Oct 26, 2018 filed under Gratitude.

woman writing a good examination of conscience

Am I the only one who thought that the nightly examination of conscience was supposed to be a list of everything I did wrong? I always found it too daunting after a long workday, about to hit the pillow, to have to scan the day for snippy comments I made, or times I scarfed too much ice cream or failed to call my favorite aunt. So I glossed over that part in praying Night Prayer.

A retreat book set me straight. I discovered that a daily “examen” can begin with this question: “How has God been working in my life today?” I can do that! That’s a much easier question!

St. Catherine of Siena wrote that the purpose of our memory is to contemplate the good things God has done for us. She’s talking about gratitude. A study at the University of California measuring stress levels of college students showed 28% less stress in those who wrote down things they were grateful for every day.

If we start our examen with gratitude for specific ways God worked in our day (thank you, God, that I had the right words for the co-worker whose mother just died), then the things I could have done better appear by themselves (I could have called my aunt instead of surfing Facebook yet again).

At end-of-day we can more easily see the things that God smoothed out—and the times we resisted His grace, which helps us do better next time. And our examen gives us a ready-made reference for our next confession.

The purpose of spiritual growth is to grow in virtue—to become more like Jesus and Mary. A grateful reflection at the end of the day on what God has done for us and how we might have responded more fully is a great way to examine our soul in the full light of God’s generous love and his inexhaustible mercy.

Love always,

13 Responses to “Don’t Forget the Good Stuff”

  1. John Brown

    Thank you Rose! Always enjoy your thoughts and insights. Found these most helpful! Sadly, I too often dwell on my mistakes and short comings. While they are many, no more will I let them camouflage the positive and loving steps taken in my daily journey! Thank you!

    • Diane & Gary

      Well spoken, our feelings are the same. Thank you for giving us a profound contemplation to expand upon.

  2. Ann


    Thanks for your question, it sounds good.
    My late spiritual director suggested asking, “How did I treat people, today?”.


  3. Tom Roberts

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

    The valleys can appear quite unexpectedly. Twice this week they appeared at the dinner table as I listened to negative monologues. I have the opportunity to morph the question “How has God been working in my life today?” into “How is God working in my life right now?” In that light something good can come out of hearing a negative monologue. The other tactic is geographic; don’t go to dinner, hang out at church where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.

  4. Maria Hamm

    Thanks Rose– if we were to focus on the things we did right– we would go to bed in a grateful state of mind. But it’s always good to also add in one area where we can improve the next day– i.e. a good resolution. Even if it is to be more grateful for the things that went right!