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.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Two Prayers: Daily Particular Examine and Evening Awareness Examen
Here in this self-directed retreat we pray the Awareness Examen and 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 amend and change those Vices and our behaviors to grow in holiness’.
A Particular Examination of Conscience
The Particular Examine is different than the Awareness Examen in that the Particular focuses on having us becoming more aware of our discorded attachments, defects, and vices that leads to sin (closing off grace) that we habitually have fallen into and to help us to become aware of how and why we fall into that particular lacking of grace. The Particular Examine done twice a day is meant to be followed by an evening Awareness Examen, which grounds us in gratitude, helps us to notice God's activity in our daily life, and moves us towards hope for the day ahead.
"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
In your petitionary prayer ask the Holy Spirit which of these or another one God desires for you to amend and which of these He desires you to grow in.
Virtues - Vices
Gratitude - Pride
Patience - Wrath - Anger
Temperance - Gluttony
Caritas - Greed
Diligence - Sloth
Humility – Envy
Gratitude vs. Pride
In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, he reminds us that the first sin Pride comes our lack of gratitude, for all things we have, who we are and all of creation are gifts from the Giver. Pride comes from not living in the reality that we were created with aptitudes, limitations and with not somethings, for we always need His grace to sustain us. Here in this self-directed ‘retreat’ the focus is 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 and gifts of the Holy Spirit and to become aware of and to overcome our defaults and sins that can only be done through God’s grace.
How To Make a Particular Examination of Conscience
"First, in the morning, immediately on rising, one should resolve to guard carefully against the particular sin or defect with regard to which he seeks to correct or improve himself." (SE 24)
After lunch, St. Ignatius invites us to ask God for the grace we desire, which is to recall how often we have fallen into a particular sin and to be given the grace to avoid it in the future. Here we reflect on each hour of the day up to that point, and make a tally for each time that we have fallen into the particular vice or defect. Then we "renew (one's) resolution, and strive to amend during the time till the second examination is to be made." (SE 25)
Ask God to help you in your pursuit of spiritual excellence by increasing the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit that will strengthen you in overcoming the particular vice or defect you set out to correct.
After dinner, make a second examination of your day since the one you made at lunchtime. Go over each hour as before and "make a mark for each time he has fallen into the particular fault or sin." (SE 26)
Summary of the Steps During Each Particular Examination
· Pray to be aware
· Notice number of times fallen
· Reflect upon how and why
· Commit to change
· Pray ask for the grace to amend
· Change practice the virtue opposite the vice
Additional Directions from Spiritual Exercise (#27-30).
Every time you fall into the particular sin or fault, you are working on, place your hand over your heart and express sorrow to Jesus.
Pay attention to the tallies for each examination and notice whether there is an improvement from the previous examination.
How have you amended it and by which virtue? Example - pride> gratitude or humility (piety) or patience (fortitude)?
Observe the tallies from the day and notice if there is an improvement from the previous day(s).
Compare one week with another week and observe whether you have improved since the previous week.
Continue for 4 weeks to review with your spiritual director or confessor.
Mid Day Examine
Night Awareness Examen
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.
Example of an evening Awareness Examen for a Particular Virtue for Growing in Gratitude (SE #24-#31).
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 _________________?