“To have a gathering heart, a heart in which we know what happens, and here and there you can perform a practice as old as the Church, but good: the examination of conscience. Who of us, at night, at the end of the day, remains by himself, by herself, and asks the question: what happened today in my heart? What happened? What things have passed through my heart? If we don’t do this, we have truly failed to know how to watch and guard [our hearts] well.” (Homily of Pope Francis)
Even though all the great spiritual writers speak of the vital importance importance of making a nightly examination of conscience, I sense from my own experience that this is one of the easiest spiritual practices to omit. Here is a method of examination of conscience I am proposing that you may find useful and even attractive since it simply utilizes 1 Corinthians 13 – a meditation on the virtue of charity – as the blueprint for your nightly examination of conscience. And at the end of our lives, as Saint John of the Cross tells us, we will be judged by whether we loved.
1 Corinthians 13 is also attractive for a nightly examination of conscience because Scripture is attractive. Utilizing scripture for growth in holiness immerses us in the POWER of God’s own word, and without our even realizing it increases our love for God. And what could be more important to us than that!
METHOD OF NIGHTLY EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE USING THE 1 CORINTHIANS 13 MEDITATION ON LOVE
Preliminarily: Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to make the examination profitable for you. Then place yourself in the presence of God. Now, reflect on the following considerations about love applying them very specifically to your life for the day in question you have just finished living:
From 1 Cor. 13: 4-7, 13
You probably keep a Bible by your bed, so you can simply open it up to 1 Corinthians 13 when you retire at night and read and reflect through it for your nightly examination of conscience. Notice how St. Paul tells us that “love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth”; it is important for us to examine whether the culture is in any way leading us away from the truth. Naturally, end your examination of conscience with a firm purpose of amendment and with a prayer of thanksgiving for the graces received from the examination.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Note: Justin Fatica mentioned using 1 Corinthians 13 for an examination of conscience while I was at Catholic Familyland. For two profound discussions on the power of kindness, see Father Faber’s famous essay on kindness in Spiritual Conferences, and Father Lovasik’s book, The Hidden Power of Kindness. “Love is kind.” Kindness is a powerful virtue. “In the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (St. John of the Cross; see CCC 1022).
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