Divine Office Forum: examination of conscience in Night Prayer

examination of conscience in Night Prayer QUESTION from Dave Conger June 6, 2001 As you know, at the beginning of Night Prayer, you may start off with an examination of conscience. If you're praying Night Prayer by yourself, do you have some leeway as to which prayers to use during that time? For example, after examining my conscience and praying an act of contrition, I also pray 3 Hail Marys and a prayer to St. Joseph (for purity), but lately I've begun to wonder if this is appropriate.
Thank you very much for your time, and God bless you.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on June 15, 2001 Dear Mr. Conger:
Thanks for your question.
The rubrics of the Night Office is that a brief examination of conscience may be made -- it is not required.
This is done in silence, and/or as part of a penitential rite using the formulas of the Roman Missal (i.e. the I Confess to Almighty God prayer) if the office is said in common.
In private recitation, since this is a time of silence, and is optional anyway, I suppose you could say any prayer you want silently to yourself.
But if we are to be consistent with the intent of the Office, what is to be done here is an examination of office, and also perhaps a prayer of penance or contrition. And the intent is to be brief.
If we go beyond this basis intent of the Office, we interrupt the flow and purpose of the Office.
The 3 Hail Marys and the Prayer for Purity are not examinations of conscience but are prayers to help you with the result of your examination of conscious -- that is helping to to avoid sin.
The more appropriate place for those sorts of prayers are after the Office is finished, after the anthem to the Bless Virgin Mary.
When I prayed the Night Office with the Benedictine Monks, we would pause for a few minutes for an examination of conscious, then sing together the I Confess to Almighty God, then go on with the rest of the Office.
After the closing prayer, we would turn off the light in the Church and only by candle-light gather around the image of Our Lady that was just under the Crucifix in the sanctuary, and sing Salve Regina.
Then, we each, in silence, would kneel in a pew and pray our final personal prayers for the night, and then go to our cells.
I would suggest leaving the additional prayers to the end after the Office is finished.
God Bless.
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