If there is one
part of the spiritual life that St. Ignatius of Loyola stressed,
it was the daily - and even twice daily - examination of
conscience. As we read the Spiritual Exercises, we may be
overwhelmed by the minute detail of St. Ignatius' treatment of
what he calls the particular examination of conscience. At the
same time, he is careful to provide, "Some Notes on Scruples."
It is very
important, therefore, that we form a clear and correct
conscience. This means that we cultivate a sensitive judgment
which is alert to the least offense against the Divine will and,
at the same time, protect ourselves against the wiles of the
evil spirit. "The enemy," says St. Ignatius, "considers
carefully whether one has a lax or a delicate conscience. If one
has a delicate conscience, the evil one seeks to make it
excessively sensitive in order to disturb and upset it more
easily. Thus, if he sees that one will not consent to mortal sin
or venial sin, or even to the appearance of deliberate sin,
since he cannot cause him to fall in a matter that appears
sinful, he strives to make the soul judge that there is a sin,
for example in a word or passing thought, where there is no sin"
(Spiritual Exercises, 349).
It is valuable
to reflect on this tactic of the evil spirit before we offer
some practical norms for making our daily examination of
otherwise, we are liable to overlook the importance of a daily
inventory of our moral conduct for fear of becoming scrupulous.
There is such a
thing as growing in prudent sensitivity of conscience, without
becoming a victim of the "enemy" as St. Ignatius calls him.
We may set this
down as a general principle, for those who are sincerely
striving to do the will of God:
characteristic of God and His angels, when they act upon the
soul, to give true happiness and spiritual joy and to banish all
the sadness and disturbances which are caused by the enemy.
characteristic of the evil one to fight against such happiness
and consolation by proposing fallacious reasonings, subtleties,
and continual deceptions (Rules for Discernment of Spirits, II,
What are we to
conclude from this? That the more zealous we are in trying to
please God, the more He will give us a deep interior peace of
soul. We should suspect as a temptation from the evil one, when
we find ourselves worried or anxious or disturbed, no matter how
pious the source of the worry or anxiety may be.
The key to
applying this principle is that, before God, I honestly want to
do His will even though through weakness, I may fail to live up
to my resolutions.
virtue on which we should daily examine ourselves is peace of
soul. We should ask ourselves, "Have I given in to worry or
"Have I allowed
myself to get discouraged?" A good practice is to pronounce the
name, "Jesus," when we find ourselves getting despondent, or say
some short aspiration like, "My Jesus, I trust in you," whenever
we become dejected over something.
Particular Examen on the Theological Virtues
the particular examen to my own spiritual life, it is well to
first ask myself, "What are the virtues that I know from
experience I most need to develop?"
The reason why
this question should first be answered is that no two of us are
equally prone to commit the same kind of sins. Nor are we
personally always tempted in the same direction. There is wisdom
in first knowing enough about myself, to be able to get
attention in my spiritual life and concentrating on what is not
so necessary for me at this time in my service of God.
would be a mistake to suppose that by attending to my moral
failings, I am being "negative" in my pursuit of holiness.
contrary. In God's providence, He allows us to fail in those
areas in which He especially wants us to grow in virtue.
We can fail in
the practice of these virtues either by commission, omission, or
by tepidity, in not acting as generously as we might in
responding to the grace we have received from God.
1. Do I make an
honest effort to grow in the virtue of faith by daily mental
prayer on the mysteries of the faith as revealed in the life of
2. Do I make at
least a short act of faith every day?
3. Do I pray
daily for an increase of faith?
4. Do I ever
tempt God by relying on my own strength to cope with the trials
in my life?
5. Do I
unnecessarily read or listen to those who oppose or belittle
what I know are truths of my Catholic faith?
6. What have I
done today to externally profess my faith?
7. Have I
allowed human respect to keep me from giving expression to my
8. Do I make a
serious effort to resolve difficulties that may arise about my
9. Do I ever
defend my faith, prudently and charitably, when someone says
something contrary to what I know is to be believed?
10. Have I
helped someone overcome a difficulty against the faith?
1. Do I
immediately say a short prayer when I find myself getting
2. Do I daily
say a short act of hope?
3. Do I dwell
on my worries instead of dismissing them from my mind?
4. Do I fail in
the virtue of hope by my attachment to the things of this world?
5. Do I try to
see God's providence in everything that "happens" in my life?
6. Do I try to
see everything from the viewpoint of eternity?
7. Am I
confident that, with God's grace, I will be saved?
8. Do I allow
myself to worry about my past life and thus weaken my hope in
9. Do I try to
combine every fully deliberate action with at least a momentary
prayer for divine help?
10. How often
today have I complained, even internally?
1. Have I told
God today that I love Him?
2. Do I tell
Jesus that I love Him with my whole heart?
3. Do I take
the occasion to tell God that I love Him whenever I experience
something I naturally dislike?
4. Have I
capitalized on the difficulties today to tell God that I love
Him just because He sent me the trial or misunderstanding?
5. Do I see
God's love for me in allowing me to prove my love for Him in the
crosses He sent me today?
6. Have I seen
God's grace to prove my love for Him in every person whom I met
7. Have I
failed in charity by speaking unkindly about others? ..
8. Have I dwelt
on what I considered someone's unkindness toward me today?
9. Is there
someone that I consciously avoid because I dislike the person?
10. Did I try
to carry on a conversation today with someone who is difficult
to talk to?
11. Have I been
stubborn in asserting my own will?
thoughtful have I been today in doing some small favor for
13. Have I
allowed my mood to prevent me from being thoughtful of others
14. Am I given
to dwelling on other people's weaknesses or faults?
15. Have I been
cheerful today in my dealings with others?
16. Do I
control my uncharitable thoughts as soon as they arise in my
17. Did I pray
for others today?
18. Have I
written any letters today?
19. Have I
controlled my emotions when someone irritated me?
20. Have I
performed any sacrifice today for someone?