A fundamental method of Ignatian spiritual exercises is the daily examination of conscience. St. Ignatius recommends that the exerciser keep a spiritual diary. On a particular day, one is to focus on trying to overcome a particular sin or bad habit. Upon rising, the soul will examine her [St. Ignatius, writing primarily for members of his Order, uses the masculine; I will use the traditional feminine gender of the soul as such] conscience and think about a particular bad habit. Once she has decided upon which sin to try and overcome that day, she will reflect upon the times that she commits it. She will make a line to indicate how many times she commits that soul, on average, per day, or how many times it was commited the previous day. This will be indicated by dots.
Throughout the day, she will keep track in her diary the number of times she has committed that sin using dots. In the evening, she will engage in a second examination of conscience, and reflect upon the number of times the sin was committed, filling in the journal, if necessary. The lines will be compared: the first line showing previous times per day; the second showing how many times *that* day the sin was committed. The soul will reflect on her progress or lack thereof.
When one is battling a particular sin, and recognizes it, St. Ignatius recommends that she bow her head briefly and strike her breast, “grieving for having fallen.”
While working on a particular sin over several days, the soul will keep track of the comparison between journal entries for those days.
If it takes longer, the soul will keep track of the progress over weeks.
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
Fifth Point. The fifth, to purpose amendment with His grace.
St. Ignatius provides a basic guide for what constitute sins of thought, for rules regarding swearing, and for general sins against the Ten Commandments.