Examination of Conscience

The examination of conscience is defined in the Catechism as “the prayerful self-reflection on our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God.” Lent is a penitential season where we are called to repentance of our sins and to a deeper conversion. For Secular Carmelites, these penitential days in the liturgical year are of particular importance and the Sacrament of Penance is important in assisting our on-going conversion. (Constitution #22 & 24)

The examination of conscience should be faithfully practiced. A good time for this is each night before Night Prayer. During this examination consider:

weak points
evil tendencies
progress that has already been made
favorable results that have been attained
inclinations to good

Self-knowledge is important for everyone and St. Teresa of Jesus often exhorts the necessity of this for those who pray. In the Interior Castle she writes, “Knowing ourselves is something so important that I wouldn’t want any relaxation ever in this regard, however high you may have climbed into the heavens. While we are on this earth nothing is more important to us than humility.” (I, 2:9)

After considering the points above in the examination of conscience each of us can say to ourselves:

-These are the inclinations I must watch more carefully to
avoid falling into sin:

-These are the weak points which I must strengthen:

-These are the virtues that I must practice most of all:

Faults against charity, patience, obedience and sincerity should also be the focus of our examination. There is a struggle in all this, because we are striving to work against our predominant fault. And none of us is any better than our worst fault! Therefore, “Let us look at our own faults and leave aside those of others” (III, 2:13)

Let also practice the virtues for St. Teresa says, “It is necessary that your foundation consist of more than prayer and contemplation. If you do not strive for the virtues and practice them, you will always be dwarfs. And, please God, it will be only a matter of not growing, for you already know that whoever does not increase decreases.” (VII, 4: 9)

Gratitude for the Gift of the Priesthood

We are still in the Year of the Priest, so some thoughts to help remember this special year are in order.

Our shepherds, the priests, are appointed by Christ to guide souls. All the powers given to His Church He has placed in the hands of His priests. He chooses these men, His priests, from among the people. Priests are called and sent to minister to the people. “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me.” (Lk 10:16) The dignity of our priests comes from Christ who appoints them as His representatives.

We, as the lay faithful, should see Christ Himself in our priests and try our best to overlook any faults we might notice in them. After all, a priest is a man and still is fallible and capable of making mistakes (who isn’t?). Nevertheless, this shouldn’t prevent us from seeing him as anointed by the Lord.

This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king. (Catechsim of the Catholic Church paragraph 1581)

“Without the priesthood we would be deprived of the Holy Eucharist; we would never have the consolation of hearing in the name of God, “Thy sins are forgiven thee” (Mt 9:2). If there were no priests, the churches would be deserted, schools would become secularized, there would be no nuptial blessings, the dying would be deprived of final consolation, children would be abandoned to evil; all men would become totally immersed in misery, with no one to raise them up and lead them to God, with no one to pray to Him in their name and for their welfare.” (Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary of Magdalen, OCD)

Think of all the times in our lives that our priests accompany us in our lives: soon after our birth at the baptism font; in the confessional when we have failed in charity; when we get married, he is there; when we need to understand some truth, or when we need to know how to live a good life, he is there to instruct and give example; he is there to bless us in our efforts and in our last moments he is there to offer strength.

Many priests work in ways unseen and unknown to us, they are often misunderstood, and never really fully appreciated. And yet what he does for us is priceless and indispensable.

“Every Christian ought to be grateful for the gift of the priesthood: in the first place, we should be grateful to Jesus who instituted it, and then to those who perform its sublime duties. We must express this gratitude, not only in showing reverent respect and filial docility to God’s ministers, but also by assiduously offering our prayers and good works for priestly vocations.” (Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary of Magdalen, OCD)

Pray for Priests.

Spoiled by All

“Jesus did not desire me to be born poor like Himself; I was born in the midst of riches, spoiled by all.”

(St. Teresa of the Andes)

In a secularized society which turns its back on God, this Chilean Carmelite whom to my great joy I present as a model of the perennial youth of the Gospel, gives the shining witness of a life which proclaims to the men and women of our day that it is in loving, adoring and serving God that the human person finds greatness and joy, freedom and fulfillment. The life of Blessed Teresa cries out continually from within her cloister “God alone suffices.”

She shouts it out particularly to the young people who hunger for the truth and seek a light which will give direction to their lives. To young people who are being allured by the continuous messages and stimuli of an erotic culture, a society which mistakes the hedonistic exploitation of another for genuine love, which is self-giving, this young virgin of the Andes today proclaims the beauty and happiness that comes from a pure heart.
(Homily of Pope John Paul II for the Canonizationf of St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes, March 21, 1993)

St. Tesesa lived a brief life, dying a teenager at the age of 19 years old. She lived as a Discalced Carmelite nun for 11 months in the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Los Andes, Chile. Juana Henrietta Josephine was born in 1900, into a wealthy, aristocratic family. She was surrounded by the love of a large extended family and every possible comfort. She was a good student and musically gifted. She played the piano and had a pleasing voice. St. Teresa also loved sports; she was an excellent swimmer and loved horsback riding.

St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes has been proposed as a model for young people today by our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. St. Teresa….pray for us!

Scandal in the Convent

St. Teresa wrote her autobiography for her confessors. They gave their approval of this work along with St. John of Avila. St. Teresa highly valued his opinion since he was one of the most qualified persons at that time to judge the spiritual matters that were contained in this work. St. John of Avila, studied the manuscript, gave his praise and wrote a letter of approval in 1568.

Later, other confessors of St. Teresa read the work and word began to spread of this secret manuscript. Many people urged St. Teresa to allow copies to be made. The Bishop of Avila and the Duchess of Alba were among those requesting a copy.

When the Princess of Eboli heard of the secret work she insisted on reading it. St. Teresa was forced to give in to her wishes; however the princess made no effort to keep the manuscript out of the hands of her servants and soon everyone in the house knew of its contents. This deeply personal and spiritual account of St. Teresa’s life soon became the object of gossip and ridicule.

This domineering and self-centered princess entered the Carmel of Pastrana to become a nun after her husband’s death. She caused the nuns there so much grief and disquiet that the nuns had to leave the monastery in the middle of the night. The princess was deeply wounded by this and to get even with St. Teresa she denounced the saint’s work as heretical and containing dangerous doctrines. The Inquisition without delay began their investigation. Fortunately, the manuscript was placed in the hands of Fr. Banez who had been one of St. Teresa’s confessors. His judgment of the matter fell in favor of St. Teresa’s good intentions and that the work contained no errors of any significance.

There is a price to be paid. Jesus paid with His Body and Blood. St. Teresa paid with accusations and rejection.


The Gospel (Mt 13:24-30) shows us the practical way to live the Christian life.

He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

“God has sown good seed generously in His field, the world; He has sown grace and love, and the desire for total oblation, the ideals of an apostolic, religious, saintly life. But, in the midst of all this good, the enemy comes to sow evil. Why does God, permit this? To sift His servants as we sift grain, to test them.

Sometimes we are scandalized, seeing evil working its way even into the best places, seeing that even among God’s friends, among those who should be a source of edification to others, there are some who behave unworthily. Then we filled with zeal, like the servants in the parable. We want to remedy this evil and root up the cockle.
The cockle is spared, not because it is good but in order to save the wheat. In the same way God spares the wicked and does not destroy them, for the sake of the elect. When God asks us to endure with patience certain situations, as inevitable as they are deplorable, He asks for one of the greatest exercised of charity, compassion, and mercy.
He does not tell us to fraternize with evil, to make a league with the cockle, but He tells us to endure it with the longanimity with which He Himself endured it. Was there not a traitor among the Apostles? Yet Jesus wanted him among His intimates — and with how much love He treated him! Indeed one of the greatest opportunities for the practice of charity is offered us by those who by their conduct give us so many occasions for forgiving them, returning good for evil, and for suffering injustice for the love of God. Moreover, we should consider that, whereas cockle cannot be changed into wheat, it is always possible for the wicked to be converted and become good. Were not Magdalen, the good thief, and Peter, who denied Jesus, converted? “
(Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD)

Psalm 147: 16-20

The LORD sends a command to earth; his word runs swiftly!
Thus snow is spread like wool, frost is scattered like ash,
Hail is dispersed like crumbs; before such cold the waters freeze.
Again he sends his word and they melt; the wind is unleashed and the waters flow.
The LORD also proclaims his word to Jacob, decrees and laws to Israel.
God has not done this for other nations; of such laws they know nothing. Hallelujah!

The Root

We all have this tendency to enjoy (or seek satisfaction) in ourselves, in our pride or in other people and things. St. John of the Cross teaches that these tendencies are the root of our attachments. Attachments are those “inordinate appetites”. Basically, they are those desires we have for things that are not rightly ordered in our lives and lead us into sin, mortal and venial, and imperfections. It is important to get to the root of these inordinate desires if one desires union with God. To get to the root of these, which are the inclinations of our nature, we must oppose them and make ourselves do what is repugnant to our nature. This would mean ‘going against the current’ and requires strength of will. St. John of the Cross, in the Ascent to Mount Carmel, gives us “rules” for detachment. He tells us the soul must always be inclined:

not to the easiest thing ~ but to the hardest
not to the tastiest ~ but to the most insipid
not to things that give greatest pleasure ~ but to those that give the least
not to the restful things ~ but to painful ones
not to consolation ~ but to desolation
not to more ~ but to less
not to the highest and dearest ~ but to the lowest and most despised
not to the desire for something ~ but to having no desires.

So all that is difficult, disagreeable or wearisome to us needs to have our attention. These are the things to work on! These reveal to us our desires. Our saint says we are to oppose these inclinations with order and discretion. In other words, we need to train ourselves to not shrink back from something we find disagreeable or that requires effort or that we find difficult or challenging. In order to strengthen the will we can put into practice the above rules starting with little things in order to gain strength of will and then be strong enough to tackle the bigger attachments. For instance, being inclined to “restful things” like not getting out of bed when the alarm clock first goes off. The tendency is to hit the snooze and rest ten more minutes! It is a bit painful to jump right out of bed at the first call; it will require strength of will. “I will!” “I will get up right away when the alarm sounds off.” Or how about the inclination to the highest and dearest . . . a promotion, recognition, a word of praise? Can we train the will to not desire these and rather hope to be despised, past over and unnoticed? All this may sound harsh, but there is a purpose to this and it is to bring us to union with God. As we practice detachment from our desires this end is always to be kept in mind. Our desires should always be for God.