Knowledge of God

Self-knowledge is important. The saints have all told us this. However, this knowledge of ‘self’ should never be separated from the knowledge of God.

St. Teresa of Jesus wrote in The Interior Castle that, “The soul must sometimes emerge from self-knowledge and soar aloft in meditation upon the greatness and the majesty of its God. Doing this will help it to realize its own baseness better than thinking of its own nature, and it will be freer from the reptiles which enter the first rooms, that is, the rooms of self-knowledge.”
(Interior Castle I, 2)

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)

Much More

Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”

He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

He asked him, “Which ones?”

And Jesus replied, ” ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
(Mt 19:16-22)

St. Teresa of Jesus when speaking of some causes of dryness at prayer, says that she had this young man in the Gospel of Matthew in mind. “For we are literally like him; and ordinarily great dryness in prayer comes from this, although it also has other causes.”

Dryness in prayer is an interior trial. Although interior trials involve much more than just a lack of devotion, dryness (or aridity), is a common phenomenon among those souls who have taken up prayer.

To make an issue of dryness, according to St. Teresa, shows a lack of humility.

In her work The Interior Castle, she encourages us on to “Enter, enter, my daughters, into the interior rooms; pass from your little works. By the mere fact that you are Christians you must do all these things and much more.”

St. Teresa writes that those who have entered the third dwelling places, souls of which there are many of in the world, long to not offend God and they even guard themselves against venial sins, they have well-ordered lives, practice penance and works of charity toward their neighbors. They are much like the young man in the Gospel.

“In my opinion,” writes St. Teresa, “there is no reason why entrance even into the final dwelling place should be denied these souls.” “But since there is need of still more in order that the soul possess the Lord completely, it is not enough to say we want it.”

(St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, III:1, 5-7)