Twice a day they will all make the examination of conscience in common; that is to say in the morning before dinner, and in the evening before going to bed.

1818 Rule, Part Two, Chapter One. §5 On prayer and exercises of piety 

 This was not all about sin – it was about growing closer to the values and example of Jesus Christ. It was about the inner vision and how focused the person was.

The midday examination was what is commonly known as “examen of consciousness” in spirituality. The Missionary would stop and review the previous 24 hours. He would take stock and see what had happened in his relationship with God, others and self. He was encouraged to focus on one Gospel value (virtue) and see how he had been living it and what it was calling him to.

In the evening, it was an examination of conscience on the day. The focus here was on weakness and failure. While asking forgiveness for sins committed, it was also an opportunity to renew the inner vision that had become unfocused through giving in to the demands of the ego.

Jesuit, Dennis Hamm, aptly describes this type of reflection as “Praying Backwards through Your Day.”

Today, Eugene’s call to self-awareness continues to be heard in our Rule of Life:

Examination of conscience is important in helping us become aware of the ways in which the Lord calls and is present to us throughout the day. In this examen, we evaluate the faithfulness of our response to him. Charged with proclaiming the joy of God’s pardon to the world and acknowledging our own sinfulness, we will have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

CC&RR, Constitution 33

 “The Kingdom of God is within you”   Luke 17, 21

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  1. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    This is what people are speaking of regarding the spiritual life.
    How do we live a mindful life/conscious life if we don’t have oasis’ of silence/peace through out the day? Go east or west-the tradition is the same.
    With-in our Oblate tradition we have Oraison which “is De Mazenod” and also the “Ignatius exercises” which are western and often filled with words, thought and images. What I sense that is often missing is meditation, the gift of the east (Centering Prayer/Christian Mediation). Letting go of the expectations or process and simply be IN God.
    My sense it that is what people are seeking.
    And so how do we as members of the Oblate Family enter our tradition, re-address it within our contemporary life and language and then share that with other. We do it by doing it. By being men and women of prayer who opens there house and heart and invite others to join us. For that is truly being sons and daughters of St. Eugene.

  2. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I really want to start out be saying to Eugene – okay enough now! And I am remembering some of John’s comments and thinking I know what you are talking about. I find myself putting up walls – at the words. I first read shortly after 6am and did not like it – so I turned off the computer and walked away and managed to stay busy for the last 8 or so hours. So I read it again and do not like it any more. Of course that for me is a sure sign that I better take an honest look at it.

    If I am honest I must admit that I try (do not always succeed) at doing this throughout my day – as I go along – when I am present to God – when I remember – etc. I find that I do it sometimes – usually when I have been impatient with someone, maybe when I have not been as gentle as I could be, when I’ve been ‘short’ with someone because their time schedule does not seem to agree with mine and can’t them see how busy I am? A million different reasons. I have to admit that I don’t think right off that I have sinned, but rather there is sorrow and a sense of sadness that I might have hurt someone – and even if I didn’t hurt them I really do not like that I treated them the way I did. Its more of looking into the eyes of my Saviour and seeing what I have done or not done as the case may be.

    At night before I go to sleep I sometimes (again not always) remember to look at what my day has been like. I need to first ‘climb into His arms’ so that it is safe to look at my day through His eyes. Frank I like what you have written about becoming “unfocussed” because that’s really what it seems like to me, and I need to return to being present to who I am with. The ‘demands’ of the ego – they are relentless are they not?

    I find myself shying away from the word sinfulness and am not sure why – it is a part of the “Jesus Prayer” which has become like a second breath to me, and yet now I do not want to acknowledge or see it – perhaps part of the ego. I don’t know.

    And it is only now as I have gone through the entire posting for the third line that I see the quotation from Luke: “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Guaranteed to bring you to your knees! Nothing more than that – it just stops me in my tracks – it is that which, for now, I will take away with me.

  3. John Mouck says:

    Well well, how to explain how I feel about this. I guess the best approach is to just be honest and open.
    I think this whole ‘examination of conscience’ thing is a good thing, and not just for Oblates. As a recovering alcoholic, I can attest to the fact that it is essential for a healthy mind – as we exercise our body to stay in shape, so must we stress our mind to keep it in shape.
    Eugene’s idea of a morning “examination” I think would be better thought of as a spiritual game plan for the day. So for example, Eleanor, you might think to yourself, ‘Okay yesterday I was quite unjustly abrupt with so-and-so. I don’t like that trait in me so I just simply will not do that (with anyone) today.’ I guess that’s kind of a reverse examination of conscience – more a promise to yourself and God to be a better person, in that regard, today.
    I like the idea of the evening examination. I think his idea of doing it in common is also good. However, I think it would be wonderful conducted something like an AA meeting – in other words vocally, together, humbly, no judging, no feed-back unless it is requested – just open and honest sharing of where each person is and how they are feeling (the good and the bad). Yes it would take courage but I think it would be HUGE in bringing the community even closer together and closer to the Christ within each.
    I know personally that it is very humbling and yet satisfying at the same time. It gives you (me) that confirmation that I am not a freak – others struggle too. We are, after all, human as Jesus was.

  4. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I am thinking this morning after having read this of the little differences between Eugene’s life then, his Oblates today and my own life. In truth I could probably use more of the rhythm of scheduled time for the examen to help me to be true to it, the commitment of that time throughout the day. I do take time, off and on during the day but it is not always so scheduled.

    I am thinking of my time in San Antonio at the retreat and how we looked at several ways of praying – being with God including the Lectio Divina and the Consciousness Examen. None of it really new and yet with new energy, focus. Being there allowed me to be led deeper into my own heart.

    In a flash as I sit here and ponder this I realise that these very exercises help me to keep God always before me. I find that when I surround myself, and fill my day with things of God rather than those of escape I find it easier to focus on my one true love and be there. If I practice them they become a part of who I am, of how I live and how I spend my day (in much the same way as that repetitive prayer that I made a part of my very breathing). Like the lyrics to John Foley’s song The Cry of the Poor “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise ever in my mouth; Let my soul glory in the Lord…”

    “Eugene’s call to self awareness…” I swear I just read that one line now and that I passed over it most certainly a year ago and for the past hours or so this morning. And yet that is what I have been reflecting on. Self awareness, my self awareness in God and the many exercises and gifts that God gives to bring me to where I am.

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