Tag Archives: discernment

Making a General Examination of Conscience

From time-to-time I need to be reminded what it means to enter into a holy and general examination of conscience. Over time if I don’t review the method of examination proposed in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, I forget. These days I have to admit I am a crusade to make the idea and practice of personal conversion a priority. From what I am sensing in the Church and in secular society we all need a lot less sin in our life, and a lot more happy, healthy and fruitful appreciation of where God’s grace is operative.

Where should you always start, in examining yourself? Loyola makes this proposal:

There are five points in this method

1. The first point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the favors received.

2. The second point is to ask for grace to know my sins and to rid myself of them.

3. The third point is to demand an account of my soul from the time of rising up to the present examination. I should go over one hour after another, one period after another. The thoughts should be examined first, then the words, and finally, the deeds in the same order as was explained under the Particular Examination of Conscience.

4. The fourth point will be to ask pardon of God our Lord for my faults.

5. The fifth point will be to resolve to amend with the grace of God.

Close with an Our Father.

The mystical tradition of the Catholic Church keeps before us the ideal of living in a state of grace because in doing so we walk the path of being in communio (here I will say this means friendship) with God. But other implications of living in a state of grace is that our relationships with others get better, and deeper knowledge of ourselves in action keeps us grounded and less self-righteous.

If you want to know one of the key points of discernment for Pope Francis lived –this is it, an examination of conscience. Plus, the new evangelization that is so much part of our church-existence today revolves around our willingness to examine our mind, heart and actions with a firm desire to amend life. Discernment is key to all things Catholic. An alive, a mature Christian faith is known only to the extent that we give ourselves over to Grace. A certain path to conversion is this method of Loyola.

Christian freedom means talking about God, listening to God –to be truly free

Jesus is oriented toward the Father. His face is set on God. As Saint Luke says, “Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Today’s Angelus text given by Pope Francis is a marvelous for study and prayer. “If a Christian does not know how to talk with God, does not know how to listen to God, in his own conscience, then he is not free – he is not free.”


“So we also must learn to listen more to our conscience. Be careful, however: this does not mean we ought to follow our ego, do whatever interests us, whatever suits us, whatever pleases us. That is not conscience. Conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with Him, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.”

Pope Francis presents Pope Benedict XVI as an example of this discernment. I recommend that you consider reading the Pope’s Angelus text here.

Saint Matthias: listened to the community, and followed Jesus

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Getting closer and closer to Pentecost Sunday that Church’s selections from the Acts of the Apostles gives a clearer sense of how grace works in the life of the Christian community. Today’s feast of Saint Matthias, one of the elected apostles (Acts 1:15-26) replacing Judas shows how discernment of spirit works to provide apostolic continuity in pastoral authority and power. Discernment is never one-sided; it is always a two-way street on the part of the man and on the part of the Church to choose who serves as an ordained minister of the Gospel. Matthias’ vocation to replace Judas as one of the bishops was given to him; neither he nor single one person had the power to make the selection; it was done with in the midst of the community because the community is a place to encounter the living, resurrected Christ. Moreover, one can’t say that Saint Matthias gained much: he preached the Truth of the Gospel, confirmed the faith and he lost his life: nothing greater than the love he had for Christ Jesus propelled him to serve with all his heart.

Note what the Collect of the Mass prays: God assigned Saint Matthias a place of service and pastoral responsibility and it is our hope to numbered among the elect, that is, among the saved. Key here is God’s action in each of our lives; it is not our own desires alone that makes salvation possible. We are meant to share the lot of the saints, but our freedom and God’s grace need to be operative for this gift to be realized.

Matthias met his Savior by crucifixion in Judea and his mortal remains are located at Saint Matthew’s Abbey, Trier, Germany.

As the Church prays,

O God, who assigned Saint Matthias a place in the college of Apostles, grant us, through his intercession, that, rejoicing  at how your love has been allotted to us, we may merit to be numbered among the elect.

The following selection from a sermon of Saint John Chrysostom on Saint Matthias may be instructive on the early practice of ecclesiological need.

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Visiting clerics in prison –a provocation to conversion

Recent revelations, though not completely surprising, of the high ranking LA cleric covering the tracks of priests’ immoral and criminal behavior, ought to cause us all to stop, think, pray and work for change in the Church. Some bishops and priests in this country have not acted in the manner of the Good Shepherd, have not lived in communion with Jesus Christ and have opened the doors to further disaster with regard to the ordinary faithful. AND “Msgr. Meth” is yet another story.

John Zmirak’s “I’d Like to Visit Cardinal Mahoney in Prison” should make you stop and think what exactly we have gotten ourselves into when we’ve neglected some very important spiritual and human of our person. Cardinal Roger Mahoney is only the latest to have been exposed for being a bad Catholic.

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Exercising proper judgment in our life so that we share in God’s glory

St John the Baptist & St Dominic.jpgLast week the novices of the Order of Friars Preachers –the Dominicans of the Province of Saint Joseph– heard the following talk by Dominican Father André-Joseph LaCasse. Father LaCasse is the pastor of the Church of Saint Gertrude, Cincinnati, OH. I am not a Dominican but I have great affection for the Dominican vocation and many friends are of that persuasion, however many readers of this blog are not Dominicans. So, I thought after reading LaCasse’s talk there is something we can all be helped by what was said about the fraternal life the Dominican Order. In my estimation Father LaCasse’s thoughts are applicable to all states of the Christian life: the single person, the married couple, the Capuchin, the secular priest, bishop, etc. In the School of Community (of CL) we’ve been working on Father Luigi Giussani’s notion of charity and sacrifice and are about to start the section on virginity. And I ask myself: How is it that as a Christian I live in a state of perpetual discernment of faith, hope and charity through a life of sacrifice? In what concrete ways do I live honestly? Well, I’m off to confession to find that out. You?

You are privileged here because you
live with friars who have lived this life for quite some time. In our community
we have two jubiliarians, one who is close to being a jubiliarian, and the rest
of us who have lived this life for over twenty years. Our lives as religious is
a steady progress towards perfection, but a perfection that experiences many
imperfections along the way
. Our lives are not extraordinary. None of us has
won prestige. None of us is in the limelight. We live ordinary lives of
consecration, hoping that we can do our best to advance the cause of Jesus
Christ and his Church.

The Dominican life is a life of
prayer, study, and the apostolate. Most days are ordinary days where you are
called to be simple servants of the Church. Do you desire to be a servant? Are
you willing to die to your own desires
in order to do the desire of God manifested
through the will of our superiors? In a real sense you will not be able to
answer this question until something is asked of you that takes real sacrifice
and humility
. But still the question needs to be asked now: Am I willing to die
to myself and become a servant of the Church? The question needs to be answered
now because from the very beginning of your discernment you must be brutally
honest with yourself.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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