestly exhort us to watch over our every action by means of daily self-examination, is based on the corruption of our nature, proceeding from the sin of our first parents, on account of which the same failings ever tend to shoot forth anew within us, the same sins to reappear, and the same passions to rage within our hearts. Hence it is necessary to observe, at least once a day, what poisonous weeds have sprung up within our hearts, in order that we may prune them with the knife of a true contrition. How unwise would not that gardener be, who having once cleared the ground of weeds, were never to do so more! Seeing that the soil will always begin again and again to put forth useless and noxious plants which stifle the growth of such as have value. A vine dresser would surely be thought to have lost his senses, and very justly too, if, after having once removed from the trees and vines all superfluous branches and tendrils, he were never again to perform the like operation, for vines and trees are ever putting forth a fresh and undue luxuriance of branches, shoots, and leaves. No less folly would it be in a Christian, if having by some one good confession uprooted in his heart the poisonous growth of his faults and pruned the wasteful luxuriance of his feelings, he were to neglect to do the same thing day by day, through a diligent examination of conscience, being fully aware, as he must be, that some evil weed or other springs up every day, that some branch of sin puts forth its shoots, that some one passion awakens, and that without constant pruning the beauteous garden of the Soul would soon become a hideous tangle of sin. But let us hear St. Bernard on this point: “Who is there,” he says, “in this world, who has so perfectly cut away from within himself all vain and superfluous attachments, as to have no need to cut or prune away anything more? Believe me, the evils that have been cut down will put forth new shoots: after having been driven forth, they will surely come back: when quenched they will once more burst into flame: and though now they are lying dormant, soon will they awake anew. Hence, it avails little to have used the pruning knife once: we must use it often, and, inasmuch as may be possible, never let it out of our hands: because, unless we want to blind ourselves, we shall always be finding something in ourselves that needs cutting away” (In. Cantic. Serm. 52). The same Saint then adds: “As long as you dwell in this mortal body, whatever may be your strivings after progress in the spiritual life, you deceive yourself if you fancy that your lusts and vices are dead, and not rather forcibly kept under for the time.” Never, therefore must we let ourselves be lulled into a false security, but we must keep a daily watch and ward over our vicious tendencies by frequently examining our conscience, and must strike them down, when they make their appearance, by repeated blows of Contrition.
If a King were to learn for certain that within the limits of his realm his foes were lurking, hidden among the woods and thickets, he certainly would not fail to pursue them vigorously. And when he had found them, think you that he would let them remain there at large? Undoubtedly not. After having tracked them out with the greatest diligence, he would put them all to the sword, and make a wholesale slaughter of them. “Now remember,” St. Bernard continues, “that you have within you an enemy whom you may overcome and subdue, but whom you cannot exterminate: whether you will it or not, this enemy will ever be living within you, and will ever carry on an implacable war against you. Who, then, is this great, undying enemy, or rather, who are these many enemies who can only die when you die yourself? I answer: your own passions, your own vices, and the weaknesses which your passions and vices beget.” Seek them out, then, every day by the Examination of Conscience: and having through a diligent search, discovered them, slay them with the sword of a true sorrow: hew them down by the earnestness of your resolve: so that they may be left on the field, not indeed dead, as that cannot be, but so wounded and disabled that they may no longer be able to hinder your progress in the way of perfection.
Again, it is the natural tendency of all human things to deteriorate and eventually to perish and come to nothing unless they be repaired. A building is ever getting out of order in some one of its parts: and if it be not frequently put in repair, it will at length tumble down and be reduced to a heap of ruins. A farm is ever tending to deteriorate, and if the soil be not generously enriched, all will finally become an uncultivated waste. A garment is injured a little every day by wearing, and, unless it be mended, will soon be a collection of rags. Now these are but so many types of our souls. Such is the violence with which our passions incline us to evil: so powerful are the incitements of the devil urging us to what is wrong; so numerous are the dangerous occasions which allure us to sin: that it is impossible for our souls – exposed as they are to so many assaults – not to fall at times, not to yield occasionally to so many fascinations, and not to descend gradually on the downward path, to the great ruin of our souls. If such losses are not daily made good by the examination of conscience, by repentance and renewal of good purposes, it cannot be but that we shall become disorganized to such an extent as at length to perish miserably, as is indeed the case every day with those careless Christians who do not avail themselves of these means.
St. Gregory the Great explains, by a comparison drawn from our bodily life, the decay which daily takes place in our souls, and the need there is of making it good by self-examination, repentance, and tears. “Our bodies,” he writes, “develope and decay insensibly, without our perceiving it. Who has ever watched the gradual lengthening and growth of the body of a young child? Who has ever seen the limbs of a decrepit old man contract and become shrunken? Who was ever conscious of the growth or decay of his own body? By slow and imperceptible degrees the hair grows white, the flesh gathers into wrinkles, the limbs wither, the body becomes bent, and the frame, without our perceiving it, slowly wastes away. Thus, too, does the spirit within us grow and decay without our being conscious of it; and even as devout persons, when diligent, advance in virtue unawares, so do the souls of the negligent and slothful, who will not take daily account of their improvement or deterioration, continue to sink downwards and to get more and more out of order, without their perceiving it. Hence we must frequently look into ourselves, often search our own consciences, and by repentance strive to renew ourselves and regain our former state” (Moral Lib. XXV, Cap. 6).
Have you ever heard of a shipwright who succeeded in framing a ship so strongly that neither the beating of the waves nor the violence of the winds could ever spring the slightest leak? You answer, that this would be impossible, because a ship is made up of so many beams, so many planks, so many joints, all fastened together, that, hourly beaten as it is by the buffeting of wind and water, it must sooner or later loosen some of them. What then can be done to hinder the poor vessel which is constantly taking in water, drop by drop though it may be, from eventually sinking, and being swamped in the midst of the ocean? There is but one remedy: it is to work the pumps regularly, in order to prevent the water accumulating in the hold. Now man, in the ocean of misery in which he is constrained to sail, is very like a tempest-tost ship, being made up, so to speak, of enfeebled powers, of weak senses, of passions always ready to betray: nor is it to be expected that, amid the shock of so many temptations, having to encounter so many occasions and dangers of evil, he will not leave some small opening by which venial sins, at least, and trivial faults will find their way into the soul, and by their accumulation bring about in course of time that shipwreck which we call mortal sin: or, if not this, at all events hinder him from reaching in safety the port which he is desirous of making, – I mean from attaining perfection.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– by Rev. P. Ryan
– Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur October 10, 1910
Whilst the enemy sees us humble, he tries to inspire the mind with a false humility, that is to say, an extreme and wicked humility. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 8.
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
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