Spiritual exercises: the examination of conscience in the Ignatian dynamics

The Crucifix
Photo: Daniel Ibanez CNA


During the first week of the Spiritual Exercises we find the examination of conscience. This represents a way in which the person learns to discern and understand whether his life of faith is proceeding in the right direction or not.

The specificity of the text, however, is not so much that of examining one’s own limits, but of thanking God for what else he has bestowed on man and in this praise to focus on existence. In this lies the originality of the saint’s teaching, that is to know how to look at the greatness and goodness of Father towards humanity.

The positive aspects must be highlighted in order to proceed on one’s journey with a sense of gratitude for the benefits received and at the service of the brothers and the ecclesial community.

Many scholars of the text have tried to give an explanation to the words of the saint, and among these stands out the name of Father Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, who in a Letter on the spiritual life and the apostolate, in 1976, observes : “Ask periodically, as St. Ignatius desired, and in a systematic way, at the end of each day, or at the end of a session or a business meeting, what the Spirit has worked in us during all that time, what our Lord wanted to tell us what we have done in a way that is not in conformity with the Spirit, etc ..; this little by little, will educate us to overcome the purely technical and human aspects of our work and to carry out our activity with that specificity that is proper to us as companions of Jesus. Perhaps this is not the profound meaning of the Ignatian examination of conscience. ? (see “Letter on the Real Integration of Spiritual Life and the Apostolate “, November 1, 1976).

What is highlighted highlights the sense of proceeding that the saint wanted to include in the book, that is to have in his hands a method to grow as men, integrally, knowing how to use all the components of one’s life.

From the text of the Spiritual exercises:

“First point: thank God our Lord for the benefits received. Second point: ask for the grace to know sins and eliminate them. Third point: ask your conscience to account for hour by hour, or period by period, from when you got up until the moment of this examination, first on thoughts, then on words and finally on actions, following the same procedure that has been indicated in the particular exam. Fourth point: to ask God our Lord for forgiveness for the shortcomings. Fifth point: propose to correct oneself with his grace. Finally, say an Our Father ”.

To reflect:

Some questions may be helpful in understanding the saint’s suggestions

Do I thank God for the gifts received?

What is it in my life that can be changed for the better?

Do I reflect on this and look for a way to be useful to the community?

Spiritual exercises: the examination of conscience in the Ignatian dynamics