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