Examination of Conscience for a Life of Piety

Father Guibert discusses the importance of an examination of conscience for a life of piety. He explains: “The immediate aim of piety is to put man in close intimacy with God; for, by faith, it brings forth God from the shadows of mystery and makes Him perceptible to the heart; by love, it embraces Him and takes possession of Him; and by prayer, it becomes attached to Him and drinks in His life, like the babe at its mother’s breast.”

“This intimacy produces joy and peace, together with a feeling of confidence and strength.”

“But enjoyment, however pure it may be, is not the ultimate end of piety. God gives Himself under the form of life, not to efface our own personal life, but to raise it up and to make it better. He sanctifies us, less by making sanctuaries of us in which there is the consecration of His presence than by inspiring us with worthier feelings and nobler actions. It were, then, to misunderstand the divine purpose, and to paralyze the action of the Holy Spirit, if in our piety we did not follow after an increase of moral life by means of virtue.”

“He who only seeks enjoyment in his piety is false to God’s gifts. God only gives Himself and imparts happiness to us here below, in order to help us to live better.”

“And hence, piety enjoins those actions which are presupposed by a good moral life.”

“These acts may be reduced to two in chief: the taking knowledge of oneself and the conquest of oneself.”

“The morally good man is he who has made the conquest of himself in the struggle with the thousand tyrants who contend with him for the rule over his being. He attains a higher moral elevation in proportion as he escapes outside influences and inner caprice and as, being his own master, he gives himself all the more whole-heartedly to duty.”

“But, in order to be one’s own master, the first condition is to remain at home within one’s own heart. Nothing arouses a man more to undertake the government of his life than a frequent examination of conscience, a strict watch upon the movements of his mind and heart, and a faithful taking stock of the value of his acts and of their bearing.”

“This is exactly the end of the examination of conscience; this is what marks its place and signalizes its high importance in the life of piety.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On the Exercises of Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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