Yearly Examination, according to Bonaventure: Part I

2009 has arrived and it is a good time to set aside an hour alone with a pen and notebook, to put ourselves in the presence of God, and invoke His aid, that we might better know ourselves and come closer to Him this year. May He have mercy on us and save us from our secret faults! Here is a Part I of St. Bonaventure's incredibly thorough examination.

Part I:
Examination in Self-Knowledge:
“A good way to self-knowledge . . . is to realize that we commit all our sins and wrong actions through either negligence, or concupiscence, or malice” (212).

So ask yourself, going through your daily schedule, thoughts, words, and deeds:

Negligence:

1. Have I guarded my heart? Do I dwell on hurts? Do I fret or worry? Are my thoughts constantly traveling to something they should not? How do I curb this? Do I invoke the Sacred Heart, avoid occasions of sin, curb the kind of speech which only exacerbates problems?

2. Made good use of my time? Do I waste time, or go about my duties in a distracted, scattered manner? Does this lead to doing things sloppily or cutting important matters like prayer or time with family or sleep?

3. Had a good and fitting end for all my deeds? When I wake up, what is my purpose? When I eat, what is the purpose? When I drive, what is the purpose? To get something done, to avoid someone, for God’s honor, to show charity? No purpose at all? Do I live a thoughtful, human life or just go through the motions?

4. Reading? Have I been trying to learn a little more about God, the spiritual life, truth, beauty, goodness? Do I take what I learn and change my life accordingly?

5. Prayer? Is it daily and disciplined?

6. Working? Is it careful and thorough?

7. Doing penance? Do I do any penances? Do they curb my will or help me grow in virtue or are they the kind of penances which just make me crabby and irritable to my neighbor. Why these penances? Just so I can say “I’m doing some penances.”

8. Resisting evil? Do I have habitual sins? Is there a way to curb them, beginning with one?

9. Making spiritual progress—rejecting sin & temptations and pursuing virtue.

From Bonaventure’s On the Perfection of Life, Addressed to Sisters, An Outline of Spiritual Progress, translated by Jose de Vinck (reprint, Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 1997).

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