Father Geiermann elaborates upon the key role of self-examination in one’s spiritual development. He writes: “Self-knowledge is a necessary requisite for prudent self-denial. It is naturally difficult to attain (1) because it is almost impossible for us to obtain a true perspective of ourselves; (2) because the study of self is humiliating; (3) because our pride and self-love easily deceive us; (4) because the world and the devil frown on such a study and fill us with repugnance for it. With the aid of God’s grace, however, we can easily make progress in learning ourselves, provided we are faithful in the practice of self-examination. And in proportion as we grow in the knowledge of self, shall we also grow in humility, and realize the necessity of cultivating a closer union with God. . . . If, on the other hand, we neglect our self-examination, we become the willing slaves of tepidity and spiritual stagnation, from which we may be aroused only when the light of eternity will reveal our real selves before the judgment seat of God.”
Then Geiermann mentions four types of self-examination. One is a general examination. The other three are particular examinations of conscience.
Regarding the first, he writes: “A general examination of the interior is a complete accounting of our spiritual condition. It examines (1) our natural or acquired inclinations; (2) our fidelity to grace; (3) our conduct when tempted; (4) the good and the evil we have done; and (5) the intention, the motive, and the rule of our actions. This general examination, when carefully made, gradually enlightens us to see ourselves as we are in the sight of God. By renewing it from time to time we may observe not only our general progress or retrogression, but also discover the weak points in our character on which we should concentrate our energies. As successful merchants take an inventory of their stock and balance their accounts frequently, so we do well in making a general examination of our interior every month or at least once a year.”
Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).