The Necessity for the Examination of Conscience, part II.
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, part II.
What then is to be done to hinder this dreadful misfortune from coming upon us by slow degrees? What, but daily to empty the conscience of the faults we have committed, by a serious examination of ourselves? to cast them out by contrition, to close up the rifts through which they find an entrance, by our firm purposes and constantly renewed resolutions to amend? The troubled waters of venial offences rise daily in the hold of our hearts: whoever, then, wishes not to perish, let him empty it out every day, as sailors do the hold of a ship, by a careful and contrite examination of conscience (St. Augustine Hom. 42 Lib. Quinquag. Homil., C. 9).
From this argument another may be deduced which proves to demonstration that it is idle to dream of attaining Christian perfection without examining our conscience, as it is clear that without a daily scrutiny of our hearts we cannot rid ourselves of the vices, sins, and failings to which we are so prone, it is equally demonstrable that without this examination, virtue can have no growth whatever within us: still less can the divine flower of Charity blossom forth in our hearts. In order that the grain may grow in the field, the ground must first of all be cleared of briars and brambles: we must first cart away the stones which encumber the soil: otherwise, as we read in the Gospel parable, the thorns will choke the seed, and the stones will deprive it of the moisture necessary. So too, the chosen seed of virtue cannot spring up and flourish in the soil of our hearts, unless they be first cleared of the roots of vices and of bad passions: unless they be previously cleansed of those daily faults, which, little by little, harden it and make it as impervious as a rock. All this is admirably expressed in the sweet language of St. Bernard: “Virtue cannot grow in the company of vice. If the one is to flourish, the other must perish. Clear away, then, what is superfluous and vicious, and that which is wholesome and virtuous will at once spring up. Whatever you withhold from your lusts will turn to the profit and advantage of your spiritual life. Therefore, let us take heed to cut down by a diligent self-examination the noxious growth of faults, vices, and defects, if we wish to see the flowers of every virtue bloom forth in the garden of our souls” (Serm. 48, In. Cant.).
St. Augustine, treating especially of charity, which is the very sap of our perfection states positively that it will increase in the measure of our efforts to keep down the lusts of our disorderly passions, and that charity will be perfect in him who has entirely mortified and extinguished his selfish lusts (Lib. 83, qq.). As a vessel full of water will gradually become full of air when the liquid is being drawn off, and, when all the water is emptied out, will contain nothing else but air: so will our hearts fill with divine love in proportion as they are emptied of selfish desires, and then only will they be full of love when they are perfectly emptied of every disorderly inclination. St. Paul accounts for this in these words: “The end of the commandment is charity from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith” (i Tim. i, 5). But charity blooms only in pure hearts, and in consciences cleansed from all evil lusts. Now, to bring the heart to this stainless purity, no means can be more effectual than the frequent use of self-examination, than an exact care to cleanse it of its defilements by sorrow for our faults, to provide against future stains by good purposes, and never to let a day pass without thus cultivating the soul.
It will appear to no one an extraordinary matter to set apart a few minutes daily for examining and purifying our heart, if he calls to mind that the sages of old, pagan though they were, thought that this daily self-examination was necessary for the bettering of their life and made use of it for that purpose. Pythagoras prescribes it to his disciples, many of whom were in the habit of searching into themselves regularly every evening. Cicero tells us of himself, that always at the close of each day he called himself to account for everything that he had spoken, heard, and done during the whole course of that day. Seneca tells us that every night he sat thus in judgment over his own actions. “Each night, when the lamp is put out in my chamber, and my wife, aware of my custom, keeps silence, I examine into the whole course of the past day. I think over all I have said and done, concealing nothing from myself, passing over nothing. If I discover anything amiss, I say to myself, “I forgive thee this time, but do so no more” (De Ira). Now, if heathens, out of the desire they had for wisdom, made daily use of this self-examination, how much rather should it not be practised by Christians out of a desire of becoming pleasing to God by cleanness of heart, of attaining supernatural perfection, and of arriving at the possession of those surpassing good things which are in store for the perfect.
We may add yet another argument in favour of this self-examination of conscience and it is this: that by frequently and searchingly looking into ourselves, not in a superficial manner, but with inward compunction of spirit, we escape the severe and rigorous judgment that otherwise awaits us before the tribunal of God: for, as St. Paul says, “if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (i Cor. xi, 31). Cornelius à Lapide applies these words to our subject in this very sense, and in the following terms: – “If we examine and search into our conscience, submitting it to a rigorous trial, and if, when we discover any sins, we wash them away with tears of contrition, we shall not be judged by God: in other words, we shall escape punishment at His awful judgment.”
Such being the case, we shall do well to reflect on the terrors of God’s judgment day, on the searching examination which will then be made into our faults: to think how inexorable the Judge will show Himself; how severe the punishment which will then be inflicted by an irrevocable sentence.
Since all this is such a reality we ought to call ourselves to account at least once in the day: to search into the various movements of our souls: to examine them all with a critical and observant eye: and on discovering anything amiss, to blot it out by acts of lively contrition and firm purposes of amendment: bearing in mind that, as St. Augustine says, “God loves to pardon those who confess their faults to Him with lowly repentance, and forbears from judging those severely who, with a contrite heart, do judgment upon themselves” (Scaramelli: Vol. I, Section I, Article ix, Chap II).
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
The vigor with which you resist the enemy will be the measure of the reward which will follow the combat. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Ribaden., ch. 37.
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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