Br. Peter Trinko
Why make an examination of conscience?
A doctor uses machines to help monitor the vital signs and progress of his patient. Athletes put together rigorous training routines and track their progress to their goals. The spiritual life is no different in the sense that we need some practical and concrete method to monitor our spiritual life; something that will help us uproot vice, educate the will, and grow in virtue.
The Particular Examination is different in that it is targeted and focused. Rather than looking at all of our sins, we focus on our dominant defect and a particular point.
How to do Particular Examination of Conscience?
Many of us are familiar that before we go to the sacrament of confession, we must make an examination of conscience. In this exam, we must identify the sins we have committed since our last confession and be resolved to not fall into these faults again. The Particular Examination is different in that it is targeted and focused. Rather than looking at all of our sins, we focus on our dominant defect and a particular point.
For example, one who struggles with chastity and lust can work on fighting against occasions of sin. He or she may resolve to never watch television alone, set a time limit for going to bed, put restrictions on their devices, and to work to guard the eyes against temptations. A cause of lust can be idleness, and so one may resolve to set and follow a regular schedule in order to avoid moments where one is tempted. It is important that resolution is something concrete and specific, otherwise there is no way to measure it.
The actual practice of the exam has three key moments. First, upon waking one resolves to work on their defect and asks God for the grace to be faithful to this resolution. The second moment occurs at midday, when one examines the first part of the day and marks (yes, with pen and paper!) how many times we have fallen into this defect (or succeeded in practicing a virtue). After the exam, one will again resolve and ask our Lord for the grace to grow in the virtue they are working on in the combat against a vice. Finally, at the end of the day there is an examination from the time of the first exam at midday until this exam at night.
The exam is both a state and operation of the spirit. It is a state in the sense that one has a general will of seeking to understand the dispositions in the soul. It is an operation of spirit in that it entails set times and precise rules. As with a virtue, it is important to stay in the mean when practicing it, otherwise:
In the Imitation of Christ we read, “If we were to uproot only one vice each year, we should soon become perfect.” We cannot expect to become saints overnight. However, through a serious life of prayer, frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, active participation at mass, regular confession, along with the practice of the Particular Examination, we will soon find ourselves advancing in the spiritual life as we work to prepare the way of the Lord.
 Story of a Soul, p. 276 (Act of Oblation to Merciful Love)
 Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
 Imitation of Christ, Book I, Ch. 11