In the “Office of Readings” of the Liturgy of the Hours, there are a couple readings from an obscure Greek abbot by the name of St. Dorotheus. He was the founding abbot of a monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity, who lived in the 11th century. I would like to share a couple thoughts from this saint, and apply to them to our lives as followers of Christ and members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy.
St. Dorotheus asks the question: why is it that sometimes we get upset, angry and disturbed when someone speaks an unkind word to us, or corrects us? He gives several reasons, but then says:
“Yet the reason for all disturbance, if we look to its roots, is that no one finds fault with himself. This is the source of all annoyance and distress. This is why we sometimes have no rest. We must not be surprised when we are rebuked by holy men. We have no other path to peace but this…. It does not matter how many virtues a man may have, even if they are beyond number and limit. If he has turned from the path of self-accusation, he will never find peace. He will always be troubled himself, or else he will be the source of trouble for others and all his labors will be wasted.”
Why is it important that we seek to know our faults, that we examine our conscience on a daily basis? If we do not, then we will never really know ourselves, never really know our areas of weakness, or what our primary faults are, and we will never be able to bring them to our Lord Jesus for healing. Examination of one’s conscience is not about beating ourselves up for our past sins – once we have surrendered our past to the Lord in the sacrament of confession, it is truly forgiven – it is no longer an obstacle to our relationship with God. But our daily sins, our primary failings – these are things that need to be brought again and again to the Lord in prayer, so that we seek His grace to help us to continue our journey of conversion each day. One cloistered Carmelite nun who I have known for many years asks me, every time we speak on the phone or that she writes me a letter, to “pray for her conversion.” Because we need to be converted each and every day, to allow the Lord Jesus to continue to heal and re-form us into His image and likeness.
St. Dorotheus says that “it does not matter how many virtues a man may have, even if they are beyond number and limit. If he has turned from the path of self-accusation, he will never find peace.” My brothers and sisters: let us continue on this important path of self-accusation by making our examination of conscience faithfully each night before we go to sleep, and commending ourselves to the Merciful Lord Jesus by praying an act of contrition.