Peter Kwasniewski

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Looking for a new examination of conscience? Try the Rule of St. Benedict

Peter Kwasniewski Peter Kwasniewski Follow Dr. Peter

July 11, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Today is the summer feast of St. Benedict (his winter feast is March 21), and I offer this article in his honor.

Catholics are encouraged to prepare themselves for the Sacrament of Penance by prayerfully reviewing an examination of conscience. A multitude of formats for such examinations can be found. Most commonly they are based on the Ten Commandments, but sometimes one will find reference to the Beatitudes, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the virtues and vices, or categories of people.

As a Benedictine oblate, I like to read commentaries on the Holy Rule. One such commentary made the suggestion, new to me, that I should examine my conscience based on what the Patriarch of Western Monasticism says in his magnificent fourth chapter. As I looked at the chapter afresh, I realized that St. Benedict had indeed offered a complete “picture” of Christian sanctity and all the ways, obvious and subtle, in which we can depart from it. He held a mirror up to Christ and asked us to see ourselves in that mirror, or rather, to see where the reflection was blurred, distorted, or non-existent.

In the end, I decided to compile a series of questions based on chapter 4 of the Rule, to serve as a guide for me in preparing for Confession. When I shared my guide with others, the reaction was so positive that I felt encouraged to make it more widely available.

In honor of St. Benedict, whose summertime feast the Catholic Church celebrates today, July 11th, I offer to LifeSite readers this new examination of conscience, based on a very old monastic rule.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam.

General

  • Have I neglected to love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength, and my neighbor as myself? If so, in what specific ways?
  • In deed or in thought, have I killed, committed adultery, stolen, coveted, or borne false witness?
  • Have I failed to honor all men?
  • Did I do to another what I would not have had done to me?
  • Did I prefer anything, whether great or small, to the love of Christ?

Self-denial

  • Have I been self-indulgent instead of denying myself in order to follow Christ?
  • Have I pampered my body or sought after delicate living, rather than chastising my body?
  • Have I neglected fasting or abstinence?
  • Have I overindulged in wine or other beverages, or verged on gluttony?
  • Have I been drowsy or slothful?
  • Did I immerse myself in worldly affairs rather than keeping aloof from them?
  • Did I fulfill the desires of the flesh rather than hating my own will?
  • Have I sinned against chastity, modesty, or purity?

Charity towards neighbor

  • Have I neglected, when it was possible, to relieve the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick, bury the dead, help in affliction, or console the sorrowing?
  • Have I gratified anger or harbored a desire of revenge?
  • Have I fostered guile in my heart or made a feigned peace?
  • Have I failed to utter truth from heart and mouth?
  • Have I rendered evil for evil or done wrong to anyone?
  • Did I feel or exhibit impatience when wronged?
  • Have I hated my enemies or any man?
  • Did I neglect to pray for my enemies in the love of Christ?
  • Have I avoided making peace with any adversary before the setting of the sun?
  • Have I fled persecution for justice’s sake?
  • Have I rendered cursing for cursing, rather than a blessing?
  • Have I been guilty of murmuring or detraction?
  • Have I avoided much speaking, vain words, and needless or excessive laughter?
  • Have I uttered evil and wicked words?
  • Have I been jealous or given way to envy?
  • Have I loved strife?
  • Did I give in to vanity?
  • Have I been proud?
  • Did I fail to reverence my elders in Christ?
  • Did I fail to love those who are my brothers, juniors, dependents, or pupils?
  • Have I, in any other way, forsaken charity?

Seek first God’s kingdom

  • Did I neglect in my prayer the daily confessing of past sins?
  • Have I faltered in putting my hope in God?
  • Have I subtly or openly attributed the good that I see in myself to myself rather than to God?
  • Have I run away from acknowledging the evil I have done, or tried to blame it on someone else?
  • Have I delayed taking the steps necessary to amend my sins, negligences, and failings?
  • Have I been remiss in smashing my evil thoughts on the rock of Christ the instant they came into my heart?
  • Have I been lax in applying myself to frequent prayer or lectio divina?
  • Did I fail to keep death daily before my eyes, with fear of the Day of Judgment and dread of hell?
  • Have I not been desiring everlasting life with all spiritual longing?
  • Have failed to keep guard over the actions of my life by bearing in mind that God sees me everywhere?
  • Have I not sought the counsel of my spiritual father when I should have done so?
  • Have I hidden evil thoughts from him?
  • Have I shown poor obedience to the commands of those who are placed in authority over me?
  • Did I seek a reputation for holiness rather than holiness itself?
  • Have I been lax in fulfilling each day the commandments of God?
  • Have I ever despaired of God’s mercy?

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Peter Kwasniewski

Peter Kwasniewski holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College in California and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. After teaching at the International Theological Institute in Austria and for the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austrian Program, he joined the founding team of Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, where he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history, and directed the Choir and Schola. He now works as a freelance author, public speaker, editor, publisher, and composer.

Dr. Kwasniewski has published five books: Wisdom’s Apprentice (CUA Press, 2007)On Love and Charity (CUA Press, 2008)Sacred Choral Works (Corpus Christi Watershed, 2014); Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church (Angelico Press, 2014); and most recently, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages (Angelico Press, 2017)Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis has also been published in Czech, Polish, German, and Portuguese, and will soon appear in Spanish and Belarusian.

Kwasniewski is a board member and scholar of The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over 750 articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.