Some Considerations on 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.
Some Considerations on the Examination of Conscience.
We will here make a few observations which may be useful.
(I). There are very many vices on which people need not examine themselves – if they are not given to them. Let the examination be on the predominant passion, on the sins and defects into which we fall, as also on the virtues which we ought particularly to cultivate and which are expected from us in whatever state in life we may be placed.
There are some things upon which it is sufficient to examine ourselves for a short time only; and there are others in which an examen of many years would be well employed; “for we should soon become perfect men, if every year we extirpated some one vice or imperfection” (Thomas à Kempis, Book I, C. xi, 5). And there are other virtues also, in the gaining of which our whole lives would be very well spent; since the gaining one of these alone is sufficient to render us perfect. We have the example of some persons, who, having taken one thing only to heart, and made it their whole life the matter and subject of their examination of conscience, have very much signalized themselves; one in patience, another in humility, and others in a perfect conformity to the Will of God, and in performing all things purely for His sake. We must, therefore, after the same manner, endeavour to excel in some one virtue, persevering in our undertaking till we have completely attained our object (Rodriguez, Vol. I, Seventh Treatise, Chap. VI).
(2). There are numbers of exceedingly good Christians who do not offend God by mortal sin or even deliberate venial sin. They have brought their passions and vices under subjection, and these give them little trouble. This class of persons ought to devote themselves in their examination of conscience to see what advances they are making in the practice of the different virtues, especially the virtues which belong to their particular state in life. Our advancement in these virtues . . . has no limits. We can and must be always advancing, and consequently these holy and perfect souls can always find matter for the Examination of Conscience in the practice of the different virtues.
(3). In our Examination of Conscience, we ought in the first place correct exterior defects, that offend and scandalize our neighbour. But we must take care not to be so intent on making our examen on exterior things of this sort, as to pass our whole life therein; for it is far easier to overcome ourselves in these exterior than in our interior defects. “I command my hand,” says St. Augustine, “and the hand obeys; I command my foot, and it obeys; but I command my appetite, and it obeys not.” The reason is, because neither hand nor foot have in themselves any inclination contrary to the will; but the appetite has its own inclination, which is often opposite to the will; and, therefore, it is necessary that we endeavour to free ourselves from exterior things as soon as possible, that we may be more at leisure to attend to those which are more essential and of greater importance; to obtain, for example, a profound humility of heart, which reaches not only to a contempt of ourselves, but also to be glad that others despise us; to gain so much upon ourselves as to do all things purely for the love of God, and always to have before our eyes that it is God and not man we serve; to attain entire conformity to the Divine Will, or to gain, in fine, any other virtue or interior perfection. For, though in our Examination of Conscience we ought to pay particular attention to the retrenching of our defects and imperfections, and this would be a sufficient employment during our whole life because we can never be quite free and exempt from venial sins, nevertheless it were very unfit that all our time should be employed in this alone. He who is employed in weeding a garden is well employed, but yet, must he never do anything else but this? The object in plucking up the weeds, is, that flowers and fruit may grow in their place. The time, therefore, in like manner, which we employ in rooting out of our souls vicious and bad inclinations, is well spent; but all this must be done with intent to plant the odoriferous flowers of virtue in their place. We must first demolish and pluck up: but afterwards we must build and plant again.
But what should oblige us still more to observe this method is, that even for the correcting those exterior faults to which we are subject, oftentimes the sweetest, shortest, and most efficacious means is, to take for our examination the perfection most opposite to those defects. Do you speak passionately and authoritatively to your brethren? During your examen employ yourself in looking upon them as being superior to you in all things, and look upon yourself as the least and most unworthy of them all, and by this you will soon learn both how to speak to them, and how to answer them; and if you acquire but true humility you may assure yourself you will never say anything to them rude or mortifying. Do you feel a repugnance to do anything? Do you feel pain in submitting to what happens to you? Let your examen be on receiving all things as coming from the hand of God; as emanating from a particular disposition of His Divine Providence, and as being sent you for your good; and thus you will be able easily to submit to whatsoever shall happen. Do you sometimes fail in the observance of modesty and reserve? Do you often look about you on every side? Or have you a violent curiosity to know all that passes? Let your examen be upon the presence of God, and upon the obligation you have of doing all your actions so as they may appear before Him, and by this means you will soon, without pain, or even so much as thinking of it, be modest in all your deportment: you will be recollected and wholly given to spirituality and devotion (Rodriguez, Vol. I, Treatise vii, Chap. III).
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
Man has been created to praise, honor, and serve the Lord his God, and in this way to save his soul; and everything else on earth exists for man to aid him to reach the end which God has marked out for him in creating him. He must, then, use things as long only as they conduct him to this end, and abstain from them whenever they turn him aside from it. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercise.
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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