Thursday 10 June 2010

Particular Examen for Altar Servers

The Particular Examen is part of traditional Catholic spiritual life. It is sometimes associated more with Ignatian spirituality, since it is given such emphasis in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. However, this is not so; though it was popularized by the Jesuits in their retreats.

The idea this. Central to growth in the ascetic life is examination of conscience. A general examination of conscience is a general overview of our moral behaviour, perhaps using the commandments, or the virtues, as a structure. We are recommended by spiritual masters to make an examination of conscience each evening; liturgically, this is done before Compline, and then we call to mind our failings during the Confiteor. I remember a devout priest saying that the best and fastest way to progress in the spiritual life was to make a careful daily examination.

A particular examination of conscience is tailored to our own needs. What is my predominant moral weakness at the moment? It might be anger, it might be sloth, it might be lust. In the particular examen, I am especially rigorous in looking for this weakness, and for my efforts to overcome it. This follows logically on the general examen, and applies it to our own lives.

There is a useful short article by Fr Hardon SJ, on examination of conscience:

How should altar servers become more diligent about their service of the altar? One tool, is a particular examen for altar servers.

Here is a method.

1. After mass, kneel quietly in the chapel. Make a thanksgiving for all the graces received during Holy Mass, and also during Communion if you have received it.

2. Ask Almighty God for the grace to bring to mind any faults, failings, or negligences that you have committed during your service of the altar, through human weakness or sin.

3. Examine yourself on the details of your service of the altar. Spend a couple of minutes on this. If you find you have many faults, concentrate on remembering the most important two or three, rather than being overwhelmed by many faults.

4. Ask God's pardon for these faults that you have committed, and for grace to improve in the future. Remember always, that our development in the Christian life depends on His grace - without Him, we can do nothing - so ask insistently for grace.

5. If possible, make a resolution to improve next time. Be specific, eg I will practise saying the Confiteor so that I can do it without stumbling or mispronounciation.

6. Say a short prayer of reparation. The 'Obsecro te' from the missal or breviary is ideal for this purpose, since it was identified by Pope St Pius X especially for use by the clergy, to ask indulgence for faults committed during mass owing to human frailty.

7. Finish with a short and joyful prayer to Our Lady, for example the 'Sub tuum praesidium'.

Here be a list.

Here is a list that might be useful during a particular examen. This is a work in progress, and suggestions for improvement of this list will be gratefully received.

Have I remained recollected and reverent at all times?
Have I abstained from chatter, frivolity, gazing around, all irreverence?
Has my posture been reverent, when standing, kneeling, sitting?
Have I given the responses clearly and correctly?
Have I carried out all my actions correctly, at the right time?
Have I avoided both undue haste and undue slowness?
Have I been prompt to assist the priest as needed?
Have I been dressed appropriately for the service of the altar?
Has my dress been clean and modest?
Has my personal appearance been respectable and clean?
Have I attended to the prayers being said?
Have I served with my attention on the altar rather than members of the congregation?
Has anything I have done caused distraction or scandal to anyone?
Did I prepare spiritually for mass by saying a suitable prayer of preparation?
Did I avoid excessive haste by arriving for mass in good time?
Did I leave the sacristy at the end of mass with undue haste, without ensuring that I had assisted with clearing the altar and credence table?
Have I assisted with clearing the altar after mass as required?
Have I made my thanksgiving after mass?

Powerful Prayers.

Obsecro Te. I beseech Thee, most sweet Lord Jesus Christ, grant that Thy Passion may be to me a power by which I may be strengthened, protected, and defended. May Thy wounds be to me food and drink, by which I may be nourished, inebriated, and overjoyed. May the sprinking of Thy Blood be to me an ablution for all my sins. May Thy death prove to me life everlasting, and Thy cross be to me an eternal glory. In these be my refreshment, my joy, my preservation, and sweetness of heart. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Sub tuum praesidium. We fly to Thy protection, O holy mother of God. Despise not my prayers in my necessities, but save me from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.


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