examination of self; examination of conscience

One of the fundamental means of furthering personal sanctification. Christ has clearly indicated the possibility of formalism and self-deception in devout sentiments unless one consciously holds oneself to a practical performance of the will of God (e.g., Matthew 7). This supposes self-examination. In its commonest form this examination of conscience is used as a preparation for confession and deals with actions distinctly sinful. Persons striving for Christian perfection put it to a further use in searching out minor sins and imperfections of act and of motive, and in keeping account of conscious acts of virtue. Especially adapted to this purpose is the so-called particular examen which segregates a certain failing and concentrates effort on it for the purpose of reducing the number of daily failures until it is eliminated entirely. Each morning a special resolution is made for the day. At noon and at night account is taken of the progress made and the resolution is renewed. The process is also adaptable to the acquisition of virtuous habits. Saint Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises suggests five points for the examination of conscience.
  1. An act of gratitude to God for all His benefits. This will dispose the soul for contrition based largely on the loftier motives.
  2. A petition for grace to know and detest one's sins.
  3. An accurate examination of one's thoughts, words and actions throughout the hours of the day or according to the activities in which one has been occupied.
  4. An act of contrition and an appeal for pardon, the principal point of the whole exercise.
  5. A resolution to amend, a petition for God's assisting grace, and finally an Our Father.
New Catholic Dictionary

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