The manner of making the Examination of Conscience Explained.
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 manner of making the Examination of Conscience Explained.
We have now to explain how the examination of conscience is made. In the first place, we put ourselves in the presence of God by an act of faith and profound adoration, and give Him thanks for all the favours we have received from the Divine Bounty. St. Bernard warns us to be very much on our guard not to be backward in giving God thanks for the benefits which He imparts to us. Now, the time of the Examination of Conscience is most suitable for this purpose, as then it is that the soul strikes a balance between what it has received from God, and the return it has made to Him. So much the more, too, as gratitude for favours received disposes the soul to that sorrow which will have to follow upon the thought of the ingratitude we have shown by our sins. In the second place, we must ask God to give us light to know our sins and negligences. This is most necessary, for, as St. Gregory the Great says, “self-love deludes us and blinds the eye of our mind so that we fail to perceive our faults, or they appear much less grievous than they really are, and thus we make less account of them than we ought” (Hom. 4, In Ezech). Hence it is of the utmost importance for us to ask God to dispel the darkness which self-love sheds over our minds, that, the eye of our soul being cleared and purified, we may be able to discover all our sins, penetrate their malice, and estimate it at its proper weight. The more so because, failing this self-knowledge, we cannot have a true repentance for our sins; since as the same St. Gregory remarks, “God does not bestow the grace of compunction until He have previously made us conscious of the enormity of our faults” (Lib. V, in I Reg., Cap. II). This preparation briefly consists in putting ourselves in the presence of God and thanking Him for His favours, and also asking grace from God to know our sins. This preparation having been made we come to the Examination itself which consists in three acts. (I). Finding out our sins. (2). Exciting ourselves to contrition for them. (3). Making a firm resolution to avoid them in the future.
(I). Finding out our sins.
(I). We must make a diligent search into all the sins or imperfections into which we have fallen during the past day. “Set up a tribunal within thyself, and judge the cause of the life thou hast this day led. Let thy thoughts go in search of thy sins, and let them accuse thee before God. Let thy Conscience stand as witness against thee. Let the fear and love of God be the holy executioners to slay thy sins with the sword of repentance” (St. Augustine, Hom. 40, ex. Quinquag. Homil., Cap. 6). Very different from the judgments of earthly tribunals, – which usually end with the condemnation of the accused, – this inward judgment will secure thy acquittal and the pardon of thy sins. “But to attain this end, thou must proceed against thyself with rigour and exactness. Thou must carefully examine all the thoughts that have passed through thy mind, all the words that have issued from thy mouth, and all the actions thou hast done; nor will any time be better suited for doing this than at eventide, when thou art about to retire to rest.” (St. John Chrysostom, In Ps. 50, Hom. 2.)
“But remember that this examination is not to be made upon thy life in the gross, passing over slight faults as of little moment; for thou shouldst take strict account even of these, as doing this thou wilt guard thy self from more grievous faults” (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. 43, in Matt.).
The finding out of our sins is not a difficult work. Every one can easily discover his own sins if he is so inclined. Although this part of the work of the Examination of Conscience is important in itself and in so far as it goes, still it is the least important of the acts which constitute this self-examination. If persons merely find out their sins and do not excite themselves to sorrow for them, or make an efficacious purpose to avoid them in the future, they are wasting their time, they do no good, they are not performing the work of examining their consciences. . .
(2). Exciting ourselves to contrition for them.
(2). When we have found out the sins we have committed we should excite ourselves to an act of sorrow and contrition for them. “If thou find, that in the course of the day thou hast done some good action, give loving thanks to God; for by His gift hast thou been able to do it. But if thou discover faults and sins, blot them out with penitential tears” (St. John Chrysostom, In Ps. 50, Hom. 2).
This sorrow must, as far as possible, be heartfelt, and full of inward confusion and humility. The offender, under the sense of his faults and of his infidelity to God, must present himself in the sight of the Almighty as a perverse and ungrateful son would present himself before an affectionate father, and with heartfelt confusion should say in the words of St. Bernard, “How can I be so bold as to raise my eyes to the countenance of so kind a Father, being as I am an undutiful son? I blush for having done things unworthy of my station, for having proved myself the degenerate son of so good a Father. Let rivers of tears flow down from my eyes; let my face be covered with confusion, my countenance redden with shame, and my soul be overshadowed with deep humiliation” (Serm. 16, In Cant.). The more this sorrow is humble and sincere, the more will it avail to purge the soul of all defilement. The saints further counsel a devout person who discovers on examination some notable defect, to impose some penance upon himself in reparation of the fault he had committed, and as a precaution against future relapses. St. John Chrysostom says; “Let thy mind and thy thoughts sit in judgment over thy soul and conscience. Look into thy doings, cast out all thy faults, and to each of them assign a fitting chastisement and a proportionate penance” (Hom. 43, In Matt.).
(3). Making a firm resolution to avoid them in the future.
(3). We must make a firm purpose not to offend God any more. This purpose, as St. John Chrysostom observes, should be so efficacious as to instil into the soul a holy fear of ever again relapsing into sin; so that, like a guilty person who has been severely rebuked, we may not venture to lift up our heads for shame, but ever bear in mind the reproach administered (Serm. de Pœnit et Confess.). In order to be of any real use, this purpose of amendment must descend to particulars. That passion or disordered affection which has led you astray is to be put to the torture; that is the one to be racked with contrition; that is precisely the one you must strike down by good resolves, so that it may no more venture to assail you, or may, at least, attack you with diminished strength. For it is by particular and not by general resolutions that our vices are usually overcome as, by taking in hand sometimes this and sometimes that one of our faults, we strengthen the will in a generous and constant resistance, first to one and then to another of our failings, and thus, at length by slow degrees, we get rid of each and all of them.
And furthermore, we must look into the origin of our faults; we must go down to the depths of our soul, to find out the root of these evil weeds, so as to be able to pull them up out of our hearts. What use is there in shaking off the leaves, or clipping the branches of a tree that never bears fruit, and does nothing but cast a hurtful shade upon the ground? Unless the root be destroyed, all avails nothing; the tree will soon be covered with foliage in greater luxuriance than ever. Thus too, our resolutions will be to little purpose so long as we cut not off the occasions and origin of our faults; and our defects will continually return to defile our souls, however much we may resolve not to be guilty of them in future (Scaramelli: Vol. I, Section I, Article ix. 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
More determination is required to subdue the interior man than to mortify the body; and to break one’s will than to break one’s bones.. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Bartoli, Book iv.
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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