One of the most basic truths of the spiritual life is the importance of making a daily examination of conscience. As members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy, we strive to do this each night before going to bed. Why is the examination so important? It is for the sake of self-knowledge — we are told in one of the spiritual classics to “know thyself,” and this is impossible if we do not have a regular practice of looking over our day, reviewing what we have said and done, and asking Almighty God for forgiveness for our sins and failings of the day.
How should we do the examination of conscience? There are a number of good ways, and it can be helpful to vary how we do it from one day or one week to another:
- We can make the examination using the Ten Commandments: go through the commandments one by one, asking “have I obeyed this commandment today?”
- We can go through a list of questions on an examination of conscience brochure, such as the one published by the Fathers of Mercy.
- We can also use the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12): have I lived in accordance with these 9 ways that Our Lord said are “Blessed”?
- We can examine ourselves using the Seven Capital sins and their opposite virtues (“Capital Virtues”): the capital sins are the “root sins” that underlie our other sins. It can be very beneficial to see not only what our outward sins are, but what are the root sins that are underlying those sins in our lives. Once we see the patterns of sins, and their roots, we can begin to work on growing the opposite virtues. [I have a CD series, titled “Seven Capital Virtues: Overcoming the Seven Capital Sins,” available on http://fathersofmercy.com/store/category/cds/ that explains these matters in depth.]
- We could vary things even more by doing our nightly examination based on the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit.
So there are multiple valid and helpful ways for us to look over our day, to place ourselves in the presence of our loving and merciful God, and to come to know ourselves in true self-knowledge. This self-knowledge helps us to not only know our weakness, but also to depend more and more on the grace of Almighty God, won for us on the Blessed Cross by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory as we seek to grow more and more in holiness!
For a good summary of all of these, and for help in examining your conscience, feel free to download a copy of the Fathers of Mercy “Examination of Conscience for Adults and Teens” by following this link: http://fathersofmercy.com/store/examination-of-conscience-for-adults-and-teens/