GENERAL EXAMEN OF CONSCIENCE TO PURIFY ONESELF AND TO MAKE ONE’S CONFESSION BETTER
I presuppose that there are three kinds of thoughts in me: that is, one my own, which springs from my mere liberty and will; and two others, which come from without, one from the good spirit, and the other from the bad.
There are two ways of meriting in the bad thought which comes from without, namely:
First Way. A thought of committing a mortal sin, which thought I resist immediately and it remains conquered.
Second Way. The second way of meriting is: When that same bad thought comes to me and I resist it, and it returns to me again and again, and I always resist, until it is conquered.
This second way is more meritorious than the first.
A venial sin is committed when the same thought comes of sinning mortally and one gives ear to it, making some little delay, or receiving some sensual pleasure, or when there is some negligence in rejecting such thought.
There are two ways of sinning mortally:
First Way. The first is, when one gives consent to the bad thought, to act afterwards as he has consented, or to put it in act if he could.
Second Way. The second way of sinning mortally is when that sin is put in act.
This is a greater sin for three reasons: first, because of the greater time; second, because of the greater intensity; third, because of the greater harm to the two persons.
One must not swear, either by Creator or creature, if it be not with truth, necessity and reverence.
By necessity I mean, not when any truth whatever is affirmed with oath, but when it is of some importance for the good of the soul, or the body, or for temporal goods.
By reverence I mean when, in naming the Creator and Lord, one acts with consideration, so as to render Him the honor and reverence due.
It is to be noted that, though in an idle oath one sins more when he swears by the Creator than by the creature, it is more difficult to swear in the right way with truth, necessity and reverence by the creature than by the Creator, for the following reasons.
First Reason. The first: When we want to swear by some creature, wanting to name the creature does not make us so attentive or circumspect as to telling the truth, or as to affirming it with necessity, as would wanting to name the Lord and Creator of all things.
Second Reason. The second is that in swearing by the creature it is not so easy to show reverence and respect to the Creator, as in swearing and naming the same Creator and Lord, because wanting to name God our Lord brings with it more respect and reverence than wanting to name the created thing. Therefore swearing by the creature is more allowable to the perfect than to the imperfect, because the perfect, through continued contemplation and enlightenment of intellect, consider, meditate and contemplate more that God our Lord is in every creature, according to His own essence, presence and power, and so in swearing by the creature they are more apt and prepared than the imperfect to show respect and reverence to their Creator and Lord.
Third Reason. The third is that in continually swearing by the creature, idolatry is to be more feared in the imperfect than in the perfect.
One must not speak an idle word. By idle word I mean one which does not benefit either me or another, and is not directed to that intention. Hence words spoken for any useful purpose, or meant to profit one’s own or another’s soul, the body or temporal goods, are never idle, not even if one were to speak of something foreign to one’s state of life, as, for instance, if a religious speaks of wars or articles of trade; but in all that is said there is merit in directing well, and sin in directing badly, or in speaking idly.
Nothing must be said to injure another’s character or to find fault, because if I reveal a mortal sin that is not public, I sin mortally; if a venial sin, venially; and if a defect, I show a defect of my own.
But if the intention is right, in two ways one can speak of the sin or fault of another:
First Way. The first: When the sin is public, as in the case of a public prostitute, and of a sentence given in judgment, or of a public error which is infecting the souls with whom one comes in contact.
Second Way. Second: When the hidden sin is revealed to some person that he may help to raise him who is in sin — supposing, however, that he has some probable conjectures or grounds for thinking that he will be able to help him.
Taking the Ten Commandments, the Precepts of the Church and the recommendations of Superiors, every act done against any of these three heads is, according to its greater or less nature, a greater or a lesser sin.
By recommendations of Superiors I mean such things as Bulls de Cruzadas and other Indulgences, as for instance for peace, granted under condition of going to Confession and receiving the Blessed Sacrament. For one commits no little sin in being the cause of others acting contrary to such pious exhortations and recommendations of our Superiors, or in doing so oneself.
METHOD FOR MAKING THE GENERAL EXAMEN
It contains in it five Points.
First Point. The first Point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits received.
Second Point. The second, to ask grace to know our sins and cast them out.
Third Point. The third, to ask account of our soul from the hour that we rose up to the present Examen, hour by hour, or period by period: and first as to thoughts, and then as to words, and then as to acts, in the same order as was mentioned in the Particular Examen.
Fourth Point. The fourth, to ask pardon of God our Lord for the faults.
Fifth Point. The fifth, to purpose amendment with His grace.