In preparing our souls over these next 40 days to meet the Risen Christ, we are called to this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in addition to self-discipline and renewing our baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized.
Here in this self-directed retreat is a way to pray the Examen as a Particular Examination of Conscience, reflecting upon the gifts of the Virtues and in our daily use of discerning the 'spirits' of our thoughts, feelings, and internal motivations leading to our behaviors.
Discernment of 'spirits' and the Virtue of Gratitude
In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, he reminds us that the first sin Pride comes from not being grateful, for all things we have, are gifts from the Giver. It comes from not living in the reality that we were created with aptitudes and limitations and need His grace. Here focus on growing in the virtuous habit of discerning the 'good spirits" that are operating in us all the time, to see out living the Virtues that can only be done through the gifts of grace.
The Examen of Consciousness & Particular Examination of Conscience
A Lenten Prayer Project: Discernment of 'spirits' and Virtues.
"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." "A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions." Catholic Catechism 1803
"Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called "capital" because they engender other sins and other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia." Catholic Catechism # 1866
We are to remember the reality that all the good we choose can only be achieved by our cooperation with the gift of 'actual' grace. Therefore reflect upon what Virtues we desire to grow in and in our desire to cooperate with God's grace.
Pray the Examen as a Particular Examination of Conscience
Today what am I most grateful for?___________________
Lord, open my heart and mind to see myself as you see me.
Today, what did I desire?_______________
Today, in what ways have I acted out of Gratitude and shown your love?________________
How has your grace operated within me, growing in the virtue of Gratitude today?__________________________
How have I discerned your voice? ____________________________________
(You can replace Gratitude with the other virtue Ex: Patience)
Lord, I am still learning to grow in your love.
Today what choices have I made that has been an inadequate response to your love? ______________________________________________
How has Pride been operating in my life today? (for all other sins flow from Pride) _________________________________________
(You can replace Pride with another vice that is the opposite of the virtue you are looking to grow in -Ex: Anger)
Lord, let me look with faith, hope, and charity toward tomorrow.
What do I desire and need for tomorrow to let you lead me to grow in this virtue of _________________?
The Grace of Gratitude and Growth
Gratitude also helps us in growing in all the Cardinal Virtues and human virtues.
You may be called to consider other virtues and capital sins pairs pre and during this Lenten season using this Examen as a Particular Examination of Conscience. Just replace the Virtue and its opposite a Vice in the Examen reflection questions.
Virtues - Vices
Gratitude - Pride
Patience - Wrath - Anger
Temperance - Gluttony
Caritas - Greed
Diligence - Sloth
Humility - Envy