Particular Types of Self-Examination

In addition to a general examination of one’s spiritual condition, Father Geiermann elaborates upon three particular types of self-examination:

The first is the daily examination of conscience. Concerning this, he says: “In the examination of conscience which we are urged to make at the close of the day, we are to inquire only into the actual sins we may have committed, and blot them out by an act of perfect contrition or fervent love of God.”

The second is the particular examination. “The particular examination inquires specially into the condition of a fault to be eradicated, or of a virtue to be practised. In the first stage of the spiritual life it is advisable to make our predominant fault the subject of this particular examination.”

The third is the examination for confession. “The object of this examination of conscience is to discover the actual sins we may have committed since our last worthy confession. In daily life pious souls are often over-scrupulous about this examination, while negligent souls are inclined to be positively lax in determining the time and attention which they should devote to it. . . . As mortal sins alone must be confessed, it is essential that the penitent use ordinary care, or make a serious effort, to find out his mortal sins, including their number and the circumstances which change their nature. . . . In regard to venial sins it must be borne in mind (1) that there is no obligation to confess them as they may be forgiven by an act of contrition; (2) that it leads to delusion to confess them without sorrow or purpose of amendment; (3) that it is advisable, therefore, to examine ourselves on the more deliberate venial sins which we intend to confess, and for which we are truly sorry. Mere imperfections, however, are not a matter for absolution, and should, therefore, not be sought in this examination.”

“In conclusion it may be well to remark, that, though sorrow and purpose of amendment are always pleasing to God, a morose inspection of our past is apt to delude the mind and excite self-commiseration, or lead to discouragement, instead of having a purifying effect on the heart.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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