Reconcilation and Spirituality
Examen of Conscience
One of the most regularly given pieces of advice in the history of Christian spirituality is that we make a regular examination of conscience. Many people do it just before going to confession, but Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommended making such an examination a part of our daily prayer at the end of (or at some other routine time) each day. In this examen, we invite God to show us both the good in who we are and to provide the grace necessary to change those things that need changing. It seems that God often allows us to fail in those areas in which we especially need to grow in virtue. So we look at failure as an opportunity to grow and as a way to build up the communities to which we belong. This method for the examination of conscience is easy to remember by the letters in the word “G R A C E“.
G ratitude. Think of something specific in this day or in your life that you are grateful for …. say a word of thanks to God for this.
R equest God’s light to see yourself as God truly sees you. In this way, we aren’t just engaging in another “self help” technique, done by our own power, but are asking for supernatural enlightenment to see ourselves truly as God sees us. St. Theresa suggests that such truth is the very definition of the term “humility”.
A ccount for your Actions and Attitude in the last 24 hours. What are the things in your life that lead to certain actions or attitudes, good or bad? What are those “near occasions of sin” or patterns of sin that we fall into?
- For example where might anger and impatience begin in us and how do we allow them to grow?
- How might God’s grace have helped us avoid jealously or gossiping? We can use the 10 commandments to review our actions, but even better, we can reflect on Jesus’ two great commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind”, and “love your neighbor as yourself”.
- We can also use an examination of conscience. The key thing in the Ignatian Examen is that we do this after having expressed our gratitude and having made a request for God’s grace. We don’t “play the tape” over and over in our heads and either rationalize or “beat ourselves up” over and over during the day.
C hart your course. You may feel compelled to continue, in God’s grace, on your present course. You may, however, become aware of things you feel compelled to change. If you are aware of sin for which you would like to seek forgiveness, you may ask God for forgiveness and seek reconciliation with the community.
E ntreat God for energy and enthusiasm. We ask God for energy and enthusiasm to carry out the course just charted. We must remember that, we cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try, but we cannot fail if we avail ourselves of the help God is so eager to offer. We work as if it all depends on us, and believe deeply that it really all depends on God.
In this way, we will not only be more ready for confession when the time comes, but will steadily grow in recollection and a sense of God’s constant presence.
Questions for an Examen of Conscience
- What is one thing that I am particularly grateful for in my life or grateful for in the last 24 hours?
- What are the virtues that I know from experience I offer to the community?
- What are the virtues I most need to develop?
- What areas do my failures suggest that God especially wants me to grow in virtue?
- Do I make at least a short act of faith every day?
- Do I ever tempt God by relying on my own strength to cope with the trials in my life?
- What have I done today to externally profess my faith?
- Have I helped someone overcome a difficulty of or against faith?
- Do I immediately say a short prayer when I find myself getting discouraged?
- Do I dwell on my worries instead of dismissing them from my mind?
- Do I fail in the virtue of hope by attachment to the things of this world?
- Do I try to see God’s providence in everything that “happens” in my life?
- Am I confident that, with God’s grace, I will be saved?
- How often today have I complained, even internally?
- Do I tell Jesus that I love Him with my whole heart?
- Have I seen God’s grace to prove my love for Him in every person whom I met today?
- Have I failed in charity by speaking unkindly about others?
- Is there someone that I consciously avoid because I dislike the person?
- Have I been stubborn in asserting my own will?
- Am I given to dwelling on other people’s weaknesses or faults?
- Did I pray for myself and others today?
- Have I performed any sacrifice today for someone?
- Have I avoided using others to please myself?
- Have my actions or has my consumption of thing adversely affected the lives of others?
- How is God touching my soul and directing me to make a change now? What is the change (if any) I am being inspired to make?
- How am I being directed to thank God for the person that I am?
Ask God for the energy and perseverance to persist in this state of faith, hope and love for God, for neighbor, and for self.