How to Divide a Good Catholic Particular Examination of Conscience According to the Parts and Degrees of Virtues

by admin on August 18, 2010

Of Humility

I. To utter no words that may redound to my own praise and reputation.

II. Not to take pleasure in hearing myself praised and well spoken of, but rather thence to take occasion to hum­ble and confound myself more, seeing that I am not such as others think or such as I ought to be. To this may be added rejoicing when another is praised and spoken well of. And when I feel any resentment at this, or any movement of envy, to note it for a fault; as also when I take any vain complacency or satisfaction at others’ speaking well of me.

III. Never to act from human respect or to gain the good opinion of men or to be seen and esteemed by men, but purely for God.

IV. Never to excuse myself, much less throw the blame on others, whether in outward word or in my own mind.

V. To cut off and lop away at once all vain, arrogant, and proud thoughts that occur to me from things that touch my honor and reputation.

VI. To take all others for my betters, not speculatively merely, but practically and in act, behaving to all with that humility and respect which I show to superiors.

VII. To take well the occasions of humility that come in my way. In this I should go on growing and advanc­ing by these three steps: (1) taking such occasions patient­ly; (2) taking them readily and promptly; (3) taking them cheerfully and with joy. And I must not stop until I come to be glad and rejoice in being disparaged and held in small account, to resemble and imitate Christ our Redeemer, Who chose to be disparaged and held in small account for me.

VIII. In this matter and in others like it the particular examination of conscience may be applied to making acts and doing practices of humility or of any other virtue on which the particular examination of conscience is made. These acts and practices may be either interior or exterior. We should rouse ourselves to these acts so many times in the morning and so many times in the afternoon. We should begin with fewer and gradually add more until the habit or custom is gained of this particu­lar virtue we are in quest of.

Of Brotherly Love

I. To shun detraction or any mention of the fault of another, even though it be slight and public. Not to pull to pieces his doings or show any sign of undervaluing him either in his presence or in his absence, but try to let it be that for anything that proceeds from my mouth all men are good, honorable, and estimable.

II. Never to tell another, “Jack says so-and-so of you,” when the matter is such as might cause annoyance, however small it may be; for this were to sow discord and tares among brethren.

III. Not to utter sarcastic words or harsh and peev­ish words that might give pain to another. Not to be obstinate in maintaining a point, nor contradict another, nor rebuke him, unless you have charge of him.

IV. To treat all with love and charity and show it in act, trying to meet others’ wants, assist and give them satisfaction so far as you can. This especially when you are in an office that obliges you to meet people’s wants; to this you should give great attention, and whatever you cannot do in deed, make it up by a gracious manner and kind answers and words.

V. To avoid any aversion for another and still more to avoid showing it, as it would be by refusing to speak to him for some displeasure you had conceived against him, or by refusing to meet his need when you might, or by giving any other sign that you have a grudge against him. VI. Not to behave to any particular person as you would not behave to anyone else; to avoid familiarities and particular friendships that give offense.

VII. Not to pass judgment on anyone, but rather try to excuse your neighbor’s faults, in your own thoughts and in company having a high opinion of all.

Of Mortification

I. To mortify myself in things and occasions that offer without my going to seek them, whether they come immediately from God or come by means of superiors or by means of neighbors and brethren or in any other way, trying to bear them well and profit by them.

II. To mortify myself and overcome myself in every­thing that is likely to hinder me from keeping my rules and doing my ordinary and daily duties well, spiritual as well as external; because all the faults that we commit therein come of our not overcoming and mortifying ourselves in a matter which takes some trouble, or of not abstaining from some pleasure and gratification.

III. To mortify myself in conducting myself with the modesty that is to be expected of a religious, especially as regards the eyes and tongue, when there might be any fault therein.

IV. To mortify myself in sundry things that I might lawfully do, as by not leaving my room, by not seeing some curious sight, by not asking about or seeking to know what is no affair of mine, by not saying things that I have a mind to say, and the like. I am to apply the examination of conscience to making these acts of mortification, so many in the morning and so many in the afternoon, beginning with fewer and gradually adding more, for the practice of these voluntary mortifications, though it be in little things, is very prof­itable.

V. To mortify myself even in things that I am obliged to do, in this way: When I go to meals, to study, to lecture, to preach, or any other duty that I have a liking for, morti­fy first my appetite and will, saying in my heart: “I have no mind to do this, O Lord, for my own satisfaction, but because Thou willest it.”

Of Abstinence or Gluttony

I. Not to eat anything before or after the common hour nor away from the refectory.

II. To be content with what is given to the commun­ity, not seeking other dishes nor the same dishes differently dressed, not accepting special food except for some known necessity.

III. In these common things not to exceed the rule of temperance in point of quantity.

IV. Not to eat with great eagerness nor very hur­riedly, but with modesty and decency, not letting appetite run away with me.

V. Never to speak of food, much less grumble or com­plain about it.

VI. To cut short and stop all thoughts of gluttony.

Of Patience

I. Not to give any outward sign of impatience, but rather to show great tranquility in word and action and in the cast of my countenance, repressing all impulses and emotions to the contrary.

II. Not to give place and entry into my heart for any perturbation or resentment or indignation or sadness; much less any desire of revenge, though it be in a matter quite trifling.

III. To take all events and occasions that occur as sent by the hand of God for my good and profit, in whatever manner or by whatever means or channel they come.

IV. To go on exercising myself and bringing myself to act in this matter, first, by taking all things as they come with patience; secondly, with promptitude and readi­ness; thirdly, with delight and joy, as being the will of God.

Of Obedience

I. To be exact in outward obedience, leaving the let­ter of the alphabet just begun; meeting also the significa­tion of the will of the superior without waiting for an express command.

II. To obey in will and heart, having one and the same wish and will as the superior.

III. To obey also with the understanding and judg­ment, adopting the same view and sentiment as the supe­rior, not giving place to any judgments or reasoning’s to the contrary.

IV. To take the voice of the superior and the sound of the bell as the voice of God, and obey the superior, who­ever he be, as Christ our Lord, and the same for subor­dinate officials.

V. To follow blind obedience, that is, obedience with­out inquiry or examination or any seeking of reasons for the why and wherefore, it being reason enough for me that it is obedience and the command of the superior.

VI. To go on to acts of the will, exciting myself to believe, when I obey, that I am therein doing the will of God, and make that all my joy and satisfaction.

Of Poverty

I. Not to give or receive from another, either within or without the house, anything without permission

II. Not to borrow or take anything from the house or the room of another without leave.

III. Not to keep anything superfluous, stripping myself of all that is not necessary to me, as well in books and the furniture of my room as in dress and food and everything else.

IV. Even in the necessary things of which I have the use, I must make a point of showing myself a poor man, because such I am; contriving that my things be the poor­est, the plainest, and of least value. Thus, in my room, in
my dress, in my food, and in all the rest, the virtue of pov­erty is ever to shine out and I am to let it be seen that I am a poor man; desiring and rejoicing that the worst of the house be ever for me for my greater abnegation and spiritual profit.

V. To rejoice that even in necessary things something is wanting to me, because this is to be a true and perfect poor man in spirit and an imitator of Christ our Redeemer, Who, being so rich and powerful (II Cor. viii. 9), made Himself poor for love of us. So do I wish to feel want even of necessary things, suffering hunger, thirst, cold, weariness, and nakedness.

Of Chastity

I. To practice modesty of the eyes, not looking at persons or things that may be an incentive to temptation.

II. Not to utter or listen to words touching on this matter or that may awaken movements or evil thoughts, nor read such like things. (Since this was written in the 1600’s, I’ll add this would include music, television programs and movies, etc.)

III. To give no place to any thought bearing on this matter, though it be very remotely, casting them off with great diligence and promptness from the very beginning.

IV. Not to touch another person on his hands, and much less on his face or head, nor allow myself to be touched.

V. To observe with myself much decency and mod­esty, not looking at myself, uncovering or touching myself without absolute necessity.

VI. To have no particular friendships, neither giving nor receiving little presents or things to eat. And with per­sons who appeal to me and with whom I feel this affection and inclination, to go with great reserve, honestly shunning their intimacy and conversation, which is usually the only thing to be done in such cases.

Of Doing Ordinary Actions Well

I. Not to fail any day to do my spiritual duties com­pletely, giving them the full time allotted to them; and when at that time there is some unavoidable occupation to claim me, to make it up at another time.

II. To make my meditation and my general and parti­cular examens well, observing the additions and dwelling in my examens on sorrow and confusion for faults and pur­pose of amendment, rather than on examining how often I have fallen, for in this is the force and fruit of the examens, and for want of this some usually profit little thereby.

III. To do any other spiritual duties well, as mass, office, spiritual reading, and penances, as well public as private, taking care to gather from them the end and fruit for which they are severally ordained, not doing them out of custom, perfunctorily, and for form’s sake.

IV. To do my office and discharge my ministries well, doing all that I can and all that rests with me that they may go well, as one who does things for God and in pres­ence of God.

V. Not to commit any deliberate fault.

VI. To make great account of little things.

VII. And because my progress and perfection turns on doing well and perfectly these ordinary duties that we do every day, I mean to be very careful from time to time, when I feel myself going slack upon this point, to make my particular examen on the same for some days, to renew myself and rehabilitate myself in doing them well.

Of Doing All Things Purely for God

I. Not to do anything for any human respect or to be seen and esteemed by men or for my own comfort or inter­est or simply to my own taste or satisfaction.

II. To do all my actions purely for God, accustoming myself to make actual reference of them all to God: first, in the morning when I awake; secondly, at the beginning of each action; thirdly, also during the action itself, often in it raising my heart to God, saying: “For Thee, O Lord, I do this, for Thy glory and because Thou so wiliest it.”

III. To go on applying this particular examen and ex­citing myself to the same so many times in the morning, so many times in the afternoon, beginning with fewer and then adding more, until I come to gain a habit and custom of very frequently in my work raising my heart to God, and my eyes do not turn therein to regard anything but His Divine Majesty.

IV. I am not to stop in this examen and exercise until I come to do all my actions as one serving God and not men; and until I come to do them in such manner as to be always actually loving God in them, rejoicing that I am there doing His will, and all my joy and satisfaction is in that, so that, when I am at work, I seem to be rather lov­ing than working.

V. This must be the presence of God in which I endeavor to walk, and the continual prayer which I seek to carry on; since it will be very good and very advantageous for my soul and will enable me to do things right down well and in perfection.

Of Conformity to the Will of God

I. To take all things and all occasions that offer, whether great or small, in whatsoever way and manner they come, as coming from the hand of God, Who sends them with the affection of a father for my greater good and profit; conforming myself therein to His most holy and divine will as if I saw Christ Himself saying to me: “Son, I wish that just now thou shouldst do or suffer this.”

II. To contrive to go on growing and mounting in this conformity to the will of God in all things by these three steps: (1) to receive things with patience: (2) with readi­ness and ease: (3) with joy and gladness, this being the will and good pleasure of God.

III. I must not stop in this examination of conscience and exercise until I find in myself a sensible satisfaction and joy that the
Lord’s will is fulfilled in me, though it be with afflictions, contumelies, and pains, and until all my joy arid satisfac­tion is the will and satisfaction of God.

IV. Never to omit doing a thing that I take to be the will of God and His greater glory and service, endeavoring therein to imitate Christ our Redeemer, Who said: I ever do that which is most pleasing to my Eternal Father (John viii. 29).

V. To walk in this exercise is a very good way to walk in the presence of God and in continual prayer, and very profitable.

VI. The examen on mortification that we have set down above may be better applied by way of conformity to the will of God, taking all events and occurrences as coming from the hand of God in the manner that has been said; and in this way it will be easier and of a better relish and more profitable, since it will be an exercise of the love of God.

It must be observed that we do not mean hereby to say that the particular examen is to be made in the order in which the virtues are here set down, or by the degrees or parts that are assigned under each virtue. The rule to be observed here is that each one should choose the virtue of which he stands most in need and begin therein by that part or degree which is now necessary for him; and when he has done with that, he should proceed to select out of the rest what is most proper for him until he comes to the perfection of that virtue by the grace of the Lord.

Excerpt from Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues by Alphonsus Rodriguez, translated by Joseph Rickaby (Loyola University Press, 1929). Reprinted with permission.

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