Rooting Out Hidden Faults: How the Particular Examen Conquers Sin
By Fr. James F. McElhone, CSC
This is a reprint of the original book published as, “Particular Examen: How to Root Out Hidden Faults” with an Imprimatur given in 1952.
Now available at a very reasonable price in the True Restoration store, is this extremely beneficial and practical guide for getting to the root of our sins and vices, and then working efficaciously in conquering them.
Father Eldracher, of Mary Help of Christians Chapel in Australia, recommended this book in a sermon given in early 2020, which is part of a series on “The Examination of Conscience,” wherein he explains the importance of determining our own Predominant Fault, as well as performing the daily Particular Examen to the end of overcoming it, based on the thorough instructions provided in this most useful guide.
Then very recently, His Lordship Bishop Sanborn, also highly lauded this particular book in a conference on the “Examination of Conscience” wherein he exhorts his listeners to obtain a copy for their personal use.
Such praise, and His Lordship’s enjoining the acquisition, of this specific book, inspired us to find an affordable option to provide to our True Restoration customers. Those who have listened to that conference will have an idea of how difficult this title has been to obtain, especially in recent years! Though copies aren’t in stock in our online store just yet, we figured that many Catholics who are now very keen to get this book would appreciate some advance notice of their upcoming arrival.
From the Preface: “The purpose of this work is to give a practical explanation of the spiritual exercise called the Particular Examen. The exercise, as it is ordinarily made, is considered; each type of predominant fault is studied; the effect of each on work, recreation, study and prayer is shown; remedies are suggested; and the practice of certain virtues proposed.”
The manner of making the examen is clearly explained, with many excellent prayers provided, especially the format and prayers for honouring the Five Wounds of Our Lord’s Passion, whilst successively covering: Thanksgiving; Petition (begging God for light to know our faults); the Examination of Conscience itself; Atonement; Resolution. An entire chapter, respectively, is devoted to each part of this practice.
The author says, “…each one should seek to learn the detailed ways in which a predominant fault may arise and the various degrees of the opposite virtue.”
Separate chapters are devoted to each of the predominant faults, which correspond to the Seven Deadly/Capital Sins, wherein extensive and incredibly-detailed lists of very pointed, probing – and perhaps confronting – questions are presented. First the author describes what each predominant fault is and how it expresses itself before listing the questions to ask oneself in the examination.
Pride is broken down into the four types (Pride of Authority, Pride of Timidity, Pride of Sensitiveness; Pride of Complacency/Vanity) and thorough questionnaires are given for each type, as well as for the other six Deadly Sins.
Here’s a tiny sampling of the sorts of questions to expect:
Pride of Authority
Am I prone to belittle persons, places, or things?
Am I quick to see the faults of others?
Then there are questions pertaining to what efforts have been made to correct these evil tendencies, such as: What have I done to correct this overbearing attitude?
Pride of Timidity
Self-love seeks to protect, to hide that weakness, and so develops a habit of timidity from it. …They fear what others may say or think about them..”
Am I self-conscious?
Because of my timidity, do I carry grudges or ill-feeling?
Pride of Sensitiveness is brought about by self-love being wounded. The sensitive person is quickly hurt.
Do I misjudge, misinterpret others?
Am I moody? Do I brood about things?
Pride of Complacency is commonly called pride of vanity…temptations to vanity may be in regard to spiritual or mental or physical affairs, to any two of the three, or to all three.
Has my piety made me odd?
Do I daydream in a heroic way?
Do I give God credit for the use of His gifts?
Avarice is an inordinate love of worldly goods.
Do I see what others have and want the same?
Have I made a real renunciation of worldly things?
Lust: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” Now it should be remembered that by “cleanness of heart” is meant not only the avoidance of serious sins against the angelic virtue, but also the keeping from venial sin and imperfections which sooner or later draw us into grave temptation.
Are my senses being brought under control gradually?
Am I modest to a detail? In regard to self and others?
Anger is sinful and therefore an offense against God…But we seldom stop to consider that anger has a reaction, and effect on him who indulges in it. That reaction, that effect is unhappiness.
Meekness is explained as the opposing virtue, thus: “Even temper, the holding of anger in check, is the bringing of self-love into subjection. Even temper is attractive…It is in fact the practice of many virtues.”
Do I think complainingly? critically? fault-findingly?
Do I ponder over slights or injuries and even presume them?
Have I really made an effort to be even-tempered?
Gluttony is an inordinate love of eating and drinking. It is the “eat, drink and be merry” idea. …He will most likely do little to mortify himself, though he does pay attention to the mortifications of others, or if he does at times practice self-denial, he compares what he does to what he thinks or observes others do.”
Am I critical about the quantity or quality of food served?
Do I practice self-denial? daily? frequently? at least in small ways?
Envy will try to show itself in some of the following ways:
Do I feel sad at the prosperity of others?
Does my envy make me detract? calumniate? find fault?
What have I done not to envy in a small way?
Sloth is an inordinate love of rest which leads us to omit or neglect our duties. Physical, mental, and spiritual duties are before us daily; sloth tries to enter them.
Is there any virtue in which I am mediocre?
Do I waste time?
Am I changeable? fickle? tiring of something quickly?
Practical advice fills this guidebook, such as,
“Another way to overcome a predominant fault is to practice one’s strongest virtue, or, as it is more commonly termed, one’s virtue of predilection…Each one of us has a virtue of predilection; a little self-study should reveal it; daily practice makes it grow; other virtues have to develop with it.”
“A further way of overcoming one’s predominant fault is fidelity to the practice of the presence of God, which, as St. Francis de Sales says, ‘is one of the surest means of making progress in the spiritual life.’”
The final chapters are on each of the Three Theological Virtues and then the four Moral Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. In the first of these chapters, we are challenged with, “Faith is a precious gift. Have we valued it properly? Does it mean more to us than anything else in life? Have we guarded it and defended it? Have we loved it so much that we would be willing to suffer or die for it? Has it increased? Do we know more about it? Do we understand it more fully? Have we a keener realization of the truths it brings us? Have we lived it? Are we faithful to grace and the duties of our state of life? Do we try to be more and more faithful to our vocation?”
In endeavouring to value our precious gift of Faith, and grow in virtue and love of God, we can be confident that the diligent and daily use of the Particular Examen as outlined in this book, is an excellent means!