Tag Archives: Spiritual Exercises

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.

Pope Francis moves 2014 Spiritual Exercises away from Vatican

Pope Francis has entrusted the 2014 Lenten Spiritual Exercises to a Roman parish priest and popular spiritual director, Monsignor Angelo De Donatis, 59. Since 2003, he’s been the pastor of the Basilica Parish of Saint Mark the Evangelist Church near to the Piazza Venezia.

The Lenten Exercises will be held 9-14 March closing the Curial offices and Papal meetings not taken. What theme Monsignor De Donatis will preach on is unknown.

The Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House) is operated by the Society of St Paul, located in Arricia, in the Alban hills, 30 miles from the Vatican. The Society of St Paul is a religious community of men founded by Blessed Giacomo Alberione, who also founded several other religious communities including the Daughters of St Paul; the work of Alberione’s Pauline family has something to do with social media and evangelization.

The change in location  seems to be the first since the Exercises were first conceived in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. The now retired Secretary of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone SDB,  sent a letter to curial officials saying the Pope wanted the Exercises made “in a recollected, silent fashion, away from the office.” By the looks of it, a smaller crowd is expected due to the size of the retreat facility.

Yet another example that Pope Francis is asking that the Curia and therefore, us, to take seriously the spiritual life.

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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Discretion keeps the practice of virtue between extremes

The daily grind of living is only made more fruitful when we take time to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  While not technically not one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Prudence (a cardinal virtue) is perfected by the Spirit’s energy. How often do we move through our day without giving time to self-awareness, reflection on our “I” in action? The lack of a Trinity-diven examination of conscience in one’s  spiritual life is a pitfall many post-moderns fall into. Any person wanting to know more about him or herself needs to spend time, if only 10 minutes a day, in reviewing points of grace and sin in life up to that point of the day while asking for the grace of root-and-branch conversion. For example, it is has been said that a measure of the person today is how he or she uses free time. Discretion is a fruit of the virtue of prudence; ask yourself if you have been sufficiently discrete in your undertakings.

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Spiritual infirmities such as tepidity are caused, not only by chills but also by fevers, that is, by excessive zeal. Saint Paul says, let your service be a reasonable service [Rom. 12:1], because he knew the truth of the words of the Psalmist, the king in his might loves justice [99:4], that is, discretion; and what was prefigured in Leviticus, whatsoever sacrifice you offer, you shall season it with salt [2:13]. In the same vein does Saint Bernard speak: the enemy has no more successful ruse for depriving the heart of real charity than to get him to act rashly and not in keeping with spiritual reasonableness. “Nothing in excess,” said the philosopherAnd this principle should be our guide even in a matter pertaining to justice itself, as we read in Ecclesiastes, be not over just [7:16]. If one fails to observe this moderation, he will find that good is turned into evil and virtue into vice. He will also learn that many inconveniences follow which are quite contrary to the purpose of the one who so acts.

The first is that God is not really served in the long run, as the horse worn out in the first days does not as a rule finish the journey, and thus it happens that someone must be found to care for it.

Second, gains that are made through such excessive eagerness do not usually endure, as Scripture says, wealth gathered in haste will dwindle [Prov. 13:11]. Not only dwindle, but it may be the cause of a fall: and he that is hasty with his feet shall stumble [Prov. 19:2]; and if he stumbles, the further he falls, the greater the danger for he will not stop until he has reached the bottom of the ladder.

Third, there is the danger of being careless in overloading the vessel. There is danger, of course, in sailing it empty, as it can then be tossed about on the waves of temptation; but there is also danger of so overloading it that it sinks.

Fourth, it can happen that, in crucifying the old man, the new man is also crucified and thus made unable through weakness to practice virtue. Saint Bernard tells us that because of this excess we lose four things: “The body loses the effect of the good work, the soul its devotion, our neighbor good example, and God His honor.” From this we infer that whosoever thus mistreats the living temple of God is guilty of sacrilege. Saint Bernard says that the neighbor is deprived of good example, because the fall of one and the ensuing scandal are a source of scandal to others; and he calls them, in cause at least, disturbers of unity and enemies of peace. The example of such a fall frightens many and makes them tepid in their spiritual progress. In the fallen there is danger of pride and vainglory, since they prefer their own judgment to the judgment of everyone else, usurping what is not their own by setting themselves up as judges in their own cause when the rightful judge is their superior.

Besides these, there are also other disadvantages, such as overloading themselves with weapons which they cannot use, like David with the armor of Saul [1 Sam. 17:38-39]. They apply spurs to a spirited horse rather than the rein. Therefore there is need of discretion on this point to keep the practice of virtue between both extremes. Saint Bernard gives this advice: “Good will is not always to be trusted, but it must be bridled, regulated, especially in beginners,” if one wishes to benefit others without any disadvantage to himself, for he that is evil to himself, to whom will he be good? [Sir. 14:5].

Saint Ignatius of Loyola 
Letter to the Fathers and Brothers studying in Coimbra, Portugal 
May 7, 1547

Christ is a new creation: Communion & Liberation Spiritual Exercises 2011

Calling of Zaccheues Ducciojpg.jpgThe 2011 Spiritual Exercises of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation were given in various parts of the world under the theme of Christ being a new creation. Father Julián Carrón, the President of Communion and Liberation gave the retreat using Saint Paul’s teaching: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

One of Father Carrón’s thoughts ran this way: “‘Thus, whoever is in Christ is a new creation,’ because Christ is something that is happening to me. Let us try to identify with the disciples after Easter. What prevailed in their hearts, in their eyes, in their self-awareness, if not His living presence? It was so evident for them that they could not rip it away. It was a Presence that overcame any doubt, any shadow: it imposed itself. Christ was was something that was happening to them. He was not doctrine, a list of things to do, a sentiment. Yes, He was an external presence, different but one that permeated their life.”
The notes of Father Carrón can read here: Fraternity Exercises 2011.pdf
Also, a friend, Webster Bull, wrote about his experience of the Exercises on his blog, WitnessPart IPart IIPart IIIPart IV.

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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