Perhaps by now, two weeks into the new year, the resolutions made on January 1 have come and gone. As mentioned in previous posts, for many years I was troubled at my lack of resolve and will power. The “check list” kind of resolutions never really worked for me.
For me, rather than attempting a new list (perhaps one more manageable), I am beginning to use this time of year to reflect and meditate upon where and how God is at work.
As I look back on 2011 and ahead to 2012, many questions arise, that I believe may be more important than whether or not my check list of do’s and don’ts is complete.
Have I grown in maturity, wisdom, understanding?
Has Faith, Hope, and Love increased in my life?
Am I willing to ask others to speak into my life and be honest with me.
Did I become more irritable? Less giving? Has compassion given way to apathy?
I realize the difficulty in trying to discern, but I have discovered that if I take time to sit and ponder (with openness and honesty) I am able to look back on this past year and see ways in which I have grown (hopefully) and other areas that I have not.
This past week I spent a few hours in various cathedrals in Paris. I love the atmosphere of transcendence and mystery as I embrace the Spirit of Peace. I gaze at the stained glass, dip my fingers into the baptism fonts to remember my own, and sit looking, praying, and reflecting. Often I will light a cancel and ask for illumination.
These moments brought me back to an earlier time in my journey when I practiced an ancient spiritual tradition called the “Examen Prayer” or “The Daily Examen”
A practice that I was first introduced to during a course on Spiritual Direction in college referred to then as The Ignatius Examen of Consciousness.
The Examen of Consciousness
This is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we reflect on our day. This prayer can be made anywhere: on the beach, in a car, on the bus or metro, at home, in the library. Many people make the Examen twice daily: once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. There are five simple steps to the Examen, and what follows is just one interpretation of these five steps in discerning the movement of God’s Spirit in your day. Through this method of praying you can grow in a sense of self and the Source of self; you can become more sensitive to your own spirit with its longings, its powers, its Source; you will develop an openness to receive the supports that God offers.
Lord, I realize that all, even myself, is a gift from you.
– Today, for what things am I most grateful?
Lord, open my eyes and ears to be more honest with myself.
– Today, what do I really want for myself?
Lord, show me what has been happening to me and in me this day.
– Today, in what ways have I experienced your love?
Lord, I am still learning to grow in your love.
– Today, what choices have been inadequate responses to your love?
Lord, let me look with longing toward the future.
– Today, how will I let you lead me to a brighter tomorrow?
I have found that depending on the season of life, or simply depending on the mood I am in that day, some themes are more difficult than others. Some years, Contrition is at the heart of what I need, Others times it is thanksgiving. Hope is always there.
My professor of Spiritual Formation taught us a simplified version of The Examen, which focusses on the #3 Examination
As a prayer:
1) How have I experienced your love today?
2) How have I loved you well?
3) How have I not loved you well? (this implies loving others as well. Love God = Love Others.)
my understanding, and my entire will.
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I return it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
-St. Ignatius, from the end of the Spiritual Exercises