On Wednesdays I will begin a new series of posts: “Classics from the Past.” Today’s classic is about the Examination of Conscience, which is a personal, private, prayerful review of one’s thoughts, words and deeds to determine how one has been responding to the Gospel. I examine my conscience on a daily basis, and many people do so likewise. Everyone should examine their conscience in preparation for receiving the sacrament of Reconcilation.
This is what I wrote previously with minor revisions.
As a Christian I am bound to follow my conscience, my inner guide to doing good and to avoiding evil. Every Evening, as the day winds down, I spend about ten minutes at the beginning of “Night Prayer” to review my day by examining my conscience. The guide that I have found most helpful lately is called “An Examen.”
I like this way of reflecting on my day because it is balanced. It helps me see both the times I practiced virtue as well as the times I sinned. This is in contrast to other examinations I have used which emphasize only the sinful acts. Noticing God’s goodness and appreciating his providence is another outcome that has helped me. I feel a strong impulse to give God glory and praise as a result.
First I remember that I am in God’s presence.
Heavenly Father, I know you are with me, looking at me with love and caring for my every need.
Then I review my day and express gratitude.
Loving Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for the gifts and graces you have given me. Thank you for life itself. Thank you for the people who have graced me and touched me.
Intermittently I pause and recall something for which I am specifically grateful about the day, the graces, the people that God has placed on my path. Today, for example, I was grateful for the gift of understanding a section of a piece of guitar music that has been a challenge to learn. I also thanked God for unexpectedly meeting a friend and her son at the frozen yogurt store.
Next, I ask the Holy Spirit for help.
Come, Holy Spirit, my dear advocate and guide. Help me appreciate and understand what has been happening in my life today. Instill in my heart a deep appreciation of God’s presence in the people, happenings, and events of today.
I wait to see if something surfaces. If so, I rest in that for a short time. It may be a realization that the patience for which I’ve prayed has improved my relationship with a difficult person.
Then I review how I lived today.
I do this by recalling various scenes from morning afternoon, and earlier in the evening. Usually I can remember just one or two incidents, although there are times when I remember many things. Here I pay attention to the emotions these scenes elicit.
Sometimes the memory leaves me with feelings of contentment, fulfillment, joy or serenity. In other words there is a positive feeling. I have learned to see these as God loving me through them.
At times the memory elicits from me feelings of hurt, emptiness, frustration or anger. These are unsettling memories. Such emotions alert me to areas where God is inviting me to grow through repentance or a change of heart. I may need to give a person or something within me more attention.
Finally, I look forward to tomorrow with hope.
In the light of the review I talk with God about my future hope of following his will and growing closer to him. I may make specific resolutions and ask God to help me remember them and to enlighten me when opportunities to fulfill them come my way.