Friday, November 11, 2011

An Examen for the Close of the 2011 Liturgical Year

  we prepare to close the 2011 Liturgical Year and embark on the journey of Advent (11/27), it may help us to engage in something of an Examination of Conscience (or Consciousness). The Examen, enjoined upon his companions by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is the single most important prayer of a Jesuit's life. In the still of the evening (or mid-day), the Jesuit places himself before God and looks attentively and reverently at his life in order to see (1) where God is working, (2) where one has failed to respond to God, (3) where one has cooperated with God's creative activity, and (4) to ask for the grace to enter more generously into God's creative action.
The Examen reminds us that things in our past are closer
to us than we might think.

Just as we embark upon every new year with a host of resolutions, perhaps we should begin the new liturgical year with our own sense of where God is leading us. We need not search tea leaves or the entrails of slaughtered animals; we need only pause and look inward to put ourself in God's presence. God's will is not some free-floating thing outside of me. Instead, it is the deepest core of my being, the deepest and most animating aspect of my personhood. To cooperate with God's will, I need not become a different person. I need only to be my true self, the self that God is inviting me to become, and I can do this by finding where God is calling out to me from the depths of my self.

We are entering a period where many generous men and women throughout the Church are discerning vocations for entrance into Seminaries and Religious Life for the 2012-2013 year. We are also embarking on the adventure of implementing the New Translation of the Mass. Perhaps an examination of consciousness will help to dispose our hearts and minds toward the generosity God asks of us that we all may become greater instruments of the Divine Will.

An Examen of 2011 with an Eye to 2012

God, I believe at this moment I am in your presence and you are loving me. 
Lord, it is hard to believe that you are here. In the commotion of my life, in the welter of questions and doubts, anxiety and fear, it is hard to trust that you are actually with me, within me, loving me. I know only too well how often I have doubted you, fled from you, even outright denied you by my words or, more chillingly, my deeds. Remind my weary heart that you are here and give me the grace to relax into your presence. It's hard for me to accept your love because I know how unlovable I can be. Let this knowledge be the grace to know that I do not deserve your love but that you love me all the same: you have created me and you love me and you are calling me to your self. 
  God, you know my needs better than I know them. Give me your light 
and help as I review my life. 
Creative God, there is no thing that I have done, or thought, or wished that you are not aware of. You have seen past my pretenses; you know when I have acted motivated by You and You alone, just as you know when I have acted for my own petty motives. How often have you heard my small-minded prayers, how often have you endured my prattling about my illusion-free philosophy of life? Give me the grace to fall silent, to take a breath, and to listen to you. Deep in my heart, you are churning; deep within me, you are carving out new spaces that I cannot even begin to imagine. Give me the grace to allow myself to explore these areas that you have created for me, that you are creating for me, and to accept them as made by You. You know, surely better than I do, what I truly desire: for all of my wants pale in comparison to Who you are and What you offer to me...Yourself. 

Help me now to review the events of this year in order to recognize your blessings and my shortcomings.
I think back and see how well-intentioned I was when the year began. I had such hopes, such aspirations. I see now, Lord, where you were attempting to ignite my passions or enflame my heart. How easily am I distracted! I set out to pray daily, but I succumbed to the temptation to be relevant to others, so I sacrificed those minutes I had set aside for you, rationalizing that "God would want me to work in this time." Those days when I had resolved to be with the community at the Eucharist but decided to sleep in...did I not rationalize it by saying, "God would want me to rest." How frequently did I justify myself - to myself? to you? - when I took short-cuts or was dishonest? How frequently did I view your grace as something owed to me, as something I had earned, rather than something you had given to me? 
As I look upon your invitation into friendship, how have I responded to this call? Have I pushed it out of my mind, saying, "I'm too young" or "Maybe next year" or "The Church is not quite to my liking" or "I am not strong enough." Have I really given my heart back to you - for it is you who gave it to me to start with - or have I tried, selfishly, to hold on to a bit myself? 
Have I been honest with my spouse? Have I allowed the one to whom I have pledge my life to know me or have I kept things hidden? 
Lord, sometimes you fill me with courage and honesty but how fragile that flame seems to be. For I feel engulfed in your power at times but then, at others, it as though it vanishes completely...extinguished by a toxic atmosphere of doubt and cynicism. How often have I contributed to that extinguishing? How often have you re-lighted my heart only to see it go out again...and then you re-light it...again...and again...and again? When will I learn that it is only when I am heated and warmed by your love that I will be who I really am called to be? 

           God, I ask your forgiveness for my failings and I thank you for all of your blessings. 

It is easy to think that all that I have, I have earned; all that I am, I have created. I am sorry, Lord, for those times when I have pushed you from my mind in order to take all credit...and those times I have cursed you, or doubted you, or grown angry with you when things did not turn out according to my plan. If only I could have the perspective of seeing, at all times, how your creative plan is involving me and inviting me to new life. 
I am sorry, Merciful Father, for those times that I have failed you. My failings surely do not hurt you, but they do cripple me: when I am dishonest, or petty, or cruel, or fearful I am not living up to the person you have created me to be. When I fearfully cling to some bit of my heart, reserving it for my own pleasures, I enclose myself in a little shack and refuse to enter the Kingdom you are offering to me.  
Thank you for not rescinding the offer; thank you for inviting me, even now, to your friendship. Perhaps it is not "too good to be true" that you are madly in love with me. Perhaps I can step out of my shack and into your Kingdom. I think, in the stillness of my heart, that I can feel your hand reaching out to me, even though I cannot see it. As I ask for forgiveness, help me to realize the power to say "I'm Sorry" is your power of love, calling out to Love itself. To say, "I am sorry" is to have allowed myself to be awash in your grace, for I could not apologize to you if I did not recognize you, and I could not recognize you if I did not reveal yourself to me. You have revealed yourself as Love itself. Forgive me for failing love, and bless me. 
As I look forward to the future make me aware that you are with me. Show me how to become the person you want me to be. 
The journey ahead seems so long, so daunting! I am only too painfully aware of how many times I have started off with the best of intentions and then failed. Yet, Lord, I ask once again for your love and your grace. Show me the way, Your Way, and draw close to me. I am a fearful soul, easily distracted and too often swayed from the course.
Yet I have felt you in this prayer. The stirring in my heart that drew me to settle down with you, the peaceful serenity that has descended upon my heart and mind, the flickering of love that only grows the longer I am with you. I have felt you calling out to me, inviting me, cajoling me. I have heard you for so long but I was too afraid to cry back. Hear then, now, my cry and let me set foot on the path of friendship you have laid out for me. 
 Grace me with a discerning heart. In the days and weeks ahead, draw me into further reflection and relationship. Give me the grace to ask the deep questions of life: "Is this the person I want to marry, the person in and through whom I will work to build the Kingdom?" "Am I called to the priesthood or religious life, a life of great sacrifice but also of great joy?" Do not allow me to be a tepid heart, Lord, but rather let me burn for You and You alone. 
Let me know that you are with me. I will beg, I will plead and stamp my foot, I will sometimes sit down in a huff. You know that, deep down, I want to follow because I want to be with You above all. Be patient, Lord, and lead me kindly and gently. Help me to see that I do not need to make you the center of my life, for you are its center...whether I know it or not. Instead, help me to realize the truth of who You are, and who I am, and how You are calling upon me. Let us begin this journey anew, together, so that when I rest in you for eternity, when I place myself in your hands with my dying breath, I might hear you say, "Welcome, old friend" and I will find my rest in You eternal. 
The gifts you have given, how can I use them? I put them before your altar, Lord, and ask you to show me how to use my hands, my mind, and my heart for your Greater Glory. Am I doing now what you wish or is there something more to which you are calling? My prayer has shown me that my desire outstrips my wants and that it is You I desire most. Show me how you wish for me to fulfill my desire. 


Nan said...

Okay. So I've just quickly scanned this (in the old sense, as in running my eyes over it) and KNOW that I want to read this and that it will challenge me and lead me. And so I thank you! You must be home sick in bed (grin) to post something so thoughtful and detailed. I am sick home too, but not nearly so thoughtful (or capable of thought). However. I WILL come back to this and allow you to lead me . . . grateful to you, as always.

Nan said...

Forgot to say: I was first introduced to this practice through a novel by one of my favorite writers: Gail Godwin. The book was her most recent; Unfinished Desires and it takes place in a boarding school run by nuns. A rich and delightful book. I'd be curious as to your opinion of it.

humbleheart72 said...

Wow, this prayer is so vividly close to the prayer and cries of my own heart. I don't guess it's really all that strange that I would be led here after googling "how do I make myself cooperate with God's will." God is good and so right on time. I know it must be encouraging to you to know that what you share is touching the lives of others in profound ways. Kinda lets you KNOW God is with you. Can I just confirm that to you now? Because I believe that I can say without a doubt that I KNOW God is with you. I believe it because I also believe I would not have been led to your page if He wasn't with you because when we seek God with all our heart we find Him :) God bless you and keep you and His face shine upon you every day of the coming new year. May you be blessed more and more so that you can enjoy more and more being a blessing to others!

sis in Christ Jesus

Unknown said...

Thank you for your comments. Merry Christmas!