Examination of Conscience

Image from Alhambra Carmelite Sisters O.C.D., Examen Prayer

Divine Intimacy #103:  “To insure an orderly and progressive growth in spiritual life, we must know ourselves.  We have to consider our sins, our weak points, our evil tendencies, as well as progress we have already made, the favorable results we have attained, and our inclinations to good.  This knowledge of our interior state is obtained through the examination of conscience  The Examen, considered in this way, becomes one of the most important exercises of the spiritual life since its object is to help the soul to rid itself of everything that might obstruct of delay it’s journey to God and to stimulate it to quicken its pace toward Him. Just as we cannot wage war with an unknown enemy, or make conquest of an unknown region, in the same way, it is impossible to fight the evil in ourselves if we have not previously identified it. We can never attain sanctity if we have not looked for an efficacious means of acquiring it. In other words, the examination of conscience attains its end when the soul who has faithfully practiced this exercise can say to itself: these are the inclinations which I must watch more carefully to avoid falling into sin; these, the weak points which I must strengthen; these are the virtues that I must practice most of all. In this way, the soul will be able to formulate practical, firm resolutions which will then become the special subject of its subsequent examinations.

It is clear that we mut first recognize and combat any tendencies which could lead us to mortal sin.  But then, those that could bring us to venial sin or to simple voluntary imperfections must be similarly treated.  Everything that constitutes a deliberate fault must be progressively and energetically rooted out of the soul which aspires to divine union.”  (Divine Intimacy, by Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.)

Additional Resources includes: Father Timothy Gallagher’s book titled “The Examen Prayer”, where he outlines the following steps presented in Ignatius Spiritual Exercises (no. 43)

Transition:  I become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin this examen

Step 1:  Gratiutude.  I note the gifts that God’s love has given me this day and I give thanks to God for them

Step 2:  Petition.  I ask God for an insight and strength that will make this examen a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone

Step 3:  Review.  With my God, I review the day.  I look from the stirrings in my heart and the thoughts that God has given me this day.  I look also for those that have not been of God.  I review my choices in response to both, and throughout the day in general

Step 4:  Forgiveness. I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens

Step 5: Renewal.  I look to the following day and with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God’s loving desire for my life

Transition:  Aware of God’s presence with me, I prayerfully conclude the examen.