From Your Soul’s Salvation by Rev. Edward F. Garesche, S.J.
Our waking hour is more important than we ever dream. It has in itself the keynote of the day.
When we first open our eyes in the morning, what do we think of, what do we resolve? Our acts and thoughts are so linked together that upon this first moment depends the color and the action of the following hours.
Great wisdom, then, to give those first moments to Him to whom we wish the whole day to go — to God. Most of us, when we awake, are inclined to cast a half-conscious glance over the day and see what it has in store for us.
Out of our sleepy eyes we look forward through the waking hours and speculate and plan. If there is any special good fortune in store for us, it makes us cheerful. If we anticipate a coming sorrow, we grow sad.
Now, whether sorrow or joy is coming to us, the wisest thing we can do is to give it all over from the beginning into the Hands and into the Heart of God.
Our first thought is to be a loving thought of God which will consecrate our mind and inspire our thoughts through all the day. Our first act of the will is to be an offering of the day with all its thoughts and words and actions in union with His Sacred Heart and with the Heart of His Blessed Mother and with the tremendous sacrifice of the Mass which He offers on so many altars every morning.
This intention, never withdrawn, and, better still, often renewed during our waking hours, will make Christ live in us and let us live in Him.
Besides the Morning Offering, there is another most blessed and fruitful practice which we should all resolve upon and which begins at the waking hour. It is called by spiritual writers the examen of conscience, and it is practiced in this way:
After we have offered our thoughts and words and acts to God, we cast a glance over the coming day and make a strong and earnest purpose to serve God faithfully all during the hours. We foresee perhaps some special difficulty we shall meet in the way of goodness, and resolve and pray to overcome it.
We anticipate some special occasion of doing good and make up our mind gladly to embrace it. Then, in a little prayer, we thank God for His blessings already given, ask pardon for our past offenses, and beg His grace that during the coming day we may go forward in His service and not offend Him.
This will take only a few moments when we wake, and it is the first part of our examination of conscience. The hours run swiftly and bring us to noon — a splendid time to pause and look backward and forward. This will be the second part of our examen.
At some quiet moment we once more think of the good resolutions of the morning. How have we carried them out? We run over rapidly hour by hour, ask ourselves what we have done for God and what we have done against Him. “Give an account of thy stewardship.” We are anticipating God’s judgment.
A good order for our thoughts is this: First, a brief act of thanksgiving for God’s goodness during the morning. Second, a prayer for light that we may know how we have served or offended Him. Third, the brief review of the hours of the morning. Fourth, an act of deep sorrow for whatever sins we have committed and finally an earnest little prayer for grace to serve God better in the future.
After this little interview with God, you will feel a new courage and peace. Then renew your offering and resolutions of the morning, and resolve most earnestly to serve God with more diligence and love from noon until dark.
The afternoon runs on and brings us swiftly to night. The hour of bedtime comes. Now is the time to complete your daily examination. After your prayer is said and before you go to sleep, run briefly again over the five points which you touched on at your midday examen, a prayer of thanks, a prayer for light, then go over the hours of the afternoon and see in what you have offended God and in what you have pleased Him.
Then a brief but fervent act of sorrow and finally an earnest prayer that tomorrow you may make up for today and that you may go forward in praising and loving God.
If this is your last thought at night, you will wake up in the morning with thoughts of God in your mind and ready to renew again this holy and simple progress toward goodness.
This practice is most earnestly commended by all spiritual writers, and it has done wonders in bringing ordinary Christians to heights of goodness. It consecrates the whole day to God, and at what slight expense!
Only three moments are needed, at morning, noon, and night, and it will cost you no time and very little effort to give these moments to God. Yet if He sees you in earnest in this holy practice, He will enrich your whole day with many graces.
Begin this very day and resolve that tomorrow your waking hour will be given to God, that at noon and night and all successive days, you will practice the fruitful activity of this general examen of conscience.
There is another part to this devotion of the examen of conscience, and it is called the particular examen.
In the particular examen we set ourselves to practice some virtue, or to root out some special fault. It is an old remark that every man has some predominant weakness, some central and foundation fault which shows itself in all his sins.
With some it is an inordinate pride, with others a love of pleasure, with others still a love of ease. These besetting sins have been classified, as it were, under the heads of the seven deadly sins of Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth.
By thinking a bit over our own misdeeds, we shall easily see to which one of these sins we are most inclined. There then is our dangerous enemy, and to obtain the opposite virtue should be our most earnest object and desire.
If our fault is a very glaring one and may be observed and give scandal to others, then we should attack it directly by means of a particular examen. But if it is a fault which shows itself more in sins of omission than of commission, it is better sometimes not to attack it directly, but to try to remedy it by cultivating the opposite virtue.
Thus, for instance, if we are given to outbursts of anger, our particular examen should be directed toward correcting our temper. But if we are inclined to the sin of sloth or that of selfishness, then we should do better to cultivate the opposite virtue, and to make our particular examen bear on being energetic and industrious, or on doing good to others.
What is the particular examen? It consists in this, that at three times or moments, the hour of waking, midday, and the hour of retiring, we join to our general examination of conscience this following practice: After going over the five points described, we should call briefly to mind the special fault which we have determined to correct, or the special virtue we have resolved to practice.
In the morning we make a strong resolve to practice this virtue or correct the fault so many times during the course of the morning. At noon, we carefully recall how many times we have fulfilled our resolution, trying to make the number of faults decrease and the number of acts of virtue increase from day to day, and from examen to examen.
It is useful to note down in a little book the results of our examens, and to make comparison day by day. This will give added interest and will afford a useful check on our progress.
At night again we make a review of the time since noon, to discover our progress, then we thank God for His kind assistance, ask His pardon for our faults, and make a fresh resolve for the coming day.
This practice of the particular examen is of immense use in correcting our faults and implanting virtues. We should keep manfully on until we find the fault we were working at is satisfactorily under control, and the virtue we aimed at is fairly implanted in us.
Then we should go on to the next defect in our character, and try to remove it in the same practical way.
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